While everyone appears to be super excited about the upcoming NBC series Constantine, they are forgetting about one very important thing. Constantine finds itself airing during the dreaded "Friday Night Death Slot." For those who are unaware, Friday night between 8 and 11 PM EST is a network television wasteland. This is generally where networks send shows off to die. This is especially true for genre shows that already don't have the mass market appeal that executives love.
While cable networks like SyFy and smaller networks like The CW have had more success on Friday nights, the list of genre shows from the Big Four that have succumbed to the curse of the Friday Night Death Slot is long and reads like nerd pain. Show that people still love like Firefly, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Dollhouse, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles all fell victim. Hell, even the original run of Star Trek couldn't find an audience on Friday nights resulting in its cancellation.
The Friday Night Death Slot is not just a television graveyard. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox have all aired shows that have come out alive and ran for many seasons. Here are five shows that survived the Friday Night Death Slot.
1. The X-Files
The X-Files is the exception to the rule of the Friday Night Death Slot. This show actually debuted in the Friday night slot, either a bold move for Fox or a sign that they didn't expect it to last. The X-Files remained in the time slot for three plus seasons pulling in good ratings, but, more importantly, the show developed a following of loyal viewers in the coveted 18-49 demographic. After the third episode of its fourth season, the network moved the show to Sunday nights. The ratings improved in the new spot, reaching an all time high in the fifth season. The ratings began to drop again during the sixth season although the show continued on through a ninth season.
2. Ghost Whisperer
Ghost Whisperer is another genre show that defied all odds and managed to find an audience on Friday nights. Viewers were treated to five seasons of Jennifer Love Hewitt telling secrets to ghost. That's what that show was about, right? I've never seen it. The show remained in the Friday Night Death Slot for its entire 107-episode run where ratings for the show actually increased peaking during the fourth season. Low ratings for the fifth season led CBS to cancel the show in 2010, but loyal fans continue to petition for its return.
3. The Six-Million Dollar Man
Following three successful TV movies, ABC moved forward with a series of The Six-Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors. The show aired for five seasons on the network, all during the Friday Night Death Slot. The Six-Million Dollar Man was so popular that costar Lindsay Wagner got her own spin-off show, The Bionic Woman. Wagner's show initially aired on ABC but then moved to NBC for a third season. Both shows were eventually cancelled, but I can't find any information on why The Six-Million Dollar Man got the ax. The characters returned for three additional TV movies on ABC and remain incredibly popular even today. The show even recently got a "sixth season" in comic book form.
4. The Incredible Hulk
Around the same time that The Six-Million Dollar Man was finishing its run, over on CBS another show was getting its start. That show was The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. The Incredible Hulk started out its run in the Friday Night Death Slot, moved to Wednesday nights for a month, and then back to Fridays. Strangely enough the network moved the show back to Wednesday night for the final two months it was on the air. This is another show that was incredibly popular yet inexplicably cancelled by the network. It was so popular in fact that the rights were bought by NBC after the cancellation and they made three Hulk TV movies.
Unlike the other shows on the list, Fringe did not debut during the Friday Night Death Slot. It was moved to Friday nights midway through its third season, but Fox didn't just dump the show there to burn off episodes. They heavily promoted the move, even having a little bit of fun with the rumors surrounding the show's "death."
Fringe did survive on Friday nights for two more seasons, although the last season was a shorter run of only 13 episodes.
It is too soon to know whether Constantine will be the latest in a long list of Friday Night Death Slots or a sixth entry for our list. There is hope that if it can build an audience and keep costs down, it may be one of the lucky survivors.