First came Fox's "Lone Star," two low-rated episodes and out. Next was ABC's "My Generation," poorly reviewed, poorly received, and gone. The cavalcade of failed new shows that followed was both disappointing and utterly unsurprising.
In an industry propped up by hits, the programming landscape is typically dominated by misses. Roughly 80% of all new shows fail; about a third of this year's freshman crop won't even make it past January. Figures like these have driven many to question network television's costly model, but none to actually alter it. And so it goes, another season of turkeys, as we've affectionately dubbed the shows that have already gotten the ax or are dangerously close to it.
Following a 2009 season filled with first-year standouts like "Glee" and "Modern Family," this year's incoming class was widely viewed as a letdown from the outset. The offerings were too dull, too narrow, and too unimaginative, and the expectations were lowered accordingly. To date, there aren't any newcomers among the 10 shows earning the highest ratings this season, according to The Nielsen Company.
Lone Star, Fox
The heavily marketed show about a big oil conman leading dual lives had the benefit of critical acclaim. Everything from the soapy series' out-of-the-box premise to its breakout leading man, James Wolk, garnered praise from early reviewers. But it wasn't enough to lure viewers. Some blame the show's unforgivable plot lines about cons and adultery; others blame its hard-to-define premise and hardly explanatory title. Whatever the reason, only 4 million or so tuned in, making it the fall season's first casualty.
My Generation, ABC
A documentary-style drama about nine people told in two time periods, the year 2000 and today. As show-runner Noah Hawley described it in his post-cancellation love letter to the show's loyal fan base: "No doctors, no lawyers, no murders to solve. Real life is dramatic enough. That was my feeling. … It was our great experiment, and then it was over." The end came when only 4 million or so tuned in, despite a plum Thursday night slot and a costly--albeit confusing--marketing campaign. Though the series was canceled after just two episodes, Hawley has completed eight episodes for release online.
Fans may chalk up Outlaw's early demise to the show's Conan O'Brien association. After all, it was the displaced NBC host's company that produced the Jimmy Smits legal series for the network. The reality: The series struggled on multiple fronts. Critics bemoaned its improbable plot lines and poor writing, and viewers lacked interest. The drama averaged some 4 million viewers in its original Friday night slot, and its cancellation was announced after just four episodes. (The four remaining episodes aired in a Saturday night timeslot.)
Whole Truth, ABC
Despite heavyweight Jerry Bruckheimer's involvement, a leading lady in ER darling Maura Tierney and a cushy Wednesday evening timeslot, the legal drama failure to pique the curiosity of viewers. Thus far this season, the Tierney star vehicle has averaged only 4.3 million viewers, reports Nielsen. Co-executive producer Kristie Anne Reed confirmed the show's cancellation in late October: "ABC gave us the word," she tweeted. "We will only make 13 episodes of The Whole Truth."
For those who think networks are incapable of--or at least uninterested in--canceling a J.J. Abrams show, think again. The latest high-concept drama from the famed producer-director featured a pair of retired, married spies who were lured back to the world of international intrigue. But viewers lacked the latter. According to Nielsen, the show averaged only 6 million or so viewers and will end its run after 13 episodes.
Running Wilde, Fox
Despite heavy hype and an all-star pairing of Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett, the duo that brought viewers cult hit Arrested Development has once again failed to snag an adequately sized audience. The difference this time around is a lack of widespread critical support for the ratings-starved comedy, which has averaged about 3.5 million viewers this season. Hardly a vote of confidence: Fox benched the series for the remainder of November sweeps. (Fox pulled Arrested during the similarly important February sweeps six years earlier, and it petered out in the months that followed.) Though no network likes to throw around the term "canceled," Fox has opted against ordering more episodes.
Though the Jerry Bruckheimer series received a full 22-episode order, it has fallen short of CSI status. While not outright nasty, early reviews were far from winning--critics called the formulaic show "mindless" and "unimaginative." Still worse, only some 5 million viewers have regularly tuned in for episodes of the action series the network had hoped to make a tent-pole.
The Event, NBC
At this rate, viewers may not get to find out what "the event" is, much less care. In spite of its heavy hype from marketers and critics alike, the network's high-concept, serialized drama billed by some as Lost meets 24 came out of the gate strong, only to fizzle in the weeks that followed. Recent episodes have averaged fewer than 6 million viewers, down from 11 million-plus on premiere night, reports Nielsen. Earlier this month, the network announced plans to yank the series for three months beginning in December.
After seven seasons, two network homes, several awards, even more cancellation threats and a $58 million write down, the show's star Patricia Arquette announced the CBS drama would end its run. It will feel like déjà vu for long-time viewers, since former chief Ben Silverman once canceled it on NBC, where it had run until 2005. Given the strength of CBS' schedule, the 6 or 7 million viewers who regularly watch Medium aren't as appealing--and for that matter, necessary-- as they'd likely be at a lesser-watched rival.
Life Unexpected, CW
Despite early critical praise, the CW series failed to generate either the pop cultural attention of Gossip Girl or the ratings success of The Vampire Diaries. Instead, the Portland-based drama about a foster child who has reconnected with her birth parents has averaged about 1.5 million viewers an episode in its second season. Though an official announcement won't come until May, Lux's season has been cut to just 13 episodes and its future is far from bright.
The Apprentice, NBC LMAO this show's still on???
The network's decision to bring back the civilian version of Apprentice has proved a questionable one. The Donald Trump star vehicle, which once made a catch phrase out of "You're Fired," is lacking in buzz and viewership. In recent weeks, the show's audience hovered around 4 million. The 10 p.m. hour it currently occupies on Thursday evenings will be filled by a third hour of comedy come January. The good news for The Donald and his host network: The more popular celebrity iteration will return this spring.
Despite an all-star cast in front of the camera (Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard) and behind (Friday Night Lights' Jason Katims), the series based on the late 1980s flick of the same name has struggled to find an audience. Its lackluster ratings followed a particularly rocky start care of a cancer-stricken cast member and an unrelated death on set. NBC will attempt to give the series another push with a new timeslot early next year.
ONTD do/did you watch any of these shows? And what shows do you wish (or thought) would be cancelled??