Sorting through the changes on network television
My mailbox is empty.
Shortly after home computers and Internet became popular, readers of this column ditched snail mail for resolving their television questions. The email approach worked for a while, but eventually it evolved into nothing more than requests for network or TV stars’ addresses.
Most questions are now delivered across grocery carts. For example, “Hey, Hazlett, how come they keep canceling my favorite shows?” Or lately, “Why’d they kill off (insert character)?” The answer to both questions is the same: ratings.
If enough people don’t tune in to a series within seven days of its original broadcast, it’s axed. At the same time, in an effort to revive ratings, a multitude of major characters have unexpectedly arrived at the gates of TV heaven – or hell – this season. (That’ll teach you to skip an episode!)
Here’s a sampling of cleaned-up shout-outs received across cash registers, bowling lanes and fast-food booths during the past few weeks:
Q. Should I waste my time with any of the new shows on the networks this spring? They always seem to get canceled, anyway.
A. You’re very observant. The vast majority of spring tryouts don’t make it to the fall schedule. Of the dozen new shows on the air, NBC is certain to bring back “About a Boy” and perhaps its companion sitcom, “Growing Up Fisher.” The jury is still out on ABC’s “Resurrection” and CBS’s “Friends with Better Lives.”
If it can halt its recent ratings slide, “Resurrection” might well return given ABC’s dearth of hit programming. “FWBL,” however, is a long shot – CBS rarely renews a spring sitcom, and it appears to have just one comedy slot open this fall. As it’s ordered several sitcom pilots, CBS is likely to opt for something new.
Q. Will “The Good Wife” and “Parenthood” be back?
A. Yes, and maybe. CBS renewed “The Good Wife” as well as its entire lineup except for “The Mentalist” and “The Crazy Ones,” both of which are likely to be canceled in May. “The Good Wife” ratings aren’t terrific, but CBS evidently believes it is viable Sunday counter-programming to AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which, while wildly popular, certainly isn’t for everyone.
“Parenthood” has a small but loyal audience of about 4 million viewers. In its favor, the drama has done better than most recent 10 p.m. Thursday shows on NBC, and it needs just a half-season’s worth of episodes to enter the syndication market. To its detriment, it’s expensive to produce (large cast) and with “About a Boy” likely to be the keystone of a revamped Thursday this fall, NBC might want to start over.
The guess here is that “Parenthood” will get a 13-episode order for next spring.
Q. In your last column, you said the new network trend was going to be live sports and entertainment. I’m really not interested in soccer or bowling or more awards shows in prime time. What’s the deal?
A. Here’s hoping soccer and bowling aren’t on the menu, either. As you may know, CBS is picking up “Thursday Night Football.” I also could see the networks doing more with professional basketball. You may have noticed more discussion/jokes about basketball or basketball players on network talk shows.
Most likely, the comments are not ad-libbed, but rather intentional drop-ins to create buzz about the sport. NBC also has been working diligently with hockey. Excluding the relatively new “Winter Classics,” the most recent nationally aired NBC ice rink extravaganza – Pittsburgh vs. Chicago – set a record with about 2.8 million viewers. That’s paltry pickings compared to NFL football, but it’s a promising trend. If hockey could net about 4 million viewers, it might get a regular Saturday night berth.
As for live entertainment, I suspect networks are looking to resurrect the variety show, but with a “Saturday Night Live” sensibility. NBC, for instance, has been regularly airing repeats of the previous week’s “SNL” in prime time every Saturday.
It’s also announced “The Maya Rudolph Show” for May 19, but barring a ratings explosion, it’s a one-time burn-off of a failed variety show attempt. Also, expect to see “Hollywood Game Night” on the fall schedule. While not airing live, it has the look and feel of a live telecast (and could probably air live at some point.)
And there’s this nugget. “Wrestlemania” – which airs live – hit the 1 million household mark for the first time.
Q. What shows are getting canceled?
A. I’m not certain even network executives know that answer yet, but other than the two CBS shows already mentioned, I’m guessing ABC, which just axed “Once Upon A Time In Wonderland,” also will dump “Mixology,” “Trophy Wife,” “Super Fun Night” and “Betrayal.” “Suburgatory” also could sink. “The Neighbors” has a miniscule audience, but its season finale hinted that it may return.
NBC will likely cast off two of three dramas, “Revolution,” “Hannibal” or “Dracula,” and Fox will dispose of “Surviving Jack” and “Almost Human.” We’re not including reality programming here, but there’s a chance “American Idol” may be crowning its last champion next month. In addition to plunging ratings and an expensive host and judges, “Idol” hasn’t been able to launch any new hits for the network in a long time.
Also, its legitimate boast has always been that it produces stars, but last year’s winner – anyone remember her name? – hasn’t created as much as a blip on the music charts.
Terry Hazlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org