While ABC was busy picking up three shows that had aired for a few weeks, NBC was canceling a show that had yet to make its season premiere. "Southland" was due to be back on the schedule two weeks from Friday; instead, production has been shut down and producer John Wells will try (and, given the pricetag, likely fail) to shop it elsewhere. More thoughts after the jump...
Outside of the weird harmonic convergence that has the season's first two big casualties (this and "The Beautiful Life") starring Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton (will no one think of the second-hand sales of my book?), this move is kind of startling. I've seen new shows get canceled before they aired (Fox had a good run of this around the turn of the century), and I've seen shows be renewed and then canceled a few weeks into their second season ("Dollhouse" seems a candidate for that treatment), but for a show to be renewed and then never air? That's bizarre, and maybe disturbing in what it says about the current state of NBC.
One of Nikki Finke's moles at NBC said the network would have "nothing watchable for the rest of the year" (he or she clearly isn't a "Chuck" fan) and said the place is still a disaster area post-Ben Silverman. Neither "Trauma" nor "Mercy" have gotten any traction, "Parenthood" is still trying to recast Maura Tierney (though Lauren Graham, the current reported frontrunner, at least seems a good match on the President/elf/terrorist scale), and the only show that's really working at all is "Biggest Loser."
Make fun of NBC all you want - God knows I have - but even in the midst of this downward spiral, they've put some of the best shows on the air, and found unlikely ways to keep them on the air. "30 Rock" is going into its fourth season. "Friday Night Lights" will produce at least five season's worth of episodes. "Chuck" got renewed. Etc. I'm not saying "Southland" was remotely in a league with any of those shows, but it was still the type of show - reasonably pricey scripted drama with a good cast and name producers - that it was good to see NBC doing in the midst of its budget-slashing and Leno-scheduling. For them to pull the plug on it before airing even one second season episode suggests a network in full-on retreat. And that's very, very bad for the business in general.