In television terms, it's report card time. A month after most new fall shows premiered, it's time for the dreaded Sweeps. This is the time that network ratings are tallied. Since the networks set many of their ad rates based on these tallies, they want the highest ratings they can get. As a result, shows that are, shall we say, underperforming get kicked to the curb.
The official industry term is “hiatus.” It's a nebulous label that means, “We haven't officially canceled the show, and if we can't find anything halfway decent to replace it with, we might just bring it back--but we'd really rather not.”
So far, this season has been an unusual one in television terms. Well-made shows have been ratings winners, lousy shows have been met with quick cancellation, and reality series seem to be on the decline. Could this signal a return to quality television? Well, let's not jump the gun or anything. But it is encouraging.
So what network chaff has been swept under the rug this Sweeps month, and what does that bode for the future? Let's lift up the carpet and see.
Over on NBC, the flavorless cop series “Hawaii” (regularly trounced by ABC's “Lost”) was flat-out canceled before Sweeps hit. Even so, the network's biggest casualty is the ultra-expensive ($2 million per ep) CGI cartoon “Father of the Pride.” The show was replaced in November by an extra half-hour of “The Biggest Loser.” (Ouch.) Though the network is quick to point out that the show has not been canceled, it has certainly not forked over any more dough for new episodes. Remaining unaired episodes will likely be burned off after Sweeps ends, but don't expect to see this mangy offering continue past midseason.
On CBS, the Mel Gibson-produced baseball series “The Clubhouse” was pulled from the lineup after a disastrous move from Tuesdays to Saturdays and is not expected to return. The show has been replaced by the sixth season of “The Amazing Race.” Rob Lowe, meanwhile, is batting 0-2 after leaving “The West Wing.” His new series, “dr. vegas,” was pulled from the schedule during Sweeps and probably won't return. The Saturday show has been replaced by reruns of crime dramas from earlier in the week. This seems to be the trend these days, with ABC and CBS doing largely the same thing. Expect ratings-deficient Saturday to turn into rerun night in the near future.
The WB's sketch comedy series “Drew Carey's Green Screen” has also been placed on hiatus in November. The Thursday night show regularly lost 33 percent of its lead-in audience from “Blue Collar TV” (which didn't have a very big audience to begin with). “Blue Collar” has been moved to Fridays and paired with “Reba.” “Green Screen” will remain in production and could find a new timeslot later in the season. The Thursday night hole will be plugged by reruns of “Charmed” and assorted movies.
That's it for Sweeps, but you can expect a whole new round of full-on cancellations in December. (“LAX,” “Jack & Bobby,” “The Mountain,” “Complete Savages”: We're looking at you!)