State of the Network: ABC (Part One)

Zack Rosenblatt (’09)/Eastside Entertainment Editor

As the networks begin to announce their line-ups for the 2009 Fall TV season, I thought it would be a great time to give an outlook on the state of each network. I have already analyzed NBC and FOX, so next up is ABC. Easily the top network in terms of drama, ABC has numerous series that have lasted quite a while on their network. However, recently the network has had trouble launching new series successfully. Although most, if not all, of their newer shows recently have been critically beloved (i.e. “Pushing Daises”), they have failed miserably in terms of viewership. There is actually a legitimate chance that none of ABC’s new series launched this season will be renewed, which would be a problem but ABC still remains in good shape because of its overload of very successful reality shows (especially “Dancing with the Stars”). It is still kind of hard to predict which (if any) may be renewed since all but one of ABC’s new shows (“Life on Mars”) premiered in the spring.

 

“New Series

[Note: all ratings as of 4/27 and first season averages include pilot]

[Critic quotes courtesy of metacritic.com)

 

Life on Mars

Ratings:

Pilot episode- 11.33 million viewers

1st season avg. (first 8 episodes)- 8.96 million

1st season avg. (last 9) – 5.5 million

What the critics say: “Life on Mars offers fine performers, some arresting images, sly satire and a terrific song score. ” (Brian Lowry, Variety)

Analysis: Based on the award-winning British series of the same name, “Life on Mars” started off pretty well, but the ratings slowly decreased as the season progressed leading to an eventual cancellation by ABC. It’s a shame that the show was cancelled because it was an interesting take on the police procedural genre as it also managed to mix a little thrills and science fiction. To top it off, the show had Emmy-worthy performances by lead man Jason O’Mara, and in support from Michael Imperioli and Gretchen Mol. Since it was cancelled early-on in the season, ABC gave the shows producers enough time to produce episodes wrapping up the storyline.

Chances of renewal: Already cancelled, but the British version launched a sequel to the series titled “Ashes to Ashes” that premiered in February.

Emmy chances: Jason O’Mara was a standout performer, but the early cancellation probably dooms his Emmy chances. Same goes for Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol and Whoopi Goldberg (for her guest-starring role).

 

Castle

Ratings:

Pilot- 10.76 million viewers

1st season avg.- 9.18 million

What the critics say: “There’s nothing in ABC’s Castle viewers haven’t seen a million times before, but the cast elevates the pedestrian material.” (Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Analysis: For all the attempts at innovation with police/crime procedurals like “Lie to Me” and “Life on Mars”, “Castle” makes the attempt to join in on the originality and fails miserably. I’m not saying the show is bad at all (it’s surprisingly entertaining) but that it is filled with cliché-ridden storylines that are typical of crime procedurals. The whole concept of having a “renowned crime novelist” working with the FBI worked early on, but now everything just seems to be repeating. The show is worth watching simply because its star Nathan Fillion (“Serenity”, “Lost”) is one of the more likeable actors on television, but that doesn’t mean the show will win any Emmys. Its ratings have been decent, so its hard to tell what ABC’s plans for the show are.

Chances for renewal: 50/50

Emmy chances: None

 

Cupid

Ratings:

Pilot- 7.56 million viewers

1st season avg. (3 episodes)- 6.79 million

What the critics say: “The balance is off, but there is still a sweetness to the show that makes it worth checking out.” (Randee Dawn, Hollywood Reporter)

Analysis: All throughout the television industry, it has become quite obvious that studios are running out of original ideas. International imports, adaptations of films and spin-offs of other series are the primary sources of “new” material for TV studio executives. But ABC took the lack of originality to a whole new level when they decided to revive a past series that failed to make it through a full season. Created by Rob Thomas, “Cupid” was a 1998 series starring Jeremy Piven that only lasted 15 episodes before being cancelled. Thomas decided to try and revive the show for ABC, keeping the same plot and characters but changing the setting from Chicago to New York City. The 2009 version has unsurprisingly failed to find any sort of success early on, but did ABC really expect this show to be a hit the second time around?

Chances for renewal: Slim to none

Emmy chances: None

 

The Unusuals

Ratings:

Pilot- 6.83 million viewers

1st season avg. (4 episodes)- 5.85 million

What the critics say: “The oddball overload bugs at first, but the incredibly likable cast makes The Unusuals unusually promising.” (Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly)

Analysis: ABC has shown an utter desire for “The Unusuals” to succeed, but unfortunately their efforts seem to be going all to waste. First, ABC slotted the show at 10:00 on Wednesday nights in hopes of bringing in the “Lost” lead-in but so far that has failed. Then, ABC tried to air the show two nights back-to-back (Tuesday and Wednesday) and despite their best promotional efforts, that failed as well. At this point it appears unlikely the show will be renewed, but considering ABC’s efforts you never know. Is “The Unusuals” worth all of this effort? Clearly the battle with ratings is not going to get any better, but the show itself is definitely worth the effort. The show may not have any “stars”, but the cast overall does a great job of mixing drama and action with quirky humor.

Chances for renewal: Not very good

Emmy chances: None

 

Better Off Ted

Ratings

Pilot- 5.64 million viewers

1st season avg. (6 episodes)- 4.7 million

What the critics say– “Better Off Ted is funny, it’s just not as funny as it might be, or should be, or, with any luck, will be.” (Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times)

Analysis– Easily the most original sitcom on network television, “Better Off Ted” is the latest single camera comedy that has struggled to bring in viewers upon its debut (other sitcoms that use the single camera method include “The Office”, “30 Rock” and “Scrubs”). Although the ratings have been consistently horrible, that doesn’t necessarily make it a lock for cancellation (rumors persist that ABC is trying to find reasons to keep the show). “Ted” isn’t the worst comedy right now, but it still isn’t so great. The creators have tried to combine the originality and tone of “Pushing Daises” with the dry humor of “Arrested Development”, but unfortunately that’s not enough. Although “Arrested” and “Daises” were two of the most critically acclaimed comedies in recent memory (“AD” alum Portia de Rossi is also on this show), they both struggled to bring in viewers and were eventually cancelled. I expect the same type of deal with “Better Off Ted”.

Chances for renewal: Slim, but you never know

Emmy Chances: If the show lasts all 13 episodes, consider it a long shot for Best Comedy Series, Actor (Jay Harrington) and Supporting Actress (de Rossi)

 

Surviving Suburbia

Ratings

Pilot- 12.16 million viewers

1st season avg. (4 episodes)- 10.91 million

What the critics say– “It has the air of something two teenage pals concocted while goofing around on the Internet, but the result of that would probably be fresher and bolder than Surviving Suburbia is.” (Tom Shales, Washington Post)

Analysis– “Surviving Suburbia” was initially set to air on The CW network, but instead was dumped off to ABC. Are you kidding me? Is ABC so desperate that they need to rely on The CW’s leftovers? Obviously the show had no chance of succeeding on ABC. Heck, it couldn’t even make it on The CW. Reviews of the show were scathing at best (on metacritc.com, critics gave the show a 35/100), leading many to assume “Suburbia” to be DOA. Then over 12 million people watched the first episode, and everything changed. All of a sudden, ABC has a surprise new hit comedy on their hands, despite all of the bad vibe and negative reviews, and has a very attractive slot behind “Dancing with the Stars”. Once “Dancing” ends, expect the ratings to drop significantly, but the show has already far exceeded expectations making it a near-lock for renewal. This is shaping up to be the next “According to Jim”.

Chances for renewal: Pretty good

Emmy Chances: None