For even the most dedicated viewer, television is a love/hate relationship. For every entertaining series, there are a dozen unpardonably bad shows on the air. Fortunately, many (though certainly not all) of those shows die a swift death. In the past few years, networks have shown little patience with underperforming shows. New series (even admirable ones like FOX's “Wonderfalls”) have been cut loose from the schedule after a couple low-rated airings. Sometimes, that's a shame. (TV aficionados know that “Cheers” underperformed in its first season.) Sometimes it's just a mercy killing. (“The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer” ring any bells?)
Even though the new fall season has yet to unveil all of its new shows, we can still identify some of the dead weight that seems to be floating around the dial. So what new shows are in danger of going belly up in this year's dead pool?
“dr. vegas” (CBS, Fridays) CBS's “dr. vegas” and NBC's “Medical Investigation” are both losing out to ABC's “20/20.” Nobody watches TV on Fridays anyway, though, and CBS is so confident in its lineup there aren't even any midseason replacements scheduled. Expect this one to linger despite lame ratings. Odds of cancellation: 8 to 1
“LAX” (NBC Mondays) NBC starts off its Mondays with “Fear Factor,” which looks weak, but is cheap to produce and pulls in a ridiculously high number of kids and teens, which advertisers love. By the time those kids are in bed, though, NBC lets loose its much-touted airport drama “LAX.” Unfortunately, the show airs opposite CBS' “CSI: Miami.” The “CSI” spin-off nabbed a 14.5 rating (representing about 15 million viewers) in its debut, while LAX pulled in a meager 5.6. NBC has a whopping seven series standing by as midseason replacements, meaning this one could get grounded faster than a U.S. Airways flight. Odds for cancellation: 5 to 1
“North Shore” (FOX Mondays) The Monday night battle continues with FOX pulling in its share of casualties. This ill-received summer soaper is really just holding a place until “Athens” (Josh Schwartz' follow-up to “The O.C.) is ready to go. It will stick around, however, until the replacement is ready. Rest assured, FOX has placed a rush order on that one. Odds for cancellation: 4 to 1
“Wife Swap” (ABC, Wednesdays) ABC debuted this reality show rip-off on a Saturday. It did surprisingly well. But its regular timeslot across from powerhouse dramas “CSI: New York” and “Law & Order” is a sure loser. Still, networks hate to cancel cheap-to-produce reality shows. Expect ABC to move this one for a week or two before surrendering to the inevitable. Odds for cancellation: 3 to 1
“The Mountain” (The WB, Thursdays) The big news on Thursdays is that CBS' “Survivor: Vanuatu” is slowly but surely beating NBC's “Joey.” Teens, meanwhile, are busy watching “The O.C.” on FOX. Which means nobody is watching this teen soap on The WB. WB's got six replacements waiting in the wings. Expect this one to get buried under an avalanche and soon. Odds for cancellation: 2 to 1