Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On The Eighth Day Of Christmas...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Eight canceled series.

Cancellation is a fact of life in television. Most shows don't get the luxury of going out at a time and circumstance of their choosing the way that Everybody Loves Raymond did. Even The West Wing was pushed by NBC (canceled at the end of the season) before it could announce that it was jumping (voluntarily ending) at the end of Season Seven. The producers might have wanted to continue, although it is nearly impossible to imagine the show without John Spencer. It is also a fact of life in TV Land (as opposed to TVLand (tm)) that most shows are canceled by the end of their first season. Out of 28 series that debuted in the Fall of 2005 only 8 made it into their second season. That's a pretty amazing figure, but what's even more amazing to me is the sped with which networks decide to dump shows. Of course I grew up in the era when it was expected that if a show debuted in September it would get at least 13 weeks to prove itself. Today 13 weeks is practically the same as being renewed for a full season. Of 22 series that debuted in September 2006 (not counting NBC's Sunday Night Football), only 12 are still on the air at the beginning of January, which is roughly thirteen episodes. Of these, only Standoff hasn't received a full season order, although Fox has come close by ordering a total of 19 scripts (most contemporary series get 22 episode orders - when I was a kid 26 episodes was standard and 39 was not unheard of).

What is amazing to me is the speed at which shows are canceled. Not only were some series cancelled by their respective networks but the shows that replaced them were also canceled, all in the space of three months. Network executives are becoming depressingly fast at pulling the plug on series. The eight series that I mentioned in the first sentence were all canceled (or put on indefinite hiatus, which in truth is the same thing - the networks say they'll air the last episodes but somehow they never get around to it) in five episodes or less.
  • Show Me The Money (5 episodes)
  • The Happy Hour (4 episodes)
  • Kidnapped (4 episodes)
  • Twenty Good Years (4 episodes)
  • 3 Lbs. (3 episodes)
  • Runaway (3 episodes)
  • Smith (3 episodes)
  • The Rich List (1 episode!)
For the record, Smith was the first show to leave the air this season. My friends at TVSquad.com insist on saying that Kidnapped was the first series canceled - it was canceled a few hours before Smith but NBC promised to move the show to Saturday night and air the remaining 10 episodes that were ordered. It was a promise they reneged on after one airing which had low ratings even for a Saturday night. As for The Rich List its one and only episode aired on November 1, 2006 replacing Justice. Yeah, I didn't notice it either.

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