Friday night death slot

Friday night death slot

The Friday night death slot is a perceived graveyard slot in American television, referring to the concept that a television program in the United States scheduled on Friday evenings is destined for imminent cancellation.

The term possibly began as a reflection of certain shows' dominance of Friday night in the 1980s, which condemned to death any television show scheduled opposite those programs.[1][2][3] Today it reflects the belief that Americans rarely watch TV on Friday or Saturday nights, as these days people (especially younger people) tend to leave home for other activities, thereby removing the most lucrative demographics for advertisers from the household.[4][5]


Programs affected by the "death slot"


The following shows were successful in the ratings until they were moved to Friday nights:

1986 The A-Team Fifth and final season
1985–1986 Knight Rider Fourth and final season
1988-1989 Highway To Heaven Fifth and final season. The first four episodes were aired on Tuesday and the last nine episodes were aired on Friday during the summer as a mid-season replacement before ending its run.
1991-1992 Matlock Final season on NBC (sixth season). Would move to ABC for its final three seasons.
1994-1997 Unsolved Mysteries Final three seasons on NBC. Originally, the show ran on Wednesday Evenings for its first six seasons. CBS would pick up the show shortly after it was cancelled by NBC, but aired it on Friday Evenings and thus, it only lasted for two seasons on that network.
2003–2004 Boomtown Second and final season
2003–2005 Third Watch Final two seasons
2004–2005 Medical Investigation First and only season
2006–2008 Las Vegas Final two seasons
2010 Outlaw First and only season — out of the eight episodes produced, four aired in the Friday 10:00 PM slot while the other four aired on Saturdays.
2011-2012 Chuck Fifth and final season

1960s: Star Trek vs. Laugh-In

One of the oldest and most famous examples of the start of the "Friday Death Slot" phenomenon started with the original Star Trek on NBC.

The second season of Star Trek aired on Fridays from 8:30–9:30 PM in the Eastern Time Zone. Though NBC discussed plans to move it to a 7:30–8:30 PM slot on Mondays in the mid-season schedule changes, that never occurred. After fans deluged NBC with a mail-in protest, producer Gene Roddenberry stated that he was promised the same 8:30–9:30 time slot for Season 3, but on Monday instead of Friday. However, that would have meant Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In had to start a half-hour later (moving from 9:00 to 9:30). Laugh-In producer George Schlatter saw no reason why his show, which was a ratings smash at the time, had to yield its slot to the poorly rated Star Trek, and he made no secret of his displeasure.[6]

In the end, Roddenberry lost, and the Season 3 episodes of Star Trek aired at 10:00 PM Fridays. He never forgave NBC for moving the show to the Friday night slot, and made good on a threat to withdraw from personally producing the show. Others involved in running the show from behind the scenes demonstrated their frustration by departing. These, along with other factors, hastened Star Trek's demise and helped ensure that there would be no fourth season.

While Schlatter may have won the battle, it was not without its costs. In protest against the treatment that Roddenberry and Star Trek received,[citation needed] Laugh-In cast members Judy Carne, Goldie Hawn, and Jo Anne Worley all refused to renew their contracts when they expired in 1970 and resigned, causing Laugh-In to take a steep nosedive in the ratings and fall out of the Nielsen top 10.

One year later, NBC began using demographic breakdowns to decide which shows to air and discovered that, even in the 10:00 PM Friday slot, Star Trek attracted an audience segment that advertisers would have found highly desirable, consisting mainly of married couples with much disposable discretionary income. Although Laugh-In would last until 1973, by that point Star Trek had become successful in reruns on syndication, and eventually spawning several spin-off movies and other TV series. While it can be argued that Laugh-In remains a classic today, Star Trek, and its enduring popularity, ultimately won the "war".

In an echo of what happened with the original Star Trek, the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise was rescheduled from Wednesday to Friday nights on UPN for its fourth season (2004–2005), which preceded its cancellation in February 2005.

Pink Lady and Jeff

The 1980 variety show Pink Lady is an example of a show purposely moved to Friday nights to kill it off. The show featured the Japanese band Pink Lady struggling through corny comedy and awkward English-language performances of disco hits (the duo spoke very little English). Though Jim Varney was added to the cast to improve the show's comedic value, little else was done to improve the show's ratings when it moved to Friday night after a single episode. The show burned off the rest of its episodes in that time slot, and a variety show would not be seen again on NBC until 2008's Rosie Live, which was canceled after one episode.

One of the shows aired during this use of the Friday night death slot, The Facts of Life, moved out of the death slot and into a Wednesday night slot, replacing another NBC flop, Hello, Larry. The Facts of Life jumped into the top 30 after the move. Both Hello, Larry and Pink Lady and Jeff are considered two of the worst television shows ever, and it marked a nadir in NBC's fortunes.


The police drama Southland premiered in spring 2009 following the series finale of ER. Initially airing Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST (ER's time slot for its entire run), the heavily-promoted series received strong reviews and performed well enough to receive a second season renewal. However, with Jay Leno's new talk show also premiering that fall, and airing weeknights at 10 p.m., NBC moved Southland to Fridays at 9. The network eventually canceled the show in October 2009, two weeks before its second season premiere. [1] After its NBC cancellation, the show was picked up by cable network TNT in January 2010 and is currently in its fourth season.


The following shows enjoyed success until they were moved to Friday nights:

1970-1971 That Girl Fifth and final season. Series ended due to star Marlo Thomas wanting to do other projects.
1982-1983 The Greatest American Hero Third and final season
1985–1986 Diff'rent Strokes Final season (and only season on ABC)
1998-2001 Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place Fourth and final season
1999-2001 The Norm Show Third and final season
2003–2004 Life with Bonnie Second and final season
2004–2005 8 Simple Rules Third and final season. Series moved to this slot after the death of star John Ritter.
2008 Duel Second and final season
2009 Surviving Suburbia First and only season. Show picked up by ABC after The CW canceled it before airing an episode.
2009 Ugly Betty Fourth and final season; moved to Wednesday halfway through season.

1990: "TGIF"

In the early 1990s, ABC succeeded on Friday nights by creating a family-friendly block known as TGIF ("Thank Goodness It's Friday"/Funny) with sitcoms such as Family Matters, Step by Step, Full House, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Boy Meets World, Perfect Strangers

By the late 1990s the majority of the TGIF shows had been canceled. Two of the shows went to CBS to form the CBS Block Party, which itself was a failure (see below), but fractured the Friday night audience enough to cause further harm to the TGIF block. The TGIF brand was put to rest in 2000 after the cancellation of Boy Meets World, and the departure of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which moved to The WB. The Hughleys, which was part of TGIF, would be picked up by UPN after cancellation.

1992: I Love Saturday Night on ABC dumping ground

Originally, ABC's I Love Saturday Night concept was an unsuccessful attempt to capitalize on the popularity of TGIF and heavy promotion of the lineup was done during TGIF and other popular nights on the network.

It started in 1992 with the moving of longtime series to Saturday to make way for newer shows on TGIF Perfect Strangers, Who's the Boss?, and Growing Pains

Midseason replacement Capitol Critters was also moved to Saturday. All shows, including MacGyver were canceled in spring 1992. Perfect Strangers was brought back for six episodes in summer 1993 to resolve all loose ends on the show.

A number of other shows were also moved to Saturdays and quickly canceled including Mr. Belvedere, Twin Peaks, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Where I Live, George, Thea, Coach, and Just the Ten of Us


In the fall of 2000, ABC attempted an older skewing comedy block featuring Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place and The Norm Show.

Both were relocated from Wednesday night, they were accompanied by the short-lived Madigan Men and The Trouble With Normal. All four shows would soon be canceled.


In 2001, ABC attempted to fill the slot with the reality show The Mole, but it was pulled after only three weeks. In the early-mid 2000s, ABC attempted to relaunch TGIF with shows such as Life with Bonnie (during the 2003 season), George Lopez (during the 2003 season) Less than Perfect (during the 2004 season), 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (during the 2004 season) and Hope & Faith, an effort that ended by 2004.


The following shows were successful until moved to Friday nights:

1969–1970 Get Smart Fifth and final season (also the only season to air on CBS)
1986–1987 Scarecrow and Mrs. King Fourth and final season
1992–1993 Major Dad Fourth and final season
1992–1993 Designing Women Seventh and final season
1997–1998 Step by Step* Seventh and final season (also the only season to air on CBS)
1997–1998 Family Matters* Ninth and final season (also the only season to air on CBS)
2003–2005 JAG Seasons 9 and 10, final two seasons
2009–2011 Medium Seasons 6 and 7, final two seasons (also only two seasons on CBS)
2010–2011 The Defenders Moved to Friday nights midway through its first and only season

*Both Step by Step and Family Matters had previously been successful in ABC's Friday night lineup.


In an effort to revive Friday night television in the 1990s, CBS, first attempted to compete with ABC launching a comedy night in the fall of 1992 with The Golden Palace (a spin-off/continuation of NBC's The Golden Girls)

  • Monday-night Top-10 hits:

This initial effort failed, and only Bob was renewed for the 1993–1994 season, only to end in December 1993.[7]


In the fall of 1997, CBS tried to capitalize off the cancellations of Friday night programs on rival ABC, by attempting to take away their viewers. They created the CBS Block Party by giving a second life to such shows as:

In September 1997, they premiered in their original timeslots, along with:

were added to the mix. The block was a complete failure: ratings for the two former TGIF shows fell dramatically to the lowest point ever achieved for either series, the new shows failed to catch on, and by January 1998, all four shows, and the block as a whole, were canceled. CBS decided not to use the concept again, sticking to dramas from that point on.

Miscellaneous Friday night failures

Other Friday night failures include:

*Canceled less than two months into its run.

The CW

The following shows were successful until they moved to Friday nights:

2008–2009 Everybody Hates Chris Fourth and final season
2008–2009 The Game Third and final season on The CW (currently running Tuesday evenings on BET)

Exceptions to the rule

Some shows scheduled on Friday nights have been successful as an exception to the rule.


1969–1974 The Brady Bunch
1970–1974 The Partridge Family
1971-1974 The Odd Couple
1971-1974 Room 222
1975–1977 Wonder Woman
1978–present 20/20
(On Fridays since 1987)
1980-1986 Benson
1983-1987 Webster
1985–1990 Mr. Belvedere
Pre-time slot move
Full House
Final Season on CBS
Family Matters
Final Season on CBS
Step by Step
1992–1997 Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
1993–2000 Boy Meets World
pre–WB move
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

ABC currently relies on reality television programming to fill its Friday night time slots, such as Wife Swap, Supernanny, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which originally aired on Sunday nights until 2011), and Shark Tank.


The phenomenon is now seen in regard to other original programming on CBS as well. Joan of Arcadia, which had a successful freshman year in the 2003–2004 season—and was even renewed unusually early, in January 2004, for the following fall season—was canceled after its second year.

In general, however, CBS has found ways, particularly in the last 15 years, to be at least somewhat more successful in the Friday night time slots than its broadcast competitors. Among the shows CBS has successfully aired in its Friday night lineup include:[8][9]

1964-1966; 1967-1969 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
1965-1967; 1969-1970 Hogan's Heroes
1977–1979 Wonder Woman
1978–1982 The Incredible Hulk
1978–1991 Dallas
1979–1985 The Dukes of Hazzard
1981–1990 Falcon Crest
1992–1996 Picket Fences
1996–2001 Nash Bridges
2003–2008 The Price Is Right $1,000,000 Spectacular
2004— CSI: NY
(moved to Friday night in Season 7)
2005–2010 Numb3rs
2005–2010 Ghost Whisperer
2008—2011 Flashpoint
(moved to ION for Season 4)
2010–present Blue Bloods


1972–1977 Sanford and Son
1974-1976 Police Woman
(moved to Tuesday night in Season 3)
1974-1978 Chico and the Man
1974-1980 The Rockford Files
1984–1989 Miami Vice
1993–1999 Homicide: Life on the Street
1999–2002 Providence
1999–2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
(moved to Tuesday night in Season 5)
2003–2008 Las Vegas
(moved to Friday night in the middle of Season 3)
2007-2011 Friday Night Lights
(Was also aired on DirecTV's The 101 Network.)


2010-present Kitchen Nightmares
(moved to Friday night in the middle of Season 3)


2000–2003 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Moved from ABC
2001–2007 Reba
2001-2004 UPN Movie Friday
2002–2006 What I Like About You
2003–2005 Grounded for Life Moved from FOX
2006–2008 WWE Friday Night SmackDown Moved to MyNetwork TV, then to Syfy
2009–2011 Smallville Last two seasons
2010-present Supernatural

Successes post–Friday nights

CBS has experienced successes with shows performing better when moved to a different night. During the 1990–91 season when the struggling Burt Reynolds comedy Evening Shade was moved to Mondays, it would go on to run for four seasons. At the start of the 1996–97 season, Everybody Loves Raymond started airing on Friday nights. After its debut, the show received low ratings; however, the network kept the show and after Bill Cosby requested the show be moved to the Monday night timeslot after his show Cosby, CBS moved the show from Fridays to Monday nights midway through the first season to boost ratings. Everybody Loves Raymond performed well over for nine seasons.[10] The popular CBS show CSI originally aired on Friday nights before being moved to Thursday nights months after its fall 2000 series premiere. It remained on Thursday nights until season 12, when it moved to Wednesday nights.

NBC also has had successes with shows performing better when moved to a different night. Knight Rider aired its first season on Friday nights before moving to Sunday nights for Seasons 2 and 3 before moving back to Fridays for its fourth and final season. Hunter struggled to find an audience in its first season before creator Stephen J. Cannell convinced NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff to give the show time to find its feet. The show was placed on hiatus until the spring of 1985, where it would be on Saturday nights for most of its seven-season run.

Cable television

Several cable television networks continue to program first-run episodes of their original programs on Friday nights, and some have achieved success with these shows, despite the Friday night time slot. In particular, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, two cable networks primarily aimed at the pre-teen demographic, have both been actively competitive and successful with their Friday primetime shows and this is mostly due to the fact that both networks attract a much younger viewerbase than other broadcast and cable channels.

Disney Channel, which began running their original series on Fridays in 2002, has had many of its most popular original programs air on Friday night, including The Suite Life on Deck, Wizards of Waverly Place and Phineas & Ferb. Also from 1999 to 2009, Nickelodeon aired a block of animated series in the Friday primetime slot; in 2009, likely due to the success of Disney Channel's Friday night lineup, Nickelodeon began airing new episodes of some of their live-action sitcoms, such as iCarly and Big Time Rush, opposite those airing on Disney Channel. TeenNick, Nickelodeon's older-skewing sister network, currently runs U-Pick with Stick, a block in which viewers vote on programming to air in the block (all choices are 1990s-oriented, due to the program being a part of The '90s Are All That). If both Nickelodeon and Disney Channel air something new on the same night, then there are occasions where ratings will likely suffer.

Fox and Fridays

Perhaps the network which has received the most attention, and has become the most well known for the "Friday Night Death Slot" has been Fox.[11]

The following are all examples of Fox shows that either started on Friday nights and lasted only a few episodes, or were moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually canceled.

1993–1994 The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
1994–1995 M.A.N.T.I.S.
1995–1997 Sliders on FOX Canceled and moved to Sci Fi Channel
1995–1996 Strange Luck
1995 VR.5
1998–1999 Brimstone
1999–2000 Greed
2001 The Lone Gunmen Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2001 Pasadena
2000–2002 Dark Angel Second and final season
2002–2003 Firefly[12]
2002–2003 John Doe
2003 Fastlane Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2003 Wanda at Large Second and final season
2004 Playing It Straight
2004 Wonderfalls[12][13]
2000–2004 Boston Public Fourth and final season
2005 Jonny Zero
2005 Killer Instinct
2000–2006 Malcolm in the Middle Seventh and final season (Final few episodes aired in original Sunday time slot.)
2001–2006 The Bernie Mac Show Fifth and final season
2005–2009 Prison Break Moved to Friday midway through its fourth and final season
2006 Justice Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2006 Vanished[14] Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2006–2010 'Til Death Fourth and final season (Final few episodes aired on a Sunday time slot)
2007 The Wedding Bells[15]
2006–2007 Standoff Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2007 Nashville
2008 Canterbury's Law Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season
2008 The Return of Jezebel James
2008–2009 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Moved to Friday midway through its second and final season
2007–2009 Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Third season, last one on Fox. Moved to syndication, CMT and sister network MyNetwork TV with a new format in 2009.
2007–2009 Don't Forget the Lyrics! Third season, last one on Fox. Moved to syndication, VH1 and sister network MyNetwork TV with a new format in 2010.
2009 Mental
2009 Brothers Started off on Friday and then the rest of its first and only season aired on Sunday.
2009–2010 Dollhouse Canceled during second season but aired to completion.
2010 Past Life Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.
2010 The Good Guys Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.

In January 2011, the sci-fi drama Fringe was moved into this slot from Thursdays. According to FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, nearly half of Fringe's viewership time shifts the show to watch at their convinence, and that "if it does anywhere near what it did on Thursdays, we can glue that show to the schedule because it can be a big win for us".[16] The FOX network created a promotion advertisement for Fringe that lampooned its reputation of the Friday night death slot prior to Fringe's move.[17][18] Despite encountering lower ratings after its move, Fringe was renewed for a fourth season.[19]

The X-Files (1993–2002)

At least one Fox show that premiered on Friday nights The X-Files, eventually became a success in its time slot at 9 p.m. As TV Guide described it, the audiences, especially in the college-aged demographic, would watch the show just prior to heading-out for Friday evening movies or partying, and quickly grew from 6% to 10% household ratings during sweeps. Several other shows were paired with The X-Files, including The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, M.A.N.T.I.S., V.R.5, Strange Luck, and Sliders, all of which were canceled by Fox. The show eventually moved to Sundays in 1996 ("Unruhe" Sunday Oct 27), and another Chris Carter show Millennium filled the empty timeslot at 9 p.m. In addition, America's Most Wanted aired in the 8:00 p.m. time slot for 3 seasons from 1990 to 1993.

UPN/The CW and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)

UPN/The CW's WWE Friday Night SmackDown!, originally named SmackDown!, was first broadcast on UPN on Thursdays to compete with WCW Thunder (eventually forcing Thunder to Wednesdays because of high ratings, before WCW ultimately folded in 2001). UPN moved the show to Friday nights in the United States on September 9, 2005, because of low ratings in its original Thursday night slot, and the show retained its Friday night time slot after moving to The CW. Upon its move to the "death slot," UPN/The CW Friday nights saw a substantial increase in ratings over UPN's movies and most of The WB's sitcoms. SmackDown! had also initially garnered even better ratings in the death slot than the ratings on its former Thursday night airings (after the merging of WCW with WWE in 2001). Despite this, The CW chose not to renew SmackDown's contract in 2008 due to the change of the demographic of the network's viewers, and the show moved to MyNetworkTV that fall,[20] eventually leaving network television altogether with a move to SyFy in 2010.

General network practices today

Exceptions above notwithstanding, networks now usually reserve Friday and Saturday nights for either movies or repeats of popular shows originally aired Sunday through Thursday. Newsmagazines, game shows, and candid video shows like NBC's Most Outrageous Moments are also used often to fill these slots.[citation needed]

Outside the United States

Don Messer's Jubilee was a popular country music series that aired on Saturday (later Monday) nights on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. During the mid-1960s, the show was the most popular non-hockey program in Canada. However, in 1968, CBC chose to move the show to Friday nights, the slot it had aired in in the late 1950s. The Jubilee was canceled at the end of that season, sparking outrage among its numerous fans and a revival effort in syndication that lasted until Messer's death in 1973. Such a "death slot" is not universal in Canada; The Littlest Hobo had success on CTV in the early 1980s, and CBC has had a block of satires including 22 Minutes and Royal Canadian Air Farce since the early 1990s.

In Germany SAT.1 is not using the Friday for intentionally wrecking programs. However Fun Freitag produced a spectacular series of failures. At the moment, the hours of comedy reruns have even more viewers (and shares) than The Oliver Pocher Show, a first-run late-night talk show currently airing at the end of the Friday prime time slot.

See also


  1. ^ Katherine Phillips. "Witty sitcoms scheduled in Friday night death slot," Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 28, 1986, page 46: "ABC is sending two of this season's brightest new sitcoms to certain death at the hands of J.R. Ewing and his Dallas clan."
  2. ^ John Voorhees. "ABC reshuffles schedule for ratings but deals only two new shows," The Seattle Times, December 13, 1985, page C5: "Also being dropped is Our Family Honor, the ABC series that has had the distinction of being the lowest-rated Nielsen show almost every week since its debut. It is in the Friday night death slot of 10 p.m., against Miami Vice and Falcon Crest.'
  3. ^ Knight-Ridder News Service. 'Family Honor' ditched for 'Spenser', Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), October 19, 1985, page C6: "Spenser: For Hire, the above-par detective series starring Robert Urich, is being moved out of the Friday-night death slot opposite Miami Vice and Falcon Crest. ... To make room for "Spenser," ABC is taking "Our Family Honor" off the air [Tuesdays], at least for a while and perhaps permanently.
  4. ^ News: Election 2006, The Austin Chronicle
  5. ^ Goodman, Tim (2007-10-10). "Saturday night is dead, yes, but Friday, too?". San Francisco Chronicle: pp. E1. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  6. ^ "A Look at Star Trek" at
  7. ^ Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Shows 1946–present, 7th edition.
  8. ^ CBS Casts a Spell Over Friday Night. Zap2It: November 3, 2007
  9. ^ Friday Night 'Numb3rs' Favor CBS. Zap2It: November 10, 2007
  10. ^ Gail Pennington. "Critic's picks," St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 16, 2005, page C6: "Paired with [Dave's World] in a Friday night death slot, ' Raymond' struggled but survived, moving in March 1997 to Mondays, where it took up permanent residence."
  11. ^ The 20 Greatest Shows Cancelled by Fox Before their Time. Topless Robot: August 14, 2009
  12. ^ a b Emily Nussbaum. "Same Night, Same Channel, Same Giant Bummer" (interview with Tim Minear on the demise of Angel, Firefly, and Wonderfalls, The New York Times, April 18, 2004, page 25, column 1.
  13. ^ Minear, Tim (2004-03-16). "An Open Letter from Tim Minear". Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  14. ^ Ryan, Maureen. 'Smith' is gone, 'Heroes' gets a full season: TV news you can use. Chicago Tribune: October 6, 2006.
  15. ^ Wedding Bells in Jump The Shark
  16. ^ Rice, Lynette (2010-11-22). "Fox execs on 'American Idol,' 'Fringe' moves: 'It's the right moment'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  17. ^ Buchaan, Kyle (2010-12-14). "Fox Markets Fringe With New ‘Friday Death Slot’ Ad". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-16. 
  18. ^ Jensen, Jeff (2010-12-16). "'Fringe' exclusive: Fox execs on its 'deathslot'-spoofing promo and plans to attract new viewers". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-12-16. 
  19. ^ Rice, Lynette (2011-03-24). "'Fringe' renewed for a fourth season". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  20. ^ WWE Puts the 'Smackdown' on MyNetworkTV - Show will make its new network debut in the fall - Zap2it

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