Wednesday, June 06, 2012

New Poll–Biggest Disappointment Of The 2011-12 Season

What constitutes a disappointment when it comes to a TV series? It varies I suppose. Sometimes it’s as simple as a show being cancelled. Sometimes it’s that a series isn’t cancelled and maybe should have been…at least in your opinion. Sometimes it’s that the show isn’t as good as you thought it would be, and sometimes it’s that the show is good but somehow does something that rubs you the wrong way. Mostly though a show disappoints when it or its fate doesn’t live up to expectations. No one – except maybe the people responsible for it – would call the fate of How To Be A Gentleman a disappointment because no one thought it was going to do anything except get cancelled quickly. Thus there was no disappointment when it died a quick (and well-deserved) death.

So what I’m doing with this poll is to present a list of ten series that were somehow regarded as disappointments. Some of these shows came from the outrage of fans, as expressed on forums and comments pages for news stories. Some of them come from critics. And a few of them come from me. As always, feel free to justify your votes by offering comments here.

Why is it disappointing? It didn’t live up to the hype I suppose. GCB was basically being sold as the logical successor to Desperate Housewives. It was scheduled to follow Desperate Housewives presumably to build and transfer “brand loyalty” from the older series. I remember when Pan Am was facing collapsing ratings my ratings guru, Marc Berman, kept emphasising that GCB was going to replace Pan Am at the mid-season mark and would undoubtedly perform significantly better than Pan Am. In fact GCB was only marginally better than Pan Am in overall viewers (about 480,000 more viewers) and the share and ratings in the 18-49 demographic (Pan Am 2.4 rating 6 share; GCB 2.6 rating 7 share). So GCB can be labelled a disappointment because it was a show that people expected a lot of and which didn’t deliver.

Work It
Why is it disappointing? Because ABC bought it. Pretty much everyone could tell that How To Be A Gentleman was going to die quickly based on the clips and trailers that aired before the season started so it wasn’t a disappointment that it failed. In fact it would probably have been a disappointment if it had survived. Work It has to be regarded as a different case. Everyone could see that this show was going to die quickly based on the description. The show, about a couple of guys who dress up as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps, was part of ABC’s group of shows that were attempting to look at the “plight” of the American male in a world where(supposedly) women have the upper hand. That part of the premise was in itself somewhat offensive but the approach they took to it was even worse. They had the men dress as women which opened a whole can of worms with the transgender community who felt the series trivialized the barriers facing them. But that wasn’t even the key element in why the show failed. It lacked the charm that a show like Bosom Buddies had, and by the very nature of the main conceit – that women have it better than men in the current job market – trivialized a lot of issues. The disappointment here wasn’t that it ran just two episodes, but that given the network’s lead time and the failures they had with their other comedies in the “plight of the American male” genre a major American network actually put this steaming pile of you-know-what on the air at all.

NYC 22
Why is it disappointing? When you look at the people associated with this project I don’t think that anyone could have been blamed for expecting more and better. The show had Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal and Robert Price as Executive producers. Price, whose long list of writing credits includes the The Wire, for which he won one Writers Guild Award and was nominated for another. With the talent attached to this project it would not seem unreasonable to expect something edgy and pushing the boundaries. What we got was a pedestrian and well worn show about rookie cops. Even that doesn’t have to be bad – you need only look at the parts of the first three seasons of Southland that dealt with Ben Sherman’s (Benjamin MacKenzie) time as a rookie to see what can be pulled form this sort of material. But they didn’t go that route. The result was that CBS had a show that was more like ABC’s summer series Rookie Blue but set in New York instead of “nameless city that is Toronto without actually saying its Toronto.” It should have been better.

Why is it disappointing? It was cancelled. Judged purely by the storyline of the series that wouldn’t seem to be a huge loss. The show appears to  be a fairly run of the mill procedural, with the hook being that the lead character is a woman has hyperthymesia, a mental condition that will not let her forget anything that she consciously saw. Not only does this help her as a detective, it makes her hard to beat at Poker and Blackjack. In fact the only thing she can’t remember clearly is what happened on the day her sister was murdered. So as I say, it looks like a fairly run of the mill procedural. What really sets it apart is that it finished 24th in the ratings for the 2011-12 season and averaged 12.11 million viewers. Admittedly it did not perform as well in the 18-49 demographic, averaging a 2.5 rating and a 7 share finishing in 70th place in that area, but even so it outperformed CBS’s entire Friday night line-up in the demographic. The simple fact seems to be that Unforgettable was cancelled because it was on CBS. The network has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to programming. This actually becomes a problem because it keeps new shows from getting a chance to develop. Other networks would kill to have a problem like this; NBC would round up virgins to sacrifice to have a scripted show that did these sorts of ratings even with that rating in the demographic. There’s been some talk that the series might be picked up by a cable outlet in the US – both TNT and Lifetime are said to be interested – but it is a disappointment that it was cancelled in the first place when other, less worthy shows stay on broadcast TV.

2 Broke Girls
Why is it disappointing? I really enjoyed the first season of the show, particularly the relationship between Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs). I liked that Caroline was portrayed less as a Paris Hilton style millionaire bubblehead and more as an Ivanka Trump type…with maybe a just a touch of Paris (Ivanka would know how to marry the ketchup). I was particularly impressed with Behrs whose biggest role up to this time was as a caroler in an episode of NCIS. However critics have been disappointed with the show because of the three – now four – main supporting characters, Earl (Garrett Morris), Han (Matthew Moy), Oleg (Jonathon Kite) and the most recent addition Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge). While the characters of Caroline and Max are well drawn, the supporting characters are regarded as stereotypes. Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker wrote that the way the supporting characters are written is “so racist it is less offensive than baffling.” Another critic said that the show relies on “racial humor [that] consists entirely of having a stereotype show up, portraying it in the most obnoxious way possible, then having everybody make fun of it.” The portrayal that has been found particularly offensive by some is Han Lee, the manager of the diner. Andrew Ti in Grantland as “it's distressingly easy to imagine the writers sitting around and listing off every single ching-chong stereotype, ultimately deciding with some sorrow that a Fu Manchu mustache would be impractical for budget reasons.” And that doesn’t even mention the New Zealand critic who gave up on the show because of “those two rape jokes in the first three episodes.”

Why is it disappointing? This series was supposed to be the triumphal return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to television, and on the successor to the network where she earned her primetime fame, The pilot for show was originally made for CBS but when that network passed on it they moved it to The CW (of which it is part owner). The show had an intriguing premise: Bridget, a stripper and recovering drug addict on the run from the mob assumes the identity of Siobhan, her wealthy married twin sister who has apparently committed suicide, only to discover that Siobhan had secrets of her own. The show received a lot of press and Internet buzz during the summer and reviews for the pilot were generally good, although with a few dissenters. The pilot received the highest ratings that a Tuesday night show on The CW has ever gotten. This didn’t translate into ongoing success as ratings dropped significantly, and the critics who initially loved the show came to dislike it, finding it convoluted and silly. Worst of all it didn’t seem to fit the  network. So in the end the disappointment here is that The CW didn’t take the momentum and anticipation that built up during the summer and translate it into a long term success, and that they didn’t produce a series that was worthy of the quality of people that starred in it. Or maybe it is just that he network was incapable of breaking the mould of the sort of shows that people expect from The CW.

The Secret Circle
Why is it disappointing? This show was cancelled, and as with Unforgettable it is a little perplexing. Maybe more perplexing than Unforgettable when you come right down to it. The Secret Circle was the third highest rated series on its network. Now admittedly the network was The CW which has rating that can most flatteringly described as anemic, but according to the traditional season ratings compiled by Nielsen it had a larger audience than several other shows on the network including Gossip Girl, 90210, Hart Of Dixie, and Supernatural, all of which were renewed for at least thirteen episodes. In fact the only shows on The CW that had higher average ratings than The Secret Circle were the show that preceded it on Thursday night, The Vampire Diaries (from the same producers as The Secret Circle and a book series from the same author) and cycle 17 of America’s Next Top Model – cycle 18 of that show had an average viewership that was less than The Secret Circle.

Why is it disappointing? For a long time I had The Finder in this spot. That was justified because a lot of people, including at least one critic who I think a lot of, said that on seeing FOX’s new line-up they increasingly thought that the network should have kept The Finder as a nice compliment to Bones. They tended to think that FOX mishandled The Finder for most of its run. As much as I enjoyed The Finder though I just can’t muster up that much disappointment that it was cancelled. As I said, I liked the show and its incredibly quirky nature. The problem is that I fully expected that it would be cancelled. Besides, I was far more disappointed about another show that was cancelled, and that is Missing. Missing starred Ashley Judd as Becca Winstone, a woman who was a CIA agent and whose son was kidnapped. The show had Judd’s character kicking ass throughout Europe. Locations for the show included Italy, Croatia, France, the Czech Republic, Austria and Turkey. All the while she is trying to unravel the conspiracy that took her son and remembering things that she did while she was a CIA agent, much of which she is not proud of. The cast included Keith Carradine, Cliff Curtis, Adriano Giannini, and Nick Eversam. Best of all it has the distinction of starting by killing Sean Bean and ending with him alive and well – the reverse of most of Sean Bean’s roles. And while it had an end that went full circle and delivered an satisfying resolution to the disappearance of Becca’s son the final minutes set things up so there could have been a second season. I was disappointed that it was cancelled.

Terra Nova
Why is it disappointing? This show had so much potential, but it was potential that was never realised. The idea of a dystopian future society attempting to save itself by colonizing the prehistoric age of the dinosaurs is full of potential. Unfortunately this Steven Spielberg produced series managed to ignore the storylines with real potential and turned the show into a rather uninteresting juvenile series. The focus of most of the episodes was on the children of the main adult characters having adventures and managing to save the day. Or screwing up and being forgiven. Or wanting to keep a pet dinosaur. In general it seemed as if the kids were, if not smarter than the adults then at least the ones that the most interesting things happened to. The adult characters were, for the most part boring. Worse, the overriding mytharc was both confusing and not particularly interesting. At times it seemed as if they were making it up as they went along. The show was tremendously expensive and delivered neither value for the money nor the quality expected from the producers. The show that replaced it, Alcatraz, was (in my opinion anyway) more interesting and more exciting than Terra Nova. At the time that the series appeared, when I was attempting to write a review of Terra Nova, my opinion was that sometime in the future Terra Nova could be remade into the series it should have been rather than the series that it was.

The X-Factor
Why is it disappointing? This isn’t my assessment but the disappointment here lies in the show’s ratings. Before the show debuted it was claimed that if the series drew “anything less than 20 million viewers” it would be a flop. Those words came from the series’ producer and star Simon Cowell. He felt that anything less than the sort of ratings American Idol had received the season before would represent failure. Others took up the cry; I remember listening to Marc Berman’s podcasts and in every episode he claimed that The X-Factor would be a giant-killer, a success of immeasurable proportions. In the event, the show finished in 19th place in the ratings with 12.67 million viewers, although it did well in the 18-49 demographic (4.4 rating and a 12 share for the performance episodes). For comparison, the performance episodes of American Idol – on the same day and time as The X-Factor performance episodes – averaged 19.81 million viewers and a 16.2 rating and 17 share in the demographic. NBC’s comparable series The Voice (which Cowell recently suggested was the place were X-Factor rejects should try out) finished 9th in the ratings (15.77 million) and did a 6.1 rating and a 16 share. This put it in 3rd place in the 18-49 group, just behind American Idol and seven places ahead of The X-Factor, which finished 10th with the 18-49 crowd. By Cowell`s own expectations and what people where hyped into believing this make The X-Factor at least a disappointment of not an actual flop.


Todd Mason said...

Richard Price, rather than Robert (the theological writer) as creator of NYC 22, which (as I've noted on my own blog) managed to be more feckless and lifeless than ROOKIE BLUE (which I hadn't noted never quite admits it's set in Toronto, so obvious is that's even more blatant than HILL STREET BLUES being set in Chicago).

Sadly, TWO BROKE GIRLS was created by Michael Patrick King, the hack behind the hack that is Darren Star, and the comedian Whitney Cummings, who is clever but is willing to go for the easiest imaginable joke, particularly in a sitcom context (hence the quick exhaustion of her other sitcom, WHITNEY...where we had the unusual result that her performance, rather than the writing of a comedian's sitcom, was what saving grace there was).

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would add ALCATRAZ and AWAKE, which both seemed promising. ALCATRAZ was too wedded to its central idea and AWAKE, not enough.