We’ve now had a few weeks to think over the recent announcements from ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC, and The CW about their Fall Schedules. One thing that I appear to get asked a bit in emails and in comments is “Why?” in relation to some show being picked up and another show (usually more deserving in their eyes) not being picked up. So I thought I’d wrestle with that subject for an editorial.
First you have to consider the thinking behind every choice. History has shown us that certain things work and will continue to work for likely ever. I hate to break it to THE MENTALIST fans out there but Patrick Jane isn’t doing a whole lot different than what Joe Friday used to provide audiences over 50 years ago. In the course of TV history we’ve learned a few things: Crime Procedurals, Legal Dramas, & Medical Dramas are watched and watched a lot. Formulaic comedies sell well too. It’s generally smart thinking for a Network to have at least one strong Crime, Legal and Medical drama a piece.
So in that regard CBS has been riding high with a lot of extremely successful Crime shows but has lacked a serious Medical based show for years. So it was considered smart to gamble on two different medical shows with the hope of one or both becoming a hit. NBC was losing ER and they too put their eggs in more than one basket. ABC and FOX have their medical dramas so they were able to go after some more niche based titles.
NBC, FOX, and CBS seem to be using rather strategic planning for next season. The shows they chose made sense for their strategy and their current “brand.” NBC’s decisions may look crazy, but I think that is their brand. FOX and CBS however were extremely careful with their show selections. Sure VIRTUALITY isn’t getting picked up and it makes more sense for Fridays than their comedy block but besides that one little blip things almost make sense behind their decisions. PARENTHOOD on NBC is a head scratcher. It didn’t work in the 90s, and it’s been a long time since the movie. Will audiences care?
ABC is using what I call “The Mud On The Wall Strategy.” They’re throwing as much as they can at a wall and hoping one sticks. This may actually work, but some of these projects are just downright crazy. V was an 80s hit when it was about Fascism in today’s society. It became a quick flop when it left that line of thinking (when the creator was kicked from the project) and I really see this not going down the correct path. Still it could work. However EASTWICK to me is another head scratcher. What were they thinking? The movie was ages ago and they don’t have one Michelle Pfieffer type on the cast let alone an actor worthy of filling Jack Nicholson’s shoes as the Devil. The Devil is the key to this show, and the best Devil lately on film or TV has been Ray Wise on REAPER. Another TV show based on a movie from eons ago and questionable casting. Sounds like a real winner!
When you look at those shows you can also see a list of shows that weren’t picked up. You may have read a leaked script or even seen a leaked pilot or at least scenes from that pilot. These make you go “WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING!?!” The shows not picked up seem better in just about every way you say to yourself and you’re confused. CBS for instance had an amazing show called HOUSE RULES. It was easily one of their top 2 pilots. Extremely well written and well cast. It looked really good. They even started staffing for the show. It wasn’t picked up.
Why? Well you have to understand that a show must be marketable. Good product comes along often and the morons at the networks don’t know what they have or how to deal with it. FIREFLY was pitched to viewers as “From the Creator of Buffy,” which really wasn’t the route to take. They didn’t understand it. NBC had no idea how to market SEINFELD. It was a show about nothing, and they didn’t know how to pitch that to the consumer. Right now a show about a group of freshmen representatives in Congress is in their mind “hard to pitch,” because they believe right now that their audience is A. Too old. and B. Doesn’t want politics in their viewing because right now the political world sucks. So remember it’s easier to pick up the show you know how to promote and the people have shown historically they like to watch that style. The tough sells that work and become hits are a true wonder of the world.
The CW however is a different type of company. They don’t rely on historical evidence to help them program. They use a Ouija Board. The problem is they’ve been thinking they’re talking to Edgar J. Sherick when in fact the person giving them advice is the late great Rodney Dangerfield. Rodney has been secretly getting the network to crash and burn because Dawn turned down his advice (when alive) of spotlighting hot young comedic talent on the Network that would “make a statement, and shock audiences” (much like FOX used in its early years).