Oct 8, 2006

Faster Guns on the Screen

Since I missed my post last week, I'll do two today. Oh, what joy and rapture!

So the new television season recently started - some shows premiered just this past week. And there have already been three cancelled shows -- one of the we really liked. It makes me really wonder what is going on in TV Land (not ON TVLand). I'm trying to figure out what exactly the process of getting these shows together is. I guess it is something like this:
- Creative person comes up with concept
- Creative people write up the concept
- Creative people present concept to uncreative network people
- Uncreative people purchase concept and replace creative people with mindless drones.
- Mindless drones produce watered down version of concept
- Uncreative people show new concept to uncreative focus group
- Uncreative people tell mindless drones to ruin show
- Show premieres - no creative or interesting people like it
- Show gets cancelled

Is that it? I am completely baffled as to how after the entire creation, development, production, testing, and review processes NO ONE understands a show stinks. Do they just hope no one will notice? How can you POSSIBLY know a show needs cancelled after three shows? If it is THAT BAD, it never should have been put out in the first place. If it isn't that, it is some network exec being impatient with a show, and not giving it time to gain an audience. Here are some big questions I have about this.

1. What is the big hurry to cancel a show? Sometimes it takes a while for shows to hit their stride. For examples, Cheers is largely considered one of the best and most successful comedies ever. But it was a ratings loser for its first two or three years. It didn't pick up in ratings until Woody Harrelson joined the cast. By the time it went off the air, it was the number one show. In today's tv market, it never would have had a chance. It would have been axed in those first few years. The same story can be told for Seinfeld. I remember when it came out and it was only watched by a few people. One of my friends, Dave Senes, watched it and tried to get the rest of us to. A few years later, it was number one. So, if a show doesn't perform right away, it gets canned. There is not chance for it to catch an audience. Take Smith on CBS. We really liked the show. It was well acted, exciting, and had great promise. After three shows it was gone. I really think it could have done well - should have done well.

2. You got something better? If there was something better, wouldn't it have been on the lineup in the first place? Smith was pulling in over 9 million people. What could air that is going to pull in nine million people? I don't get it. So CBS had something THAT much better than Smith? NBC had something THAT much better than Kidnapped? You gotta figure they have at least eight or nine shows done by now. It would be better to run repeats and news magazines than those completed shows?

3. If you know it is bad enough to yank, why run it? This is the one that is the opposite of shows like Smith. When Fox cancelled Happy Hour, it was not even close to a surprise. Everyone thought it was stupid. So why did they air it in the first place? Shouldn't SOMEONE along the line said, "Hey, you know, this is just dumb dumb dumb." It completely baffles me.

4. Who do you blame? So, who exactly is to blame for a show like Smith that gets cancelled? Do we blame the actors? Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Amy Smart, Simon Baker, Johnny Lee Miller, Shorheh Aghdashloo. Not a bad cast. You really think they did it wrong? Blame the writers? The jumpy network exec? The one who greenlighted in the first place? America for not liking it? I am surprised the show didn't do better. But there were SOOO many new dramas and serials out this year, I think it just came down to too many options.

Obviously, I have no answers as to what to do. It just makes me wonder every year what happens. Three weeks to prove that a 22 week show is good. How in the world do you do that? That isn't enough time to get word of mouth going. That is the pilot (which is usually uneven) plus two weeks. Really, it is kind of like pulling a movie out of the theatre after one weekend. Kind of dumb, if you ask me. But you didn't, and neither did Les Moonves. Next Sunday, after I have had time to watch all of the shows I plan on watching at least once, I
will give you my assessment of the new season's offerings - both new shows and veteran ones.

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