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October 14, 2015

On the 2nd day of Festivus, TV gave to me

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 18th 2006 2:05PM
Kidnapped... Two Programming Blunders.

It's been an interesting year for network TV, especially since the new fall season began. The set of pilots that the networks presented to audiences were at the same time the highest-quality and hardest-to-follow in years. That's why, in mid-season, we're now seeing that most of those pilots have either quickly disappeared or are hanging on for dear life.

Of course, this is all the networks' fault. The short-sightedness they used when programming their schedules this year has been mind-boggling, causing more viewers to scurry to other sources -- cable, YouTube, BitTorrent -- for their entertainment. Here are two of their dumbest moves:

1. Too many friggin' serialized shows - When we and other TV critics got a chance to see summer previews of the network pilots, we thought of two things: "Hey, these are great!" and "How the hell are they going to do a full/second season of this?" Shows like Kidnapped, The Nine, and Vanished required a heavy commitment from audiences, something that, in a world where 24, Lost, and Prision Break are already hits, those audience weren't willing to give. That's why such high-quality shows started with low ratings and never recovered.

The shows themselves didn't help matters: Kidnapped was intense, but it was hard to imagine trying to follow one kidnapping case for 22 episodes, and viewers had no idea what a second season would look like. In the case of The Nine, it squandered the goodwill generated by one of the best pilots critics have seen in years by doling out details about the hostage crisis waaaayyyy too slowly, leaving audiences struggling to care about what happened to the group afterwards. Both shows would have been better served by being produced as limited series, either over the summer or on cable.

And I'm not even going to go into how the networks broke their summer press tour promises that they'd allow failed serials to wrap up naturally. If they were going to do that, Kidnapped would be wrapping up this coming Saturday instead of online.

Next up: a series of serial comedies along the lines of Big Day and The Knights of Prosperity. Hopefully, their lighter tone will help them gain fans, especially the very funny Knights.

2. Could Thursday be any more crowded? - Yes, I'm going all Chandler on the networks right now, partially as a tribute to NBC's last Thursday mega-hit, but also just to express my dismay at what the networks have done to the penultimate day of the work week. Yes, I know that Thursdays are a big advertising day because movie studios make one last push before their Friday openings. But do the networks have to pile the best shows of the week all on the same day? I've bitched about this more than once, so I won't bore you with the details again. But let's approach this from another angle: why would the networks rather get a small slice of the pie, ratings-wise, on Thursdays rather than a much bigger piece on another day of the week.

Think for a second: What would happen if NBC's Thursday comedy block aired on Wednesdays? Don't you think it would a) provide a nice alternative to American Idol and b) kick the ass of whatever CBS had to offer, including Jericho? And why couldn't Grey's Anatomy stay on Sundays? Granted, the move worked, as Grey's ratings have ticked up. But I would have to think the ratings would have gone up even more if CSI and Scrubs/30 Rock wasn't on against it. It's gotten so bad that the networks are now jam-packing holidays with new programming, at a time when viewers are either in a food coma or, you know, spending time with their families.

Will the networks continue to make these dumb programming moves in the New Year? Probably not. But they'll make others. Hey, they wouldn't be the networks if they didn't, would they?

Twelve Killed-Off Characters
Eleven Adult Swim Moments
Ten Lost Mysteries in Need A-Solving
Nine Colbert Moments
Eight Characters Quoted
Seven Sites Worth Linking
Six Creepy Killers
Five Canceled Shows
Four Small Screen to Big Screen Flops
Three Subtle Subtitles

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I think also that the Thursday comedy block is good counterprogramming. I saw a Nielsen list broken down by 18-49 Men and 18-49 Women, and NBC comedies were about the only highly rated shows (other than football) watched by more men than women. Ugly Betty and Survivor at 8, to make a nice big sexist generalization, are chick shows. Grey's Anatomy at 9, too. CSI is probably gender neutral, but I'm sure Scrubs and 30 Rock benefit a ton from getting the Office/Earl lead in.

Moving it to Wednesday would be bad, as Brett said, because American Idol means a dent in the 8:00 audience, and Lost + Criminal Minds might ruin any lead-in Scrubs/30 Rock might benefit from.

I'm not sure there's a better home, really. Everyone seems to pile their good-but-not-great shows on Tuesday, CBS has staked out Monday for comedies, so that seems like they'd kill each other. Sunday, other than Fox's animation, has never been a place for edgy comedy at all. And Friday and Saturday are ratings cancer.

December 19 2006 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brett Love

Actually, I think that if the NBC Thursday comedy block was moved to Wednesday they would get about the same ratings they do now. Maybe a slight gain, but nothing shocking. For whatever reason, that's the audience for those shows. It seems odd because I think it's a better group than the Friends/Seinfeld anchored years had, but ratings are an odd thing.

And while Earl and The Office might give Jericho a run, Scrubs and 30 Rock would get bitch slapped by Mandy Patinkin. Criminal Minds beat out Lost for total viewers. 30 Rock would be their light work.

December 18 2006 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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