Still the fairest of them all? Not in terms of prestige and awards. The biggest? Yes, but this season programs like "The Walking Dead," "The Bible," "Downton Abbey" and (from the sublime to the ridiculous) "Duck Dynasty" have all drawn ratings that level the playing field -- and undercut traditional claims to commercial broadcasters representing a unique audience-delivery vehicle.
For the broadcast networks, the challenge encapsulated if seldom articulated during their upfront-week presentations thus boiled down to a simple question: In today's fragmented world, what attributes still make them special?
Other than Moonves, the network presentations largely sidestepped the doom-and-gloom forecasts. ABC Entertainment czar Paul Lee was relentlessly upbeat, stressing "the best comedies in the world are on broadcast television" -- which is clearly true when considering the combination of ratings and prestige for programs like "Modern Family" and "The Big Bang Theory." If only the medium weren't increasingly defined, qualitatively speaking, by drama, where a broadcast net hasn't won the best series Emmy since 2006, with Fox's "24" (a skein somewhat improbably slated to return for a reduced run next year).
For his part, NBC's Bob Greenblatt alluded to the larger landscape by joking rather dryly about developing shows based on zombies and the Bible.
Whatever the merits of this year's crop of new series, viewing the networks through a wider lens does find fewer clear demarcations that separate them from the pack. Star power is a tough claim to make when Michael J. Fox, Greg Kinnear and Robin Williams are among the biggest names in the new series crop, while HBO this month is promoting the heck out of Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in the juicy Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra."
Truth be told, TV is usually best when it makes its own stars, which is why there's anticipation for the first sitcom toplined by "Saturday Night Live" alum Andy Samberg (Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"), and the return of "Lost" hunk Josh Holloway (CBS' "Intelligence").
Even the point about putting on more original programming each week warrants a bit of context, since the networks have gone to great lengths to reduce their footprints, primarily for economic reasons. As a consequence, every broadcast net has essentially thrown in the towel on Saturday, filling the night with a mix of reruns and sports.