“Ransom” is the first midseason drama to premiere in 2017. It chronicles Eric Beaumont (Luke Roberts), a crisis/hostage negotiator and his team (Nazneen Contractor, Sarah Greene and Brandon Jay McLaren) as they help resolve kidnapping and hostage situations as peacefully as possible.
It’s a fairly standard procedural, though the throughline of new team member Maxine Carlson’s (Greene) past connection to Beaumont is mildly intriguing. But what really makes it stand out is that following its Sunday (Jan. 1) premiere, the show moves to Saturdays.
It’s the first original scripted show to air on a broadcast network on Saturday since the 2003-04 television season. So, if it is successful, will CBS be the pioneer in bringing back Saturday programming on the broadcast networks?
Don’t laugh — Saturday used to be the home for some extremely popular and/or highly acclaimed programs. “All in the Family,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Golden Girls,” “The Jeffersons” and “The Mary Tyler Moore” show — among many others — aired on Saturdays. Even as recently as the mid-’90s you could catch such hits as “The Commish,” “Sisters” and “Touched by an Angel” on Saturdays. But with the rise of more channel choices and the advent of DVRs, which means viewers don’t have to watch their shows live, Saturdays became a place for burn-offs of canceled shows, reruns, sports and news programs like “20/20” and “Dateline.”
However, “Ransom” is now the first show in over a decade to try Saturdays on for size — and it’s an easy gamble for CBS to make, because it co-produces the series with Canada’s Global, Frances’s TF1 and Germany’s RTL. That means if it flops on Saturdays, it’s a much smaller loss than a show CBS was producing on its own.
And there are reasons to think “Ransom” will succeed on Saturdays.
First off, there’s no competition. As we said, there are no other scripted shows on Saturdays, but not just on broadcast. It’s the time of year when even popular cable/premium shows that air on Saturdays are not on — “Outlander,” “Power” and “Doctor Who” are not airing and neither is “Orphan Black,” though that show has now moved to Thursdays after airing on Saturdays for years. Additionally, Saturday night college football is also over with for the year. The only broadcast that will possibly compete with “Ransom” is college basketball.
Secondly, “Ransom” comfortably sits right in CBS’ sweet spot — an ensemble crime drama in the vein of “Blue Bloods,” “Scorpion” and the “NCIS” franchise, with a charismatic male lead surrounded by a quirky bunch of supporting characters, all thrust into high-stakes, criminal situations week in and week out. “Blue Bloods” is actually an excellent example of why “Ransom” might work. The Tom Selleck-led police drama pulls in numbers on Friday nights at 10 p.m. that other networks would kill for on week nights, averaging over 13 million viewers in its first six seasons. The currently-airing Season 7 is down a bit, averaging 10 million per episode, but that is still fairly robust for a broadcast network.
Finally, the median age of CBS’ viewers cannot be discounted. For the 2014-15 season, the median age for the Eye clocked in at 59 years — five years older than ABC and NBC’s viewers, and a full decade older than FOX’s viewers. These viewers in their 50s and 60s are probably not going out on Saturday nights the way their children and grandchildren are, which means they’re home on Saturdays and possibly looking for a new drama to watch.
That drama might just be “Ransom.”