After NBC cancellations, scripted network television coming to an end?
May 17, 2010 by Beatweek
Quick, name a non-reality show that’ll be on NBC in the fall. Heroes? Canceled. Law & Order? Canceled. Mercy? Canceled too. Parks & Recreation? Pushed to midseason, which means 2011. The new Law & Order, which the old Law & Order was canceled in favor of, whose cast we have no knowledge of? Good luck. Chuck? The network more or less admitted it wanted to cancel the show, but just didn’t get around to it in time. Thank goodness for 30 Rock and The Office, the latter of which at this point should perhaps be re-titled The Franchise. And while NBC has loaded up on twelve new scripted shows for the fall, few new scripted shows make it past their first season anymore. The fact that most of you can’t name one of the twelve beyond the Law & Order spinoff, despite the network’s best efforts this past week to promote them, tells you what you need to know about their likely prospects. But it’s not just NBC from which scripted shows are disappearing.
After all, 24 is seeing its closing run over on FOX, the most successful new scripted shows on CBS have been CSI or NCIS spinoffs which Law & Order demonstrated can be fatal when overdone, and we can’t recall a single show that’s on ABC (although someone must be watching, as the network has more viewers than NBC). Sure, the outgoing comedies and dramas are often replaced by new comedies and dramas, but declining ad revenue due to DVR viewing means that the networks have far less patience with new shows whose ratings aren’t a hit right out of the gate; it’s not uncommon for new “series” to get dumped right after the pilot. What almost inevitably happens is that the time slot ends up being eventually given to a reality show, whose lack of high-cost actors, writers, location shoots, or really anything beyond a guy walking around with a camcorder as a group of people make fools of themselves, makes those shows so inexpensive that they’re safe bets that are almost impossible to lose money on no matter how many or few people are watching.
So while those television viewers who enjoy reality shows (more power to ‘em) won’t have much to worry about when it comes to finding what they’re looking for on the network TV dial in the fall, those who’ve been hoping for the pendulum to swing back their way in the form of scripted comedies and dramas have a lot riding on those twelve new NBC shows in the fall (and to an extent the seven on FOX, although that network’s less dire situation means there’s less riding on them). If several of the NBC twelve improbably succeed, it could set the tone for the other major networks when their aging shows soon have to be replaced. But if the majority of the twelve newbies have been canceled and replaced by substitute reality shows before Christmas, that could discourage the other networks from even bothering trying when their turn comes, which could make for a long dark winter for those network television viewers who are no fans of reality TV – and we’re not just talking about winter 2011.