October 13, 2006


New TV shows getting praise, but not viewers (Suzanne C. Ryan, October 12, 2006, Boston Globe)

Observers have plenty of theories on what's hampering the latest crop of programs, which critics have praised for their intricate plots, strong casts, and movie-worthy production values.

``When it comes to television, viewers are looking for characters they want to be with," argues Tim Brooks, co author of ``The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present." `` You are inviting people into your home and you want to like them . . . You look at `Smith' and say, `I don't want to be with him.' `Studio 60' is on another planet. It's too slick, too us vs. you."

Lawrence Lichty, a professor of radio/television/film at Northwestern University, maintains that traditional medical shows and police procedurals with strong characters and sexy storylines have always topped the competition.

``It used to be `ER,' `St. Elsewhere,' and `Dragnet,'" he said. ``Those are proven formulas. `Ugly Betty?' Maybe I'm too old. It strikes me as an ABC after-school movie plot."

Janet Hull, a homemaker in Hanover, tried to sample some of the new shows but she couldn't keep up with the schedule. ``I missed the premiere of [CBS's nuclear attack survival story] `Jericho.' I missed the premiere of `Ugly Betty.' This season, it's almost overwhelming. There's an awful lot on. I may have to just wait for the reruns."

There's no question that new series traditionally take time to find an audience. But in an era when broadcast television faces relentless competition from cable and the Internet, not every program will be given that time.

NBC pushed its Wednesday night thriller ``Kidnapped" to Saturday night -- a TV dead zone -- after three episodes. Fox moved Monday night's ``Vanished" to Friday . ABC is pushing back the start of the comedy ``The Knights of Prosperity," possibly until January, a less competitive launch period.

One of the effects of DVDs is that we viewers don't have to be suckers and watch the first few episodes of a soon to be cancelled series. If they make it through a season we can watch the whole thing on DVD at our leisure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 13, 2006 8:27 AM

Speaking of Saturday night viewing, ABC at least has the good sense to put college football on at that time. They can at least save money on production costs, though some of the games have generated some of the highest ratings of the weekend.

Not only that, I wonder how the networks feel about getting their butts handed to them by ESPN, and their promotion of Monday Night Football.

Posted by: Brad S at October 13, 2006 8:43 AM

I'm still mourning the cancellation of Futurama, Junkyard Wars and BattleBots.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 13, 2006 11:34 AM

"Ugly Betty" is the angelcized version of the Colombian novela Betty la fea, which at least means it's been tried elsehwere and has worked, and apparently is getting (for 2006) decent ratings for ABC.

On the other hand, you have to wonder how bankrupt of ideas NBC is to put on two shows that are based on a behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday Night Live type show. From looking at a few of the blogs of some Hollywood writers, they can't stand Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60" and can't believe some of the TV critics think Sorkin can write anything remotely near the word "funny". Tina Fey at least has an SNL background, but her star, like Sorkin's, seems to have risen as much due to her political leanings as it is to any entertainment value she has to offer.

Posted by: John at October 13, 2006 11:46 AM

Some people don't pay attention. You can watch Jericho online at cbs.com if you miss an episode.

Posted by: RC at October 13, 2006 11:52 AM

As John points out "Betty La Fea" was a huge hit in every country it aired (even in the US, where it was Telemundo's biggest hit ever) and has succeeded in multiple incarnations in other countries (it's been produced in French, German and a few other languages). There's even a re-make of the original novela (called "La Fella mas Bella") now playing on Univision to terrific ratings.

I haven't watched the ABC version yet (I've got a few on TiVo), but friends who liked the novela version tell me they are ejoying this one, too.

Posted by: Foos at October 13, 2006 1:50 PM

PapayaSF: I don't know if you have heard or not, but Groening is making 4 straight-to-DVD Futurama movies, and Comedy Central has ordered 13 new episodes for 2008.

OJ - if too many people wait for DVD's, it might cause more shows to be cancelled prematurely. Somebody's got to pay the piper.

Posted by: Mike Beversluis at October 14, 2006 11:15 AM


Not us.

Posted by: oj at October 14, 2006 11:46 AM

Good site. Thanks!

Posted by: at November 7, 2006 11:19 AM

Good site. Thanks!

Posted by: at November 7, 2006 11:19 AM

Very good site. Thank you!

Posted by: at November 7, 2006 11:20 AM


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