Do you remember the show Terra Nova? Fox promoted it for about two years as the latest and greatest adventure from the mind of Steven Spielberg (oh my!), then finally put it on in September of 2011. It was billed as a time traveling, save-the-world, Jurassic Park with the family feel of "Lost in Space". It was served up to the nerds and the yuppies with kids on every possible commercial for months leading up to the new season. Hailed as the must-see event of the new year, guaranteed to succeed, a worthy successor to LOST, blow your brains out if you miss it; that kind of show. They spent tons of money on it, filming in Australia, with special effects out the wazoo trying to insure the dinosaurs looked real. Thirteen episodes running consecutively on Monday nights starting September 26, highlighted by a jaw-dropping cliffhanger for the finale. It premiered to the highest rating of any drama for the year, and its second show had a 100% retention rating, which is basically unheard of in the industry. For the season, it was ranked the #2 new drama among adults 18–49, the #1 new show among men 18–49, 18–34, and 25–54 and was one of the top 20 regular programs among teens, as of January 1, 2012. A bona-fide hit, wouldn’t you say?
Cancelled on March 6, 2012.
My ten-year-old daughter cried. My wife was apoplectic, she wanted to call somebody, or write somebody, or just raise hell with somebody! (I sufficed.)
How about “Alcatraz”? 2012 - same network, same type of build up. Ten million people watched the premier, including my little family. A time-travel soap opera about prisoners from the infamous San Francisco island. It had the greatest opening tease ever, "On March 21st, 1963, Alcatraz officially closed. All the prisoners were transferred off the island. Only, that's not what happened. Not at all." It had everything a show could want – a couple of likable characters, a few villains, a neat story every week that, even if it was impossible, was easy to understand, and just enough loose ends to keep you asking questions after every show. We were hooked; we couldn’t wait for the next episode. The finale was outstanding, left us with our tongues dragging, awaiting the next September.
Cancelled six weeks later.
It’s not just dramas, and its not just Fox. “The Neighbors”, “Rake”, “How to Live with your Parents”, “Suburgatory” and “Trophy Wife” have all been axed in just the last year. My faves! Why?
Now I find out that ABC has cancelled “Back in the Game”. WHAT? WHY? It had everything a comedy could want – a young, cute, recognizable female lead, (Maggie Lawson, that doe-eyed knock-out from Psych, who never received the credit she deserved, chained to her boyfriend who actually writes and runs the show, getting leftover lines to make him look more clever than he could ever be, why she could run…..ummm, sorry) and an Oscar-winning veteran playing her dad – James Caan, surrounded by a bunch of smart-assed kids, re-enacting “The Bad News Bears” every week. It was perfect – you could watch it with your kids, you could watch it while you played on your ipad, you could watch it while you slept - who cared, it was funny and it was just the right amount of mindless crap that the networks love. It even had good ratings! Cancelled without comment. I'm livid!
Damn guys, they can’t all have gay men spouting catchy one-liners that their adorable four-year-old adopted Vietnamese daughter has a comeback for, can they? What’s wrong with a little wholesome baseball coached by a fine looking dudette showing a little T & A? What’s wrong with time-traveling prisoners trying to find a crate of lost civil war gold for a demented, dead German warden? What’s wrong with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria showing up in a veloceraptor-infested desert 125,000 years ago, draped with a banner warning us about global warming? NOTHING! THAT'S WHAT - NOTHING! It’s better entertainment than Honey Boo-boo, or Abby the giant dance teacher, or the Real Wives of Antarctica! And just as believable as Scandal (oh pleeeze!), The Good Wife (good grief), or Two Broke Girls – with their horse living in the back of their house in mid-town Manhattan. Really! REALLY! People actually get paid to think this crap up, and they're able to stay on the air! Unbelievable.
Note to all of you genius TV decision makers at the major networks: there’s a reason your viewers are flocking to “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men”, “Downton Abbey” and “American Horror Story”. There’s a reason people will PAY to watch “Game of Thrones” or “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black” – even if it’s not really based on the best selling book. They offer compelling characters with stylish, smart story-lines that hook you with cleverness, so much so that you tell your friends and co-workers about. And guess what, their networks give them a chance to succeed! Who in their right mind would want to watch a show about a high school chemistry teacher cooking crystal meth? How could you possibly sell that in a 30 second commercial in a way that would make millions of people watch it’s premier? You can’t – and their networks know it. It has to rely on word-of-mouth from the few people who are geeky enough to try anything. You morons need to get a clue.
I’ll leave you with this. In the fall of 1982, the sitcom “Cheers” premiered on NBC’s Thursday
night lineup. It ranked dead last for the week. For the season, it ranked 74th out of 77 shows. Thank God someone, somewhere, thought there was enough substance to give it another chance, as it went on to become one of the greatest and most decorated television series of all time. Sometimes all it takes is a little patience.
Please, Suits, we're begging you - give the new shows a chance.