Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is helping take care of his newborn son and couldn't make it to this week's ABC presentation in New York City to advertisers of its fall schedule.
But he sent a letter in which he promised that he'd be back next season "on the off chance network television continues to exist."
That kind of gallows humor is making the rounds as network TV faces competition from streaming services and basic and pay cable with programs that have much more of an edge. Advertisers also can't be too happy that viewers watching on DVRs can speed through the commercials that finance the programs.
But don't cry for network TV just yet. Its leaders always seem to find a way to survive.
The most interesting comment made during network conference calls announcing the schedules predictably came from Les Moonves, the chief executive officer of CBS Corp. He noted that only 50 percent of network revenue from shows it owns now comes from advertising, the other 50 percent from the back end, which includes fees from streaming sites, local stations, cable channels and international broadcasters.
Moonves added that 67 percent of viewers still watch programs when they are scheduled even with DVR and On Demand options. Those figures suggest broadcast TV is in better shape than many – including myself – realize. Only about 10 percent of my viewing occurs when the programs are scheduled.
I imagine the 67 percent figure will decline rapidly – but that network TV will find a way to survive anyway.
The five networks are premiering only about 19 programs this fall as midseason becomes more and more important.
Here are the top takeaways from conference calls and scheduling announcements from ABC, CBS, Fox, the CW and NBC.
Football Arguments: NBC is making the big move – sending Tuesday sensation "This Is Us" to 9 p.m. Thursday, where it will compete with Thursday Night Football for much of the season. I can practically hear couples who watch the poignant show live together arguing over whether watching a bad live game – and let's face it, most Thursday night games have been unwatchable – is more important than watching the NBC hit when it airs.
An argument can be made that NBC and CBS, which share Thursday Night Football, would be better off without the games. NBC will likely keep "This Is Us" off its schedule during the November sweeps because of the games and CBS has to move the popular "The Big Bang Theory" to Mondays when it has the games.
Ratings "Bull": CBS executive Kelly Kahl noted that "Bull" actually was the No. 1 new drama last fall, not "This Is Us." Yes, it is No. 1 in household viewership, but "This Is Us" dominates in the demographic advertisers love.
Touched by a WNY Angel: Williamsville's Michele Fazekas is the co-creator of ABC's "The Gospel of Kevin," which sounds similar to past TV hits "Touched by an Angel" and "Highway to Heaven." Jason Ritter stars as a "clueless, self-serving guy" who has a life-altering visit from a celestial that puts him "on a mission to save the world." Or ABC.
Doctor, Doctor: As usual, doctor shows are in. You just can't kill them, as evidenced by CBS renewing "Code Black." "House" creator David Shore is behind the new ABC series, "The Good Doctor," about an unorthodox, brilliant young surgeon who is autistic. Fox has a new midseason doctor show, "The Resident," in which Matt Czuchry of "The Good Wife" is the lead and Emily Van Camp ("Everwood," "Revenge") co-stars.
Military Heroes: Buffalo native David Boreanaz moves quickly from "Bones" to CBS' patriotic military drama "Seal Team." Anne Heche stars as the deputy director of "America's elite undercover military heroes" in NBC's "The Brave." CW's "Valor" deals with the aftermath of a failed mission in Somalia involving an Army unit of helicopter pilots.
"Marvel"-ous Time: Sci-fi and superhero shows are everywhere, led by ABC's "Marvels Inhumans." "Orville," the new Fox series from – and starring – Seth MacFarlane, seems to be a comedic takeoff of "Star Trek." The clips weren't out of this world.
"Idol" Talk: ABC is bringing back the series, which had Fox and CBS executives talking. Fox executives felt it was too soon to bring it back and thought a return in 2020 made more sense. CBS' Moonves said the show was too expensive, especially since the network wouldn't have any show ownership to recoup the 50 percent in the back end.
Moving Days: Besides "This Is Us," other shows moving include ABC's "black-ish" to 9 p.m. Tuesday and "Shark Tank" to 9 p.m. Sunday, and Fox's move of "Lethal Weapon" to 8 p.m. Tuesday, "Empire" to 8 p.m. Wednesday and "Gotham" to 8 p.m. Thursday.
"Friends and Family Plan:" The new Fox comedy "Ghosted," inspired by "The X-Files," is about friends trying to save humans from aliens and stars Adam Scott and Craig Robinson. Network executives said they are friends in real life. The new CBS comedy, "9JKL," starring Mark Feuerstein, is inspired by his living arrangements while filming the USA Network's "Royal Pains." His character lives in an apartment in between the apartments of his parents and brother.
Back to the Future: ABC executive Ben Sherwood cracked that the network was bringing back the 1962 hit "Ben Casey." At least I think he was joking. The networks are bringing back "Will & Grace" (NBC),"Roseanne" (ABC), "Dynasty" (CW), "The X-Files" (Fox) and "S.W.A.T." (CBS). Despite the trend, Moonves noted they are a small percentage of all network programs.
Goodbyes: The controversy over whether the cancellation of Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing" was about his politics is funnier than anything in the program. I'm just thankful "Two Broke Girls" finally was sent packing. Among notable cancellations are ABC's "American Crime" and "The Catch." It can be hard to tell what is canceled these days, since they can reappear on rival networks or resurface years later. I can't see "Last Man Standing" getting a reprieve even with Fox News running a crawl about its cancellation. As punishment, its broadcast brother Fox should be forced to bring back Allen's show.
Most Promising Looking Shows: "Young Sheldon," the spinoff of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" starring Iain Armitage, the adorable young boy in HBO's "Big Little Lies," seems to be a sure hit. I also endorse the clips of "The Mayor," the ABC series about a rapper who runs for office to get publicity for his music career and ends up winning the election. Now who would think something that absurd would ever happen?