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 V.19 No.41 | October 14 - 20, 2010 

Idiot Box

The Axman Cometh

Cancellations arrive early this season

TV’s deadpool seems particularly shallow this season. The fall 2010 TV season has barely started and already we’ve got two major casualties. FOX’s polygamist Texas con man drama “Lone Star” and ABC’s high-school-plus-10-years faux-documentary drama “My Generation” were both canceled last week after only two airings apiece.

Not that networks haven’t been itchier on the trigger finger. According to Advertising Age, more than 75 percent of new shows fail each TV season. But “Lone Star” and “My Generation” were both expensive tent-pole dramas heavily touted by their networks. Both received a measurable amount of critical praise. And neither one involved doctors, lawyers or cops. Networks are just now rolling out widespread, long-planned ad campaigns on billboards and in magazines for the moribund shows. And in a sign of today’s headlong rush into the digital age, both shows have Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages that will now sit idle as tombstones.

To be honest, ratings were paltry. “Lone Star” was pulling in around 1.7 million viewers between the magic ages of 18 and 49 on Monday nights. “My Generation” generated about 2.1 million of the same viewers for the pilot episode and about half that for the follow-up airing on Thursday night. Not good. There’s a slim chance the shows could return to burn off remaining episodes in the future or become available on the web. But even then, there isn’t much of them left. Wary of just this eventuality, networks rarely stockpile future episodes. FOX only shot five episodes of “Lone Star.” “My Generation” managed to get eight in the can.

So far, no new show has cracked the top 10 this season. Americans are still busy watching “Dancing With the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent.” But would it have killed the networks to try a different time slot on these shows? Ah, well. It’s a moot point. The looming question now is: Which shows will follow “Lone Star” and “My Generation” into this season’s abyss of cancellation?

FOX’s sitcom “Running Wilde” isn’t living up to ratings or critical expectations. You’d expect more from the people behind “Arrested Development,” but the show is just too oddly unfunny. Lead-in sitcom “Raising Hope” is holding its own. (Probably because it’s a much funnier show.) If “Wilde” lasts the season, it will be a miracle. Cancellation odds? 1:2

NBC’s “Undercovers” had a decent-sized debut (8.7 million total viewers). Unfortunately, the second episode shed 1.5 million of those viewers, and the magic 18-to-49 demographic is weak for this romance-filled spy series. It’s produced by J.J. Abrams (“Alias,” “Lost”), which means the network will cut it some slack. But that also means it’s very expensive to produce. The numbers had better start growing on this one, because NBC has to sell a lot of DVDs to make it worth the effort. Cancellation odds? 4:1

ABC’s legal drama “The Whole Truth” has a TV-friendly cast (Rob Morrow from “Northern Exposure,” Maura Tierney from “ER”), but numbers and demographics are weak. Plus, who can tell it apart from the 50 other legal dramas currently crowding prime-time airwaves? Cancellation odds? 1:1

 
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