Thursday, October 08, 2009

A bad day to be a drama fan?

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.

36 comments:

outoforder30 said...

i thought southland was a interesting show with plenty of potential. kind of sad it got cancelled.

Hatfield said...

If they're ditching Southland premeptively, could that mean the axe for Law & Order as well?

Anonymous said...

I watched that whole first season (a whopping six episodes) and you know what? The show got tinkered with so much during the course of those episodes that I think it is probably better off gone. The girl in the first episode who witnessed some random gangbangers doing a driveby was, in the last episode, testifying against a 60 year old spanish woman who was suddenly introduced as a drug kingpin in the city.

It was a show that had potential in the beginning, but that potential was quickly squandered by attempts to make it more appealing to a mass audience (admittedly in fairly benign ways). I don't know if I would have put it in a list of the top 25 or so dramas on tv. Not a great loss.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not a great loss.

Again, it's not about the specific show, but about what it says about NBC's priorities in general.

Agent Chuck said...

I just hope that NBC leaves Chuck alone. It is such a great show. Great cast and fans really want to see it.

I know wishing for a season 4 of Chuck is wishful thinking but after this I am currently hoping for the S3 to air.

JERRY said...

For a cop drama, i really liked this show. Sad and a little shocked about it's cancellation.

domino87 said...

Does this cancellation have any impact on whether or not they plan on giving the back nine order for 22 episodes of Chuck, as opposed to the 13 they're planning on doing?

As much of a trashing as NBC gets, I still watch more shows on there then any other network. They have 4 great comedies (The Office, Parks and Rec, Community, 30 Rock) and a couple of decent dramas already mentioned (Chuck, Friday Night Lights). Now if only Heroes hadn't gone off the rails, but thats a whole nother story.

Plus I'll always have a sweet spot for NBC since they gave us my favorite comedy of all time in Seinfeld, and my favorite network show of all time in Homicide:LOTS.

Anonymous said...

l.b. weighs in said:

Bad day indeed. I liked Southland, I thought it had an interesting tone and style and some of the characters were developing some dimension past cliche by the middle of the run. The second season would have been the test. Like Lie to Me, how much better is that this season? Or Fringe that took more episodes than Southland was on the air to figure out what worked and what they wanted to be.

But no NBC is going to end up Thursday night comedies, reality and Leno. Cheap all the way through.

AJ said...

I hope this means that Chuck comes back sooner. I just started watching The O.C. on thewb.com so I don't like this news for Ben McKenzie. But really I just want Chuck to come back sooner and on some night besides Friday, like I think they're trying to do. I used to watch Leno when he was on at 10:35 central, but I quit when the switch was made. The only nbc show I watch is Chuck(I use to watch Life), so if they cancel it too soon I won't have a reason to watch nbc.

I think TPTB at nbc are crazier than six asylums full of wackos.

Omagus said...

One of the reasons I never watched any episode of Southland is because, for some reason, it reminded me a lot of Boomtown, which may have been my favorite drama in 2002. Sad to see that it got the same treatment. And from the same network.

Katheen Turner Overdrive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

I think the nets are committing slow mass suicide. Yes, some good scripted television is still getting on the air, and believe me, I do understand the economics. But to me, the Leno move at NBC is one of the most hostile moves in years against creatives and their audience. I can't believe the network is devoting five full primetime hours toward his dreck.

But Alan, a question for you. Say Comcast gets NBC. Do you think the forecast for scripted drama will get worse, or could Comcast find a better way to leverage those properties and possibly develop more quality shows?

Katheen Turner Overdrive said...

How hard will Patricia Arquette and Glenn Caron (of Medium) be laughing when they learn of this news?

How much $ did NBC cost themselves it prematurely renewing "Southland"? Desparate to get positive press ("John Wells has done it again!"), based on a series premiere rating that rode the "ER" finale's coattails to a degree that made Rob Schneider's movie career blush?

I don't want them bringing back Chuck early, I just don't trust them (NBC) right now with it.

Danny said...

What is the cost difference between network shows and cable shows? It seems to me USA keeps pumping out hits lately. I know the ratings aren't great when compared with popular primetime network shows(Psych/Monk fluctuates between 2.0 - 4.0 whereas NCIS is more in the 16-18 range) But if these shows are considered hits in their smaller viewing blocks what if they got moved to a more friendly time and place.

Basically, is the cost such a difference where Monk can last 8 seasons and be considered a huge success and shows like this make it 10 episodes and done?

Lastly are we looking at all networks pumping out these cable qualities shows, and cable quality ratings?

Robin said...

Well, damn. Southland was the only drama besides Lost that I was looking forward to coming back (I don't consider Chuck a drama). Although it was somewhat uneven, the last couple of episodes seemed to be gathering steam, and they left us with a cliff-hanger that I would've at least liked to have seen resolved.

This just took the edge off my Office high.

Nicole said...

Well I guess Ben Silverman wasn't the entire reason NBC has gone in the toilet.

They may bring Chuck back early but I doubt it.

Alyson said...

Brandon Tartikoff is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave.

Anonymous said...

With Rachel Bilson set for a guest appearance, should we be worried about How I Met Your Mother?

Matt said...

What's odd is that while NBC is busy running out of the drama business, its cable arms (SyFy and USA) are having huge successes with exactly the kind of hour-long dramas NBC is trying to kill. Admittedly, they're produced on lower budgets and almost none are produced in LA/NY, but they could fill almost a full weekly slate of quality programming just by moving stuff over from cable. I'm surprised that NBC isn't learning from this experience. (They also have a bunch of reality on Bravo that could readily move to NBC.)

Also, I'm assuming NBC is going to try and make a play to take back "House" when the licensing agreement with Fox is up, since it's an NBC/Universal production.

umbo said...

I think it's a huge loss. I loved the show, thought it was the best thing NBC had aired since Homicide. And instead of Southland we get five hours of Jay Leno every week--what a horrible trade-off.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they could give Leno the 9pm hour, too.

Anonymous said...

Ae there finished eps to burn off? I liked it, the uniform-focused scenes in particular.

Anonymous said...

Submitted for your consideration: NBC goes all-out Truman Show and becomes a 24 hour a day Leno broadcast.

Discuss.

jbriggs said...

I have no confidence that NBC won't screw up Chuck and then cancel it.

Southland? No strong feeling either way. It filled a time slot and that's all.

I can't get past Leno's monologue before I have to turn the channel or go to bed. Marginally humorous at best.

Anonymous said...

Ah man, this was one of the series I was excited to start watching again this season. I thought it was light years better than Alan and others seem to think, very able cast, interesting take on the cop drama, pretty decent writing. I mean one episode had both C. Thomas Howell and Tom Sizemore. C'mon! Was it a masterpiece? perhaps not, but certainly better acted, plotted and written than a show like Fringe or Heroes which seem to have an infinite number of second chances. Foo.

jazz said...

If Southand is cancelled, then maybe NBC will put "Chuck" on the schedule, isn't it possible?

Jen said...

Jazz, I wouldn't want to see Chuck in Southland's Friday night timeslot, that's basically one step above cancelling it.

The analogy I've been using for this whole situation is department stores. Because in terms of quality, you have something like HBO - a Neiman Marcus if you will, then the networks like ABC/CBS are Macy's, The CW is JCPenney, and NBC is dead set on turning itself into Kmart. (Though I think that probably reflects poorly upon Kmart)

erin said...

Oh, man! I'm bummed. I was really excited about the show, and was just talking to a friend of mine about looking forward to the premier (which i thought was in september, and found out was in october).

I wonder if they got a look at some of the new season and didn't like it? Ben Mackenzie and Michael Cudlitz were a really great team, and i thought it had an interesting spin on an old cop show. I really enjoyed it, and i'm sorry to see it leave. However, i could've seen it on FX or TNT as a better fit than NBC.

Dang. That stinks.

lizkdc said...

I wanted to see Southland come back too, especially because of Ben McKenzie and his partner.

"What's odd is that while NBC is busy running out of the drama business, its cable arms (SyFy and USA) are having huge successes with exactly the kind of hour-long dramas NBC is trying to kill."

The whole thing is bizarre, because the cable drama hits that do develop are given way more then six episodes to develop.

Janet Maloney said...

I think L&O will probably be the next casualty at NBC. It's in their 20th season. NBC has already dumped the show on Friday. They almost certainly only renewed it as a favor to Dick Wolf so he could reach his dream of matching the 20 seasons of Bonanza, which Wolf has done. SVU on the other hand is probably safe. It's NBC's flagship drama right now and is unlikely to be canceled for another three or four years.

Sarah said...

They'd have been better off axeing "Trauma," which went from derivative to out-and-out shite in two episodes -- and the lead blonde paramedic's resemblance to Arija Bareikis (sp?), without her acting chops, really was distracting. Why not just stick with "Southland," which was imperfect and somewhat derivative itself but MILES better acted (Regina King, come on) and had potential? Why do a crappy by-numbers variation on the same show?

NBC: Epic flail.

Mario said...

A fantastic show which was established, Life, was basically cancelled so they could keep southland. Now they admit southland is terrible and have a hole in their schedule that Life would slide perfectly into. Awesome.

belinda said...

I wasn't a huge fan of Southland (but it was an ok show), so I don't have strong feelings that it was axed (but I am sorry to see it go, because I liked the actors in the show), but how NBC is handling its scripted shows is the most troubling news of all.

I am now worried for the shows I still watch on NBC - Chuck and all the thursday comedies (Community, P&R especially, for obvious reasons). Wow, they actually have not one single drama show that I watch other than FNL, and boy am I glad that FNL is locked in on DirectTV deal, which means they'd be shown there even if something weird happens.

Who knows what crazy ol' NBC's (they're like that crazy old uncle or a two year old toddler) going to do to those shows when they're trying to cut more costs and whatnots? Should I be afraid of the well being of the handful of shows that are still good on that network?

Does this ever happen much? I mean, to have a show renewed, then cancelled a week before its supposed season premiere? And if that's the case, who'd want to even pitch a show to NBC now, knowing that there's pretty no guarantee in anything?

Anonymous said...

I hope they bring back Chuck early, but slot it on Wednesdays at 8 pm. I get the negatives about bringing it back early, but at least it would have a chance to build on its audience before American Idol. That is, if NBC (whom no one is watching) can promote it.

Chip said...

Good day to be a dramedy fan?: http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/10/09/exclusive-nbc-may-move-up-chuck-launch/

Anonymous said...

I hope this season of Chuck is not "too dark".

Puff