Monday, June 6, 2011

2010-2011 TV SEASON WRAP UP: FOX, You Fail!

I've now decided I'm going to write a few blog posts about the 2010-2011 TV season.  Even though I didn't watch a lot of TV, last season, I'll do the best I can, here.  Each one of these blog posts will be by network, so some may be much shorter than others.  Since I probably watched FOX the most, this past season, I think it's appropriate to start with them.  Also, remember that these TV season wrap ups are only about shows I watched, so I may miss some of your favorites.  If I did, it's your job to make me want to check them out.  Isn't that part of what this blog is all about?  At the end of this, I'll give a brief rundown of what's going on for their schedule, for this fall, and tell you a few shows I think I'll at least be trying.  I hope this turns out to be worth reading.

Shows I watched, in the 2010-2011 TV season, on FOX:

The Good Guys
Lie To Me
Human Target
House

I'll break these down, show by show, briefly.

The Good Guys (canceled):

This was one of the bright spots on FOX's summer schedule.  At first glance, I thought there was absolutely no way I could get into it.  I seem to remember watching Lie To Me on DVR each week, and seeing the leak over of The Good Guys.  My friend, Deana W., was talking about the show in her facebook statuses, each week, and told me I should check it out.  I finally decided to check it out after one of the leak overs was actually funny.  I did not regret my decision, in the least.  I'm going to write a full blog post about The Good Guys, soon, but I'll get into it briefly here.  The basic premise is that it's kind of a parody of 1970s cop shows like Starsky and Hutch.  Well, at least the main character, Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford) is.  If you watch the show from solely the cops perspective, it's way over the top farce, and can give you a mixed impression of the show.  However, that's not how it should be done.  The show is at its most successful when dealing with the bad guys.  All of the bad guys have some sort of bizarre back story, or humorous portrayal.  While I knew the bad guys would get caught, it was always fun watching the road, to them getting taken down, in the most accidental ways.  The show never caught on, in a big way, but it was also kind of shuttled around the FOX schedule until it got buried on Fridays.  This show, I felt, was one of the biggest losses of the season, as it was one of the most fun shows I'd seen in a long time.

The Good Guys Ratings Example (all ratings examples are from Inside TV Ratings):

-2.9 million viewers
- 0.9 (18-49) rating

Lie To Me (canceled):

I've already written, in depth, about this show, so I'm not going to say much, here.  Lie To Me, I thought, was in a battle with The Chicago Code, for a spot on next season's schedule.  It turns out both ended up being casualties, making my boycott of The Chicago Code pointless (even Delroy Lindo was not quite enough to get me to break my boycott).  Lie To Me would have been strong enough to be renewed on nearly every other network, so its cancellation ends up being the most perplexing, in the sea of FOX cancellations.

Lie To Me Ratings Example:

-8.5 million viewers
-2.5 (18-49) rating

Human Target (canceled):

Human Target was kind of a unique show.  The show had numerous problems that appeared on the surface.  Some may have been intentional, but I was never really sure.  It was always really strange how clear the make up was on the actors' faces.  I don't know if showing that was meant to be showing us that these people aren't real (it's loosely based on a comic book), or if it was just bad lighting or make up.  Any way you slice it, it was weird.

There were many major changes to the show's look and cast, in its second season.  If you read my Lie To Me blog post (and I know you didn't), you would know that I said that shows with small casts almost always end up in re-tooling.  The main cast of Human Target consisted of three players, and evidently FOX didn't think they were ever interesting enough to carry the show by themselves (they were).  So, with the new season, two more main characters were added, the lighting completely changed (the show was originally nearly an all night shooting show, now nearly every show was daytime, with lots of light), and the theme song changed (for the worse).  I didn't like the changes, at first, but grew used to them, after a few episodes.  By the middle of the season, the re-tooling was working perfectly, and the show found its voice.  Then, by the next episode, it was crappy and confused, all over again.  It also didn't help that this season appeared to have some kind of delay, was originally intended to be on Wednesdays, but was then shipped to Fridays because of the cancellation of Lone Star.  It was still a fun watch, even with all the changes, but FOX had evidently decided it had lost interest in the show.  So, the loss of this show was a pretty unsurprising cancellation.

Human Target Ratings Example (final original episode):

-7+ million viewers
-2.2 (18-49) rating

House (renewed):

For those of you who have not caught up on House, this season, stop reading here, and skip down to where you see the ratings numbers, unless you don't care if this season is spoiled in any way.

House was a train wreck, this year.   It really went on to the third rail, with just absolutely absurd story lines.  House, after his break up with Cuddy, just lost his mind.  We were led to believe in multiple episodes that he was going to kill himself, and even made to believe he actually had, in another (nope he just jumped, from a huge height, from a hotel balcony, into a pool, a jump that would likely have killed him anyway).  If you thought House had been self-destructive, up to this point in the series, you now had no words to describe how far he had fallen.  If you had missed the Vicodin story line, it was back full force, and worse than ever.  I personally think there was some major creative issue going on between the Producers/Writers of the show, and the executives at FOX.  My opinion is that FOX told them they wanted to make certain changes, and the Producers/Writers rebelled by seeming like they were intentionally trying to get the show canceled.  Something similar to this happened when the cast was blown up, I believe, after season 3.  By a certain point in the season, the show had become unrecognizable, from its early, awesome self, and nearly unwatchable.

However, the 13 character ended up coming back, and saved the day.  Well, she saved the day for a few episodes.  After a few great episodes, which I guess was kind of like being on morphine, we came out writhing in the pain of the last few episodes of the season (House giving himself cancer, unintentionally, and then proceeding to operate on himself (!) in his bathtub, are just a couple of examples).  The cliffhanger, at the end of the season, made absolutely no sense, and is seemingly impossible to return from.  If next season isn't the last season of House, the FOX executives need to be kicked out forcefully (I still think they may need to be kicked out forcefully).  The Cuddy character won't be returning, and it will be intriguing to see exactly how she left.  The last show of the season ended with House sitting on a beach.  How he will find his way home, without serving jail time, is something I can't figure out.  I'm officially only watching this show, now, because I have invested so much time with it.  It's not really worth watching anymore, and is literally like watching a car accident unfold before your eyes.

House Ratings Example (season finale):

-9.4 million viewers
-3.4 (18-49) rating

Those were the brief synopses of the seasons of the shows I watched.  Here's where I talk a little bit about the fail that is FOX.  One of the biggest problems FOX has is that it is so American Idol centric.  If I'm not mistaken, that show is the highest rated show on TV, by a wide margin.  Due to that, FOX tends to set up most of its shows for failure when competing with that bar.  I've never watched Bones, mostly because the crime scenes are too gory, but it has a solid following, so much so, that's it's getting a spinoff next season.  However, the kind of ratings shows like Bones get, on FOX (House, Glee) is a pretty high standard to hold to for most shows, since, unless you're CBS (with septuagenarians falling asleep in front of the TV after the CBS Evening News), most of your shows don't average over 9 million viewers, with strong 18-49 ratings.  The unfortunate thing is that it appears when shows don't hit the 9 million mark on the FOX network, they're done.  This is why it's so amazing that Fringe has been able to stay on, as long as it has, with such low ratings, overall.  The main guess in the industry is that because it's so close to 88 episodes, they might as well bring it back for a final season.  Sorry, Fringe fans, this WILL be its final season.

Here's the main problem with FOX.  FOX only broadcasts two hours of primetime, per night, except Sunday nights, if you want to count the hour prior to primetime.  Factor in that every network considers Friday and Saturday nights dead nights, FOX is only showing roughly 10 hours of primetime programming (ones it expects to do well), as opposed to the other networks that are running approximately 15 hours of primetime programming (that they expect to do well).  That is 5 hours of programming that could be on the air, that isn't.  When FOX first came out, it wasn't ambitious, at all.  It had weekend primetime programming, and that was it.  Then it expanded to another day, and then another, and another, until it finally had a full week of primetime programming.  Maybe it's time for FOX to start making the news start later, at least one night a week, and try out a few more programs.  This would make it easier for shows to stay on their extremely crowded schedule.  If I am a Producer of a television program, especially if it's ground breaking, quirky, or anything out of the ordinary, I would begin sending out resumes the minute my show is picked up by FOX.  I just wouldn't have any confidence that FOX would stick with it for at least 2 seasons.  So, in many people's opinions, we lost 4 good shows on FOX (The Good Guys, Lie To Me, Human Target, and The Chicago Code), three of which most likely would have been picked up for another season on other networks.  When you set the bar too high, in a crowded TV landscape, you are just setting your TV shows up to fail.  FOX, you routinely give us good TV shows, yet you also routinely do not give them a chance to find the audience that is needed to make a show extremely successful.  For that, you fail!

In this part of the blog post, I'd like to talk briefly about what I mean about FOX not sticking with scripted shows long enough.  I'll illustrate it with something that I believe shows the problems.

Shows renewed that began last season:

Raising Hope-30 minute sitcom
-5.5 million viewers
-2.2 (18-49) rating

Bob's Burgers-30 minute animated sitcom
-4.1 million viewers
-2.0 (18-49) rating

Shows that were in their second season, that were renewed:

Glee-1 hour musical drama
-11.8 million viewers
-4.6 (18-49) rating

The Cleveland Show-30 minute animated sitcom
-4.95 million viewers
-2.3 (18-49) rating

Shows that were in their third season, that were renewed:

Fringe-1 hour drama
-3.30 million viewers
-1.2 (18-49) rating

Four of the ten scripted shows that were renewed for the 2011-2012 season were in their first or second season, and only one was in its third.  Two of the shows that were renewed were animated.  Three of the four renewed shows in their first or second season, were 30 minute sitcoms.  The only two dramas renewed in their second, or third seasons were Glee and FringeFringe would normally have been canceled, but is getting a final season so it can get into syndication with enough episodes.  So, if your show is an hour long drama, on FOX, you have less than an approximately 10 percent chance of getting a second season, typically, if that, these days.  If your show is an hour long drama, in its second season on FOX, you have an approximately 10 percent chance of getting a third season.  It's pretty easy to see, just by showing that, that FOX just doesn't really stick with new scripted drama shows long enough, unless they're animated, or getting huge ratings (Glee).  The bar is too damn high!

As for next season, FOX is bringing us the budget busting Terra Nova (actually looks pretty good, and super expensive).  The other big show I saw was Alcatraz, another seemingly large budget show.  For their fall schedule, they're not rolling out all their new scripted TV, at once, I'm guessing that's coming in the spring with American Idol lead ins.  I'm guessing Lie To Me, or The Chicago Code, wasn't picked up due to the cost of Terra Nova.  One Terra Nova is like two of those, I think, and possibly three.  I really feel like the executives at FOX are going all in with their 2011-2012 TV schedule, and if these seemingly highly expensive shows are not highly rated, there will be a bunch of heads rolling.  FOX needs to let their shows find their way, or it needs to not pick up those shows.  What used to make FOX so good is what, in many ways, is ruining it now.  Quirky TV shows have always been this network's wheelhouse, yet, the days of the long leash have long since disappeared.  Soon, if things don't improve, we are going to be seeing only blockbuster TV shows and reality shows from FOX.  This would be a travesty for them, but possibly a boon for cable networks like USA and TNT.  Only time will tell.  Thanks for reading.

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