It's the year of the strong woman for network television.
ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC have turned to a variety of tough and smart females — doctors, evil twins, ghostly apparitions, beautiful detectives, waitresses and even a wicked queen — to attract viewers to their 2011-12 television schedules.
Fifteen of the 27 new programs — comedies and dramas — will feature women as the driving force. That number gets higher if you consider returning mid-season replacement programs Harry's Law, Body of Proof and Missing, the new drama starring Ashley Judd, that also have strong females at the core.
The networks have never shied away from programs with strong female leads. But this season unveils one of the most dominating TV classes for women.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"We are known for creating storytelling with empowered women. I mean, whether it's Charlie's Angels, Pan Am, Revenge this year or whether it's Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Dancing With the Stars. I mean empowered women is definitely a theme of the network," ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee says.
There's also a push by the networks to find the next great comedy. There are 10 comedies on the new schedules. The CW network continues as the lone funny holdout, with no comedies in the lineup. It is launching one of only two new reality programs, H8R, to go along with Fox's The X-Factor for the fall.
How well the new shows do will factor into which network becomes ratings champs.
FALL TV DAY BY DAY
Here's a closer look at how the network lineups will stack up each night of the week.
Don't expect too many fireworks, as ABC and CBS have made few adjustments to their schedules. No network has added more than one new program to their lineup for the night.
New shows: 4.
Keep an eye on: CBS needs Two and a Half Men, with Ashton Kutcher taking over for Charlie Sheen, to do well. If the show falters, the entire CBS Monday could collapse.
They did what? NBC is sending Chuck to Fridays, which means it's burning off the final shows.
Biggest battle: Fox is looking for success from Terra Nova, one of the biggest series it has ever tackled. (It co-stars former Lexingtonian Allison Miller.) It'll be tough luring viewers from Dancing With the Stars.
How I see it: Even with all of its visual assets, The Playboy Club will be a distant third to Hawaii Five-0 and Castle at 10 p.m.
NBC is the only network that won't make a change Tuesday night, returning with The Biggest Loser and Parenthood. How well NBC does depends on whether there is still some ratings meat on the Biggest Loser's bones and whether Parenthood finally can attract an audience.
New shows: 5
Keep an eye on: This is a pivotal year for Glee. With the feature film bombing and The Glee Project a ratings failure, Glee needs to show that the sparkle hasn't gone from this gem.
They did what? ABC is trying to launch two new comedies, Last Man Standing and Man Up, without any support from returning comedies. It's a dangerous move.
Biggest battle: CBS decided not to air Ringer and sent it to The CW, where the tale of twins (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a better fit. It doesn't matter how well it fits if everyone is watching the other networks.
How I see it: Look for CBS to dominate with NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and Unforgettable.
No other night of the week is such a mishmash of programming. Of the 13 hours, 4½ are reality shows, four hours are new programs and the rest is returning shows. It really is a shotgun attempt to lure viewers.
New shows: 7
Keep an eye on: CBS has moved CSI from its 9 p.m. Thursdays time slot to 10 p.m. Wednesdays. It's do-or-die time.
They did what? The CW's H8R brings together celebrities and the people who hate them. There's no chance of the show winning the "feel-good hit" of the year award.
Biggest battle: The 8 p.m. hour is comedies or reality shows. Look for the reality shows, Survivor: South Pacific and The X-Factor, to rule.
How I see it: Nothing is going to get in the way of The X-Factor being a monster hit. It has the A and C factors: Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.
Once the most stable night, this night lost its strength when NBC's "must-see" comedy lineup became "nothing else is on" shows. Even the solid CBS has replaced half its lineup, including moving former ratings force CSI out of the 9 p.m. time slot. There could be a real shift in power with the Fox tandem of The X-Factor's results show and Bones.
New shows: 6
Keep an eye on: NBC needs a good comedy, and Whitney is the best hope. Community is OK, but Parks and Recreation is as funny as a cold sore, and The Office will suffer from the departure of Steve Carell.
They did what? CBS shows great faith in Person of Interest, starring Michael Emerson, right, giving it the 9 p.m. time slot. If it fails, it would have a ripple effect on ratings for The Mentalist.
Biggest battle: The program that wins the 8 p.m. showdown will set the tempo for the whole night: Big Bang Theory (CBS), Community (NBC), The X-Factor results show (Fox), Charlie's Angels (ABC) and The Vampire Diaries (CW).
How I see it: ABC will need to make fixes quickly. Charlie's Angels will get killed, and Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice are aging.
The night's been a dumping ground for the networks for years. No one expected much because it's date night. But Friday has become the home for some of the best shows on TV: Fringe, Grimm, Chuck, Blue Bloods, Nikita and Supernatural.
New shows: 2
Keep an eye on: Fox has overworked chef Gordon Ramsay, and that could shut down Kitchen Nightmares.
They did what? ABC has taken a big gamble, moving Extreme Makeover: Home Edition from Sundays. Family programming, including Friday Night Lights, has not done so well in this time slot.
Biggest battle: NBC's Grimm and Fox's Fringe will appeal to the same audience. Thank goodness for DVR.
How I see it: The networks have given us a reason to stay home on Fridays.
The networks continue to treat the night like a giant wasteland. The biggest use for the night will be to show repeats of programs that aired earlier in the week in case you missed it. Apparently no one at the networks has heard of a DVR.
New shows: 0
Keep an eye on: Fox will repeat Terra Nova in the 9 p.m. time slot. It will be interesting to see whether it gets better ratings than the original Monday airing.
They did what? CBS moved Rules of Engagement to Saturdays. This will be new shows and not repeats. It's the first time CBS has scheduled a comedy to air on Saturdays since The Five Mrs. Buchanans and Hearts Afire in 1994.
Biggest battle: To stay awake.
How I see it: The night is a real waste for the networks.
This will be a make-or-break night for ABC as it looks to a pair of new shows, Once Upon a Time and Pan Am, plus a show facing its last season in Desperate Housewives. If they don't attract viewers, that sets a bad tone for the rest of the week.
New shows: 3
Keep an eye on: This is the last season for Desperate Housewives. Early ratings will show whether viewers care or have left early.
They did what? CBS shifted The Good Wife to Sundays against Desperate Housewives. There's really no comparison in writing quality, so The Good Wife will do fine.
Biggest battle: Once Upon a Time throws its complicated fairy-tale plot against a popular reality show in The Amazing Race and NFL games on NBC. It will need real magic to survive.
How I see it: ABC's Pan Am has inherited a great time slot, facing only the aging CSI: Miami. That means a solid takeoff for the show set in the '60s.