Friday, October 1, 2010

Slow Start to the New Season

This hasn't been a good season thus far. We're only two weeks in, and already we seem to have a cancelled for each week. Remarkably, they're both for networks I've actually managed to cover in my preview. However, I haven't really watched either, so I'm not going to judge the shows themselves.

First, we've got the FOX drama Lone Star, cancelled the afternoon after this week's second episode was broadcast. This show really seemed to have a lot going for it - FOX gave it a lot of promotion during the summer, with a tantalizing campaign to boot, and critics really loved it. But even still, when the series debuted on Monday September 20, it couldn't even must 5 million viewers. In the key advertising demographic (Adults 18-49), it launched with a paltry 1.3 rating.

That same week, ABC debuted its own drama My Generation on Thursday with similarly anemic ratings. Only 5.22 million tuned against a 1.6 rating among adults 18-49. Granted, it wasn't the worst launch for an ABC drama that week, as Wednesday's legal drama The Whole Truth mustered a 1.5 in the demo and 4.91 viewers. But that gnat's weight edge reserved the following week, and My Generation slipped even further down. Unsurprisingly, that show was only cancelled this evening.

Of these two shows, the one that seems less surprising is My Generation. There was less competition on Thursday night, with only The Big Bang Theory soaking up substantial numbers in that time slot. And with it, there was a better chance of being discovered and sampled. Instead however, audiences mostly passed by uninterested.

However, the bigger and more crushing blow was to Lone Star. Not even the big push I mentioned earlier in the show's favor could help it. There were plenty of people who were confounded to see that it wasn't able to hold its own. Even considering the tight time slot (against Two and a Half Men and Dancing with the Stars), to see such paltry performance for such a hyped premiere was something of a shock. The creator of Lone Star, Kyle Killen promoted the show on his own blog, describing his work as the underdog it was. He implored readers to spread the word about his show, hoping for a "Stunning Upset" the following week.

Instead, the numbers actually slipped in the second week, sealing the show's fate.

It really was a shame, considering how much attention this one post received in various news outlets online. Since the cancellation on Tuesday, Killen has seems to have taken the bad news in stride. In another post in his blog, he thanks everyone who tried to help spread the word about Lone Star and reflects on the chance he got to make it, grateful that he was able to do so.

Overall, the changes to the whole landscape seem to stand out now more than ever when you consider the exact numbers. Even with the ratings standards lowered, it doesn't seem any easier to attract new viewers to TV for a new show. ABC has seen far more new dramas in the last season premiere with such anemic numbers than those that launched solidly. Castle, one of the network's more recently debuted dramas is able to get by with just under 3.0 in the demo (albeit with over 10 million total viewers on average), and the other two dramas that debuted around the same time were quickly cancelled. The Forgotten only managed to last until January because of how much poorer Eastwick fared, and midseason entries Happy Town and The Deep End only held up as well as the subjects of this post did.

With the wider selection of entertainment options out there, it seems that the broadcast TV audience has stretched out to its breaking point. There are still some stellar performers out there, but they're nowhere near the levels of viewership that shows in decades past had. Only time will tell how much longer broadcast television can continue the way it does.