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July 30, 2014

What 'Lone Star' Cancelation Says About the State of Network TV

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 28th 2010 6:57PM
Well, it's official: Fox has canceled 'Lone Star.'

The network announced that 'Lie to Me' will occupy the show's former time slot as of Monday.

It's depressing that a promising, complex show got canned after just two episodes. But what's truly troubling is that the death of 'Lone Star' is a symptom of everything that has gone wrong at the broadcast networks.

Any critic who sat through all the fall pilots this year will tell you the same thing: They were mostly bad.

And they weren't bad in "let's try this crazy idea!" ways. They were just boring. The broadcast network dramas that made my Fall's Best New Shows list definitely weren't groundbreaking in any way. They were simply the best of a pallid bunch and decently executed examples of a few different TV genres.

On the derivative shows that the broadcast networks came up with, the edges were worn down and most of the characters were blandified to the point of irrelevance. 'Lone Star,' which hewed to no particular formula, was the exception.

Given that the one show that got through the broadcast network filtering process died a quick death, will next year's crop of shows be even worse? I fear that may be the case. I hope I'm wrong, but well before the death of 'Lone Star,' I had deep misgivings about the network show-creation process in general.

In yesterday's 'Talking TV with Ryan & Ryan' podcast, veteran writer/producer Shawn Ryan ('Lie to Me,' 'Terriers,' 'The Shield,' 'The Unit,' 'Ride-Along') unveiled a list of 'Five Things That Bother Showrunners.' One of those things is the "layers of network notes" that mess with the DNA of almost every new and veteran show on TV.

"Notes" is the Hollywood term for feedback on scripts and episodes in progress, and most showrunners get notes from studio executives, network executives and various other people. Conversations with most writers and showrunners are rife with examples of notes that don't makes sense, notes that contradict each other and cancel each other out and notes that reek of micromanagement. Writers of all shows get notes, but the process is apparently much worse and intrusive at the broadcast networks.

Now, notes are not always wrong and they're not always bad, but they tend to wear on producers who have an actual vision, and, especially at the broadcast networks, there are just too many of them. Between the pervasiveness of not-helpful notes and the overall timidness displayed by the networks when it comes to buying pilots, what hope is there for another 'Lone Star' making it through the gauntlet next year?

Not a lot. It looks like cable's creative dominance isn't waning any time soon.

There are a few signs of hope. ABC's pilots have been generally unimpressive if not terrible for a few seasons now, but there's a new top executive, Paul Lee, at that network. NBC will be installing a new network honcho now that Jeff Zucker, a famously clueless micromanager of TV shows, is finally gone.

CBS manages to come up with winners once in a while, despite its devotion to procedural formats. 'The Good Wife' manages to be more than the sum of what could be formulaic parts, and 'The Defenders' was actually kind of fun, rather than rigid and dour like most 2010 drama pilots.

And to be fair and/or rational, there's every chance that 'Lone Star' was the right show on the wrong network in the wrong time slot. And I can logically understand why America didn't embrace a show about a con man swindling people out of their savings and cheating on two different women.

Maybe the quick death of 'Lone Star' is just one of those things, and next year's broadcast network crop will contain some spectacular finds.

But it's hard to be optimistic. And like the con man's victims on 'Lone Star,' it's hard not to feel a little cheated.



Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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86 Comments

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Mary Halperin

I've been looking for more episodes of "Lone Star". It was touted as the best new show. And I loved it! Now it's canceled and I feel like I started reading a book and it was snatched away! Maybe another network will get smart and snap this one up.

This happened last year with "Eastwick" which I thought was delicious good fun. May the good ones do die young.

October 11 2010 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Ann

That sucks...I really liked LoneStar. Fox should have given it a chance. Running Wilde needs to be axed..that really stinks. Raising Hope is very funny, don't be stupid and get rid of that!

October 04 2010 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
amy

i was bored to death during the 1st episode. turned ot off about 40 mins in. Too much to follow, and just not interesting enough

October 04 2010 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick

LOL

October 03 2010 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick

Two things come to my mind when I hear "Lone Star".
1. The hero from the movie "Spaceballs".
2. A brand of beer.
I haven't watched primetime tv for at least 10 years.
I have NEVER seen "Dancing with the stars", "American idol", "Two and a half men", "Mike and Molly", "Big Love", "White Collar", etc, etc.
I will take reruns of "Highway Patrol" and/or "Sea Hunt" any day.
Most of today's shows are a complete waste of time, America is filled with morons!

October 03 2010 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
michael

All I can say I don't care about Lone Star its boring and not good.I like Hawaii Five O,Nikita,Undercovers,Blue Bloods,Hellcats.Returning Shows The Mentalist,NCIS,Chuck,CSI Miami,Smallville,CSI NY,NCIS Los Angeles thats all.

October 02 2010 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob

What's wrong with the idea that the show was bad and that most people didn't like it. I think it is a good choice by the great management at Fox. Another great decision. Not only does FOX make the best decisions but their but their political choices are so RIGHT!!!!!

September 30 2010 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob's comment
Rick

LOL!

October 03 2010 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LT

Thus far, I have not seen any new show worth the electricity the TV runs on, mostly crap, crap, and more crap. Fox has only House and Bones I bother to watch, they need to be renamed Faux. NBC, they offer nothing except for SVU, everything else they air is crap. Thank God for DVDs is all I can say.

September 30 2010 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike gerlach

TV, with a few exceptions, is a vast wasteland filled with reality shows for the brain dead.

September 30 2010 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe

All I can say is: Bring back "24" and "Lost"
I miss Jack in both shows.
None of the new shows can even touch these.

September 30 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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