The 2011-2012 season has hit its midway point. Shows are taking a break for the holidays and will be back with new episodes in late January or early February. Some of them anyway. A few have already gone off to that great television channel in the sky. While the fall 2011 season wasn’t exceptionally bloody, there were a handful of high-profile network casualties.
NBC—The Peacock Network has been hemorrhaging viewers for years now. NBC shed another 11 percent of viewership this season, so it’s actually surprising to see anything on the schedule sticking around. But like all network TV, NBC has to cut costs somewhere. The first sacrifice of the season was Monday night’s “The Playboy Club.” The show didn’t have the worst numbers on television (3.4 million viewers for its final episode). And despite the howling protests of the Parents Television Council, the setting actually showed a bit of potential. But as an hour-long, period-based drama, it was simply too expensive. NBC cut it after only three airings. The network also had high hopes for “Prime Suspect,” a remake of a popular British cop series. For whatever reason (Maria Bello’s hat?), audiences didn’t warm up to it. The show was actually starting to find its footing, but NBC lacked confidence and will burn off the remainder of its 13-episode run and say goodbye. The half-hour sitcom “Free Agents” was also a remake of a British TV show and survived less than a month on the air. Pulled from the schedule and placed on “hiatus” (hiatus is to canceled as comatose is to dead) was NBC’s Thursday night comedy “Community.” The show has a major cult audience (it recently won a TV Guide fan poll), but it can’t seem to pull ratings on NBC’s long-moribund “Must See TV” Thursday lineup. A strong fan campaign and a weak selection of midseason replacements could result in the show’s return. We’ll see. Starting early next year, the network will shuffle a number of shows. Unless ratings improve drastically, expect “Harry’s Law” to follow “Playboy Club” and “Prime Suspect” into the scrap heap.
ABC—The same cost concerns that sunk NBC’s “The Playboy Club” doomed ABC’s expensive reboot of “Charlie’s Angels.” The fact that it survived little more than a month was surprising—
CBS—A network strong enough to actually increase its viewership only managed to lose one show, the ill-received “How to Be a Gentleman.” CBS has had some good luck making loutish, lad-based sitcoms (“Two and a Half Men,” anyone?), but they couldn’t turn Kevin Dillon into a network star. Cop drama “Unforgettable” and ghost/doctor drama “A Gifted Man” are officially “on the bubble” (read: endangered), but survive, for now, into 2012.
FOX—Between short-term hits like “American Idol” and annual specials like the World Series, FOX hasn’t dumped a single show. Although they are looking askance at animated sitcom “Allen Gregory” and perpetual, fanboys-only sci-fi series “Fringe.”