Did TV execs get kinder and gentler this year?
by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 23rd 2008 8:28PM
Has anyone else noticed the lack of hair trigger cancellations thus far this season? We're a good month or more in now and only Opportunity Knocks and Do Not Disturb have had the plug pulled. And believe me those needed to happen. By now, though, your high quality shows that have underperformed like Pushing Daisies usually would be doing just that ... pushing up daisies. But, for some reason, not this year. At least not yet.
Hell, ratings-challenged shows like Knight Rider and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles are even getting full season pick-ups. And that's FOX giving Sarah Connor a chance to find an audience! FOX!! I think what we're seeing is the continuing fallout from the Writer's Strike last year. Remember when the execs were talking about how they were going to rethink their approach to television, ordering fewer pilots and possibly even altering the landscape of television in regards to seasons and sweeps? Well, the fall season started up pretty much like it always has, but I do believe there are far fewer shows waiting in the wings to replace this season's failures.
Maybe someone in accounting finally ran the numbers on just how much money a network loses when they yank the plug so quickly. Think about the development of the show, hiring the cast and crew and filming the episodes. Throw in the marketing budget and then... What's your return if you air only two or three episodes and shut it down? There's a lot of television on the air right now. Maybe your viewers have spent the last few weeks trying your competitor's shows because they sounded better, but now they want to try yours because the rest suck. You canceled it already? Damn!
It's actually been a more recent phenomenon, this quick cancellation of new shows. And it never made much sense to me considering that shows, like Seinfeld and Cheers, which took a while to find their audiences and become top-rated shows. I wish I knew why the networks stopped doing that, because in reading responses from our readers here and elsewhere across the net, we've become jaded about new shows. Many potential viewers don't even bother to tune into new shows because they're convinced that the powers-that-be are just going to go ahead and cancel it.
Just run down in your head all the amazing shows you fell in love with the last five to ten years that just had the rugs pulled out from under them prematurely. Now, in cases like Jericho, it often turns out that the networks made the right decision, but that show was given a full season in the first case to maintain an audience and it didn't.
I don't even want to get into the fact that it was pulled from the air completely for months on end during that first season. And look how well that tactic has done for the sophomore shows that didn't come back after the strike last year like Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money and Chuck. After nine months with nary a rerun in site, these shows are all down in ratings in a major way. U.S. audiences are apparently very "out of sight, out of mind."
The question is, have the networks actually learned something? Will they change their trigger-happy ways and will wary viewers try new shows? I'm not a good judge because I always try new shows, even though I too am fairly confident that it will probably get canceled on me. Especially if I love it; I'm lucky that way.