It's early October and the ringing shout of “You're outta here!” can be heard around the television dial. No, it's not a result of the ongoing baseball playoffs. Rather, it's the sound of network executives cutting underperforming shows from their roster.
We're barely four weeks into the Fall 2005 season, and four shows have already been given the big chop. It's not a record by any means, but it represents the loss of millions of dollars for networks, producers, actors, etc. All four of the canceled shows were high-profile (and expensive) hour-long dramas. That's not so surprising a statistic when you realize that 19 out of 31 new shows were hour-long dramas. Still, it shows the networks have a lot of work to do before they match the success of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”
The first show to get the ax was FOX's “Head Cases.” After only two airings, the Wednesday night show was cut loose. The lawyer-based comedy-drama starred “movie” actors Chris O'Donnell (Batman & Robin) and Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan). The show got destroyed opposite ABC's “Lost” and was really only functioning as a placeholder until “American Idol” returns in January. It scored a meager 6.2 rating its first week and managed less than half of that the second week. Not a good trend. FOX is coasting on baseball now anyway and will spackle the hole with “Nanny 911” and “Trading Spouses.”
Obviously, it's not a good year for lawyers as WB's “Just Legal,” another high-profile lawyer-based comedy-drama starring Don Johnson, got the boot shortly after “Head Cases.” The Monday night show wasn't a perfect match for WB's long-standing family hit “7th Heaven” and couldn't hold its own against the onslaught of ABC's “Monday Night Football,” FOX's “Prison Break,” NBC's “Las Vegas” and CBS' “Two and a Half Men”--all of which had already absorbed the male demographic for the night.
NBC's medical drama “Inconceivable,” starring Ming-Na from “ER” and Alfre Woodard from “Desperate Housewives,” was summarily aborted last week. Perhaps viewers had a hard time picturing former “Baywatch Nights” star Angie Harmon as a fertility doctor. Or perhaps the show was just the victim of NBC's continuously unfocussed Friday night lineup. (News show “Dateline NBC” and reality weeper “Three Wishes” were the lead-ins.) The show could return at a later date, but it seems unlikely.
The final ratings victim (so far) was UPN's sexy Tuesday night soap “Sex, Love & Secrets” starring Charlie Sheen's occasional ex-wife Denise Richards. Somehow, the show's lead-in of old “America's Top Model” reruns didn't give it much of a foundation to build on. The network may burn off the remaining episodes, but the show had the dubious distinction of being the lowest-rated show on network TV this fall--so fans probably shouldn't hold their breath. The Sept. 28 premiere pulled in a 1.4 rating--which wasn't even enough to land it among the top 40 shows on cable.
So far, anyway, ratings kings ABC and CBS have yet to cancel a show--although, if I worked for the producers of “Freddie,” “Night Stalker,” “Hot Properties,” “Close to Home” or “Criminal Minds,” I wouldn't buy that new Mercedes just yet.