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Have a Little Faith in Me!

Posted by DGN on 10:56 AM in ,
The new season is well underway, and there have been some interesting trends in the world of TV.

Fringe is the second new series, after 90210, to get a full season order. Lead in House has definately helping push the show to gain an audience every week.

I haven't seen it, but the Mentalist generated some great numbers in its debut episode. CBS watchers really love their crime investigative shows, don't they!

However, sophmore shows like Chuck, Dirty Sexy Money, Private Practice, and Pushing Daisies are returning to lower ratings than their premiere seasons. Which I have to say is unfortunate because I enjoy all these shows. The long, writers strike enduced, lay off of no new episodes really seems to have viewers looking elsewhere for their favorite shows.

Even fanboy favorite Heroes is experiencing trouble. After a second season cut in half, the series experienced its lowest rated episode this past Monday (October 6th, 2008). As a friend pointed out to me, once you start playing around with time travel, things can get very convoluted for the viewers.

In each of the cases, not including Heroes, the loss seems to be about a million viewers or so. That is a lot, but when you consider the 10 months these shows have not been on the air, that's pretty good retention.

All shows have come back with bang creatively. All have managed to keep their tone, as well as get rid of any kinks that annoyed viewers last season.

The question though, is will the networks stay dedicated to these shows if ratings either stay the same or fall.

One of the main reasons people have been switching from networks to cable in recent years is due to the knee jerk reactions of network tv.

HBO, Showtime, and now AMC, are being looked at as the place to view great programs. Even basic cable stations like TNT, USA and FX have given us some gems over the years. The reason? Series are allowed to develope and grow. They are allowed to create a connection with the audience and have the time to develope their stories. Examples? The Sopranos, Dexter, Mad Men, Nip/Tuck.

Network tv on the other hand, doesn't seem to understand this phenomenon. A lot of the time, they are quick to get rid of shows based on a few weeks (some cases days) old. On the flip side, they are quick to pick up on orders on the same idea.

But there have been a few cases where networks have worked on the "cable style" system and in the process found some TV classics

From Last Place to Where Everybody Knows Your Name!
Back in 1982, NBC was in bad state. The network had a lot of dramas on their last legs and very few sitcoms. A new sitcom debuted on the station that built around the concept of friends meeting at a bar detailing troubles at work and home. The show was called Cheers. One of the most successful shows in the past 50 years, anchoring the stations "Must See TV Thursday" lineup, as well as spinning off another NBC hit, Fraiser. But did you know that pilot episode of this show was DEAD LAST in the ratings. Network programming head Brandon Tartikoff felt the series has legs and kept it around. Now imagine if the show was taken off the air based on that one episode. Gone would be famous opening anthem, the screams of Nooorm, and the extra eleven years were were given by Fraiser!

The Chronicles of Nothing!
1989. A TV show called the Chonicles of Seinfeld premiered on NBC. The pilot was not well recieved and numbers weren't great. NBC actually offered the show to FOX, but they refused as well. The series was headed to the cancellation heap when late night and special events head Rick Ludwin decided to take money from his budget and fund the next three episodes of the show. Those three episodes, with the lead in from the aforementioned Cheers, drew big numbers, and led to the show getting picked up and eventually replacing Cheers on the "Must See TV" line up. on the season 1 DVD box set, Jerry Seinfeld even goes as far as saying that the decision making process and freedom he got from NBC in those early days has only been replicated at HBO. Hmmm, conicidence? I think not!

Today NBC finds itself in a similar situation as it did back in 1982. With the finales of Friends and Fraiser, NBC lost a lot of ground to CBS with its mix of procedural dramas and reality tv. The network consistantly sees itself in fourth place, with the exception of its highly rated late night programming (there we go again!)

There are other examples of networks pulling for shows that are creatively strong, but come out a little too early for the public. However, they seem to be few and far between, and in a lot of cases, shows aren't even given the time to develop or find an audience. I understand the business is about having the ratings to sell time to advertisers, and these in turn help pay for the shows, but in certain cases, a good show with good writing and good acting should be given a chance. And then if the audience isn't there, fine, it's time we call it a day.

Case in point: Friday Night Lights. A brilliantly written show with some great acting (Kyle Chandler is a standout), has really struggled to find an audience despite a lot of good press. NBC really seems to like this series, mainly due to the fact that the people who do watch it fall within a wealthier demographic. So, this season it is splitting costs with satelitte company DirecTV. The subscription channel will premiere the new season, and then three months later the show will debut on NBC for the rest of us regular folks (and hopefully Global, here in Canada). NBC is really hoping that this will somehow help the show find its footing.

Any shows that you were falling in love with that got brutally taken away?

Do tell in comments

Note:
So I just found out that Beverly Hills Chihuahua made $29 million dollars over the weekend. The shows above are losing viewers, and some how this movie manages to make a ridiculous amount of money. C'mon people! The shows I'm mentioning are free!!! Wow, just wow!

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