It’s sad to say out loud, but everything gets old and loses its usefulness. Well, everything except Betty White, Brett Favre and ’80s music. But that trio of power aside, everything eventually hits its sell-by date.
And we’ve seen that happen recently to some primetime network franchises, as shows like 24 and Ugly Betty expired, while others like Grey’s Anatomy and CSI are starting to look a little long in the tooth. Ratings- wise, that is. McDreamy is still, well, McDreamy. The bastard.
Now had this happened two years ago, the broadcast networks would have been collectively screwed. For a couple of years, the networks had basically been in a bit of a slump from a development standpoint.
But the good news is this: For every aging veteran that looks ready to move to the great time slot in the sky (read: Fridays), the networks have for the most part replaced them with promising rookies. Network television got its swing back this season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
I remember talking with a CBS executive a couple of years ago over an adult beverage as the exec fretted that all of the network’s big guns were going to get old at the same time. And sure enough, shows like Without a Trace are gone, and the original CSI is showing wear and tear.
But CBS execs aren’t expressing those same concerns these days, as in backto- back years they have developed new hits in The Mentalist and The Good Wife (which I maintain would be even bigger today if it had been programmed with a compatible episode out of the Super Bowl) and added a NCIS spinoff; these will be staples on the network for years to come. And CBS even found an unscripted player in Undercover Boss, something it hadn’t been able to do in ages.
What’s funny over at Fox is that it gets ripped for being unable to develop liveaction comedy. But I’d be hard-pressed to find a funnier show on the air than Glee, and watch those ratings when it finally airs where it belonged from the start: paired with American Idol.
But Fox won’t have to worry about anything next year, when it follows this sage advice: Replace Simon Cowell with Sue Sylvester. How much would you pay to see an in-character Jane Lynch tear apart those kids with lines like this Glee classic: “I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark cold night, I’ll steal away into your home and punch you in the face.”
Speaking of swinging, ABC came out doing so by offsetting some of its rapidly aging shows with the launch of two comedies that completely revitalized the network’s sitcom brand. In the critically adored Modern Family and the comically underrated Cougar Town, ABC has some new primetime players, even as some of its veterans are ready to hit the showers.
The CW also got in on the act this year, with shows like Vampire Diaries coming in perfectly on brand. And even NBC could have a new player on its hands in Parenthood, and last week reupped a trio of unscripted shows.
There is no doubt that a heap of big-name, long-running shows across the broadcast networks are probably on their last legs. But the nets seem to have rediscovered their stroke, and did so right when they desperately needed it.