The Networks Take Out the Trash
Broadcasters dump underperforming shows and start to shape midseason lineups
By Marisa Guthrie -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/16/2009 2:00:00 AM
With the often-telling month of November halfway gone, network executives are getting clearer pictures of which players in their lineups are ready for primetime, and which are headed to the bench for good.
The CW's The Beautiful Life got the booby prize for the first new show of the broadcast season to get the ax, but the nets have now begun to weed out the underperformers. ABC has canceled Hank and Eastwick. NBC has pulled Trauma and Southland, which was subsequently picked up by TNT.
And last week, Fox chucked Joss Whedon's Dollhouse on the scrap heap. Though the network has promised to air all 13 of the show's commissioned episodes, loyal Dollhouse fans aren't likely to go gently into that good night. “I'll still get hate mail and death threats,” says Preston Beckman, executive VP of strategic program planning at Fox.
As network executives look to midseason, several more shows are awaiting decisions on their fate, including NBC's long-running Law & Order; CBS' Cold Case, Numbers and Three Rivers; Fox's 'Til Death and Brothers; ABC's Ugly Betty and The Forgotten; and The CW's Melrose Place.
Midseason replacements awaiting the call include ABC's Romantically Challenged and Happy Town; NBC's 100 Questions and Parenthood; CBS' Miami Trauma, Flashpoint, Rules of Engagement and Undercover Boss; and The CW's Life Unexpected and Fly Girls.
At Fox, Friday is up in the air after the cancellation of Dollhouse and the dismal prospects of Brothers and 'Til Death. The network is mulling the fate of Lie to Me and has Human Target and Our Little Genius in waiting.
NBC is still being buffeted by its Jay Leno decision, with advertisers concerned about the ratings hit the network has taken. ABC has some of its own issues, but can happily put three of its four Wednesday-night comedies in the success column (The Middle, Modern Family and Cougar Town). The CW has launched a hit in Vampire Diaries. And while CBS has multiple aging dramas, it has created a juggernaut on Tuesday nights with NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles (repeats of which have already been sold to cable) and The Good Wife.
Kelly Kahl, executive VP of program planning and scheduling for CBS, points to the stability of the network's schedule in allowing a little more time for new shows to find their audience. CBS ordered five additional episodes of Accidentally on Purpose and the network has no plans to yank Three Rivers, according to Kahl.
“We were encouraged by the ratings [for Accidentally] over the last few weeks and wanted to give that show every chance,” he says. “If you have a fairly stable schedule, you can give shows that haven't really proven themselves one way or the other every chance to succeed.”
Fox has managed to climb out of its autumn doldrums with a solid fall schedule, including new hits Glee and The Cleveland Show, and a strong World Series featuring big-market teams from New York and Philadelphia.
“The real dog race is for second place,” says Brad Adgate, senior VP for research at Horizon Media. So far this season, Fox is leading with a 3.5 rating in the 18-49 demo, while ABC and CBS are each at a 2.8 and NBC has a 2.7 (7:45-11 p.m. through Nov. 8, 2009).
The ratings spread may narrow as Fox gets further from its World Series bump, but Beckman predicts a fourth-quarter win heading into the network's perennially dominant midseason.
“There have been other years where we've had good baseball [ratings] and we've been right there with the other guys, and then after baseball we drop back to third or fourth place,” he says. “I don't think that's going to happen this time.”
I don't think Kenny Roberts has looked at Fox in a few years. People jumping in and out of bed? Sunday is all animation. Monday is House and Lie To Me. Medical Drama's. Tuesday and half of Wednesday is So you Think You Can Dance. A dance talent show. Wednesday is completed by Glee a musical comedy about high school. Thursday is Bones and Fringe. Both mystery drama's. Friday is a wild card day and Saturday is crime shows Cops and America's Most Wanted. So exactly is all the promiscuity on Fox?
TV Tech - 11/16/2009 5:20:05 PM EST
Why does every show have to be built around the idea of its characters jumping in and out of each others' beds? I have plenty of good times on my own; I don't care to watch other people doing it stupidly on the tube. People who enjoy that kind of voyeurism need to get a life. And I definitely don't care to let my teenagers watch it. Yet that's all that CW and Fox are about. Talk about the lowest common denominator. The other net's used to be half and half, but now.... Where did all the real creativity go?
How about some shows built around mystery combined with action wrapped up in relationships. Oh, I guess that would be the NCIS franchise. Duhhh!
Kenny Robert - 11/16/2009 10:18:07 AM EST
Yes, it's true... Dollhouse has its problems. This being said (and fully understood by all of its fans... am I right, guys?!) I do not think it should be dismissed out of hand. The show provided a very unique outlet for a another avenue of Whedon's creativity.
At its very boiled down concept it did have potential. I believe that if Mutant Enemy didn't take so long to find its groove for the show in the first season it could have stood a better chance. Even the most dedicated Whedon fans found the first half a dozen episodes of the series difficult to swallow before the show seemed to be able to identify itself. I know that Whedon has already stated he has plans for the immediate future, and we (his dedicated horde) will soon be gobbling up his latest concept.
I think that it must be said that because of Whedon's clout Dollhouse wasn't picked up on SyFy (or God forbid The WB, again ;)). There is something to be said about an auteur being able to play with a so-so concept one of the world's main stages that makes this failure seem okay, somehow. I, for one, am hoping he will be putting out something closer to a Firefly (perhaps even Serenity 2?) next... or, there's always more Buffy, in television-form... hey a girl can dream, can't she?!
Ann - 11/15/2009 11:20:35 AM EST
Dollhouse was a badly written show.
1. First you have a skeevy concept, coerced men and women being brainwashed and then repeatedly raped for the entertainment of rich men and women. I mean how many times is Echo violated by people in Season 1?
I'd hope people wouldn't watch this. Mind you I'd also hope they wouldn't watch Vampire Diaries and American Idol.
2. Second you have an ill-thought out concept. How do you make a profit from such a hidden market, when your overhead is so high?
How do you avoid detection, when your ‘dolls’ are not just meeting rich guys in sequestered getaways, but are appearing with them at gala events–or in some cases, joining the entourages of major celebrities? How can a FBI agent not find the place when all these rich people manage it? Oh and college professors don't forget that.
3. How do college professors afford an Active? Why would you spend so much money on what accounts to a hooker? Why hire a girl to be your child's mother, why not get a nurse or nanny? How would the deceased woman's family and friends not notice this weirdo thinking she was this kid's mother?
The show was not thought through at all.
3. Third you have Caroline. If she's into animal activism, fair enough, she's allowed her opinion. Going around handing out leaftlets, waving placards, and campaigning with petitions, fine. But breaking into a lab?
In other words, she thinks her political beliefs are more important than the law of a democratic nation? She's not only arrogant, but she's pretty much an eco-terrorist.
Try building sympathy for that.
Of course, Whedon will wriggle away from blame, but this show was doomed to fail from the outset. It was an unlikable concept from a largely incompetant writer. The only thing that FOX can be blamed for is ever thinking such an unappealing show written by such a hack would ever be a hit.
Lewis - 11/15/2009 4:53:27 AM EST
I am so discusted with CBS. They have no plans to pull "Three Rivers" while they yanked "Moonlight" a show that won a People's Choice Award and won its time slot week after week. It had a huge fan base. "Three Rivers" is so bad that week after week half way through the viewers are turning it off for something else. A few weeks ago it didn't even loose to football, another network was airing a repeat of "National Treasure". That is at least five years old and it beat out "Three Rivers". Hey, Nina Tassler, I guess you were wrong when you said the "Moonlight" fans were actor rabid over Alex O'Loughlin. You expected us to follow him wherever and whatever you put him in. Who'se laughing now. lol
Ann Calta - 11/14/2009 4:22:31 PM EST
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