Sorry for the massive delay in writing these 2011-2012 TV season wrap ups, but I have only just caught up on all the stuff I wanted to catch up on for the season. Sometimes life just works that way. I hope that's okay with you. Thanks for understanding.
Just like last year, let's start with FOX. Last year, I was angry at FOX for the cancellations of several shows I enjoyed, some of which had decent ratings. The decently rated shows, in addition to another decently rated show I didn't watch, were canceled, presumably because FOX wanted to make a new tentpole with their family comedy, Terra Nova. It looked like a show with a decent amount of potential, yet it failed to live anywhere near up to the expectations that many of us had for it, and based on my "insider" knowledge, I even heard that Steven Spielberg tried to get an "o" added to the end of his credit on the show. Like just about every other scripted show on FOX, Terra Nova ended up being a ratings and critical disaster, and once the sinkhole opens, everything follows into the ratings abyss.
I watched a bunch of shows on FOX, even though I considered this past season to be an epic fail for them. I fell behind on one, even though I didn't mind it, and I probably should try to figure out how to re-visit it now that the season is complete. Some I only got to see a few episodes of, during the season, because of their unfortunate highly competitive time slots. Another show had its final season, one of my favorite TV shows, and the demise of that show means I will probably only be watching two scripted dramas on that network next season. FOX did have several enjoyable shows this past season, but most of them were canceled. The glory days of FOX are probably over (if they ever had any to begin with), and, as expected, a head did roll (sort of) due to the numerous problems they faced this past season. Masked Scheduler has moved on, and it doesn't look like his new role is a promotion. There are probably others who lost their jobs we've never heard of, but that kind of stuff doesn't make the news, only bosses and shows do. FOX's schedule for next season looks pretty darn atrocious, so don't expect any miracles out of there any time soon. Ratings reality may have begun to set in, and FOX, just like everyone else, except CBS, has now realized they may have to renew scripted dramas that fall below a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo, unless they don't mind having a completely lost season. Now that I've given you the basic background of what I think about FOX, this past season, I'm now going to get a bit more in depth (in a kind of brief way), but only about the stuff I watched.
Shows I watched, in the 2011-2012 TV season, on FOX:
I'll now break down each show briefly.
House (Canceled, final season):
Not everyone will agree with me, but I thought the final season of House was excellent, nearly top to bottom. I thought season 7 was a mess, but they wrapped everything up well, and it had a very fine ending to a mostly great series. I also believe season 8 was easily the best season since the ones before they started tinkering with the cast. Alas, it appears that the makers of the show felt it had run its course, and that it was time to move on. If you didn't enjoy season 7, and missed the smaller cast feel of the early seasons, you must make sure to watch this season, if you stopped watching. If you were ever a House fan, it goes out in the right way, and is totally true to the arc of the series and the characters involved. I will definitely miss the show, and I thank the makers of it for doing a mostly splendid job with it over the years. I look forward to finding out what they are planning next. I'll illustrate the stark drop off in viewers for the season and series finales for House from 2011 to 2012, just so you can get an idea where FOX's ratings are headed.
2011 House Season Finale Ratings:
9.4 million Overall Viewers
3.4 in the 18-49 Demo
2012 House Series Final Ratings:
8.72 million Overall Viewers
2.9 in the 18-49 Demo
Those were likely the highest ratings House had all season, and it was probably more because it was ending, not because it was normal. The previous episode only managed a 2.2 in the 18-49 demo, along with 6.4 million viewers. Fans had clearly begun to jump ship, so it's likely correct that it was time to move on.
Terra Nova (Canceled):
I'm sure FOX would like a do over on this in nearly every regard. They had no clue what they wanted the show to be when it roared out of the gate, so they made it a rather violent Jurassic Park lite. The first several episodes usually began with a gruesome kill from some form of dinosaur that proved how hazardous and hostile the environment the "Terra Novans" were in was. Then, there was some kind of dramatic 180 degree shift, and all of a sudden we were watching a family drama set around the Shannon family and their troubles. I'm not saying there was anything wrong with that, but a shift in direction like that will typically run off whatever core audience may have shown up due to a different appeal, and it also probably kept the show from gaining the audience they were ultimately pandering to. I felt Terra Nova ultimately had more of an Amazing Stories in Jurassic Park type feel than whatever weird stuff it was going for. It was wildly expensive, it was slow to produce, and its ratings, for what it was and the expectations it had, well...sucked. Of course, it ended up being the highest rated cancellation on FOX, but there were numerous reasons, at the time, why its cancellation was such a simple decision for them. There has been no bigger failure on FOX recently than this one. They put all their eggs in its basket, only to find out that someone forgot to put the bottom part in. Fans of shows that got canceled for this turd to be made have a right to be angry (I'm referring to anyone who liked Human Target, Lie To Me, and The Chicago Code). The good news is that FOX did us right by making sure we had a lot of good shows, to replace those, that wouldn't be quickly canceled. Oh wait.
Terra Nova Premiere Ratings:
9.0 million Overall Viewers
3.0 in the 18-49 Demo
Terra Nova Finale Ratings:
7.240 million Overall Viewers
2.2 in the 18-49 Demo
I'm not going to lie, even though I could, because it's the internet, but this was probably the show I most wish had been renewed this season. Of all the shows on FOX it easily had the most potential, and really could have turned into something. Unfortunately, no one watched the show live in any great measure by the end, so it wasn't renewed. I continued to keep my hopes up long past when I should have, but I knew it wouldn't be renewed. I think the last slot on FOX was between this and Touch. With the renewal of Fringe, FOX probably felt it didn't need to do much to appease J.J. Abrams in hopes of him bringing his next hit to them again. I will admit that this was probably one of the worst lead casts in network TV history (as much as I like Jorge Garcia, there's no way he could effectively play a part of this magnitude), and Sam Neill just absolutely looked like he was constipated and being torn apart on the inside reading each line. Sarah Jones, who played Rebecca just didn't have enough presence to carry the show. I found myself truly enjoying the show any time those actors weren't on screen, and enjoying it much less when they were. Hey, I just realized something. That's almost the same way I feel about Touch! I'll get to that in a moment. Of all the TV shows that were lost this season to low ratings, this one and The Finder were the two I really wish would have been back the most.
Alcatraz Premiere Ratings:
9.968 million Overall Viewers
3.3 in the 18-49 Demo
Alcatraz Finale Ratings:
4.7 million Overall Viewers
1.5 in the 18-49 Demo
The Finder (Canceled):
Did anyone else watch this show? It had pretty good ratings with the American Idol lead in, but it crashed and burned when it moved to Fridays. That Thursday night time slot was awful, and I would have watched the show because it had my old neighbor Michael Clarke Duncan in the cast. The show was very humorous, and had a lot of the appeal to me the show The Good Guys had. It had a mostly excellent cast, and the stories were fun. Maybe people prefer this kind of show on cable. Who knows? For whatever reason, the show just didn't make it, even though it was a consistently entertaining and fun show in the episodes I saw once it moved to Fridays. I'm certainly sad it won't be returning, but I've learned that there's no reason I shouldn't be disappointed by FOX.
The Finder With American Idol Lead In Ratings Example:
6.22 million Overall Viewers
2.2 in the 18-49 Demo
The Finder Finale:
4.19 million Overall Viewers
1.1 in the 18-49 Demo
Touch is a mediocre show, with mediocre ratings. It basically started out extremely high in the ratings, and settled exactly where The Finder was behind American Idol. Without the lead in, its season finale numbers were very low. Good thing for the show that it had already been renewed. Unfortunately for it (let's hope fortunately for us), it has been moved to Fridays next season. If you've spent any time perusing this blog, you know that I am a big advocate for opening up Friday programming, again, as opposed to it being the wasteland where shows go to die. All of the big 4 networks are putting scripted shows on Friday, next season, so if viewers show up for ANY of the shows, you can guarantee we will begin to see more scripted offerings on Friday nights. That can't be a bad thing, no matter how you want to slice it. If Fridays become successful, there has to be some possibility that Saturday nights will be opened up for new scripted programming in 2013, and even include some marketing targeted toward making sure people know shows are actually airing there!
As for the actual show, I was really impressed at how they were able to get me to fully invest in the "B" stories each week. The show was ridiculously predictable, in regards to most of the outcomes in those stories, but that still didn't change the fact that I got very emotionally invested in those stories in the vast majority of the episodes. If you have a soul, and decide you want to do a marathon of the first season, I suggest you have a box of Kleenex sitting nearby. My favorite episodes in that regard were the ones featuring the Brazilian singer/cafe owner story, and tsunami story. If only the rest of the show were written as well as the "B" storylines, this would be a great show. Instead, the big backstory doesn't do much for me, and plays much more as a MacGuffin to get us into the "B" storylines, at least for me. I think it would be a huge mistake for them to focus on the big backstory, and remove the "B" storylines, as that's where the whole soul of the show is. Everything about the Martin and Jake side of the story is really pedestrian, and I enjoy the show much more when that part of the story isn't on screen. I don't know how they did it, but getting me to emotionally invest in small predictable stories about people I shouldn't care about is an example of great writing and character development. The show should now try to exploit what's great about the show and bring the rest of the show up to that level. If it dumbs the rest of the show down to the level of the Martin/Jake story, the show might quickly become unwatchable. At any rate, based on the numbers for the season finale, this show is looking at a very tough Friday road to a third season.
Touch Special Preview Ratings:
12.01 million Overall Viewers
3.9 in the 18-49 Demo
Touch Season Finale Ratings:
4.6 million Overall Viewers
1.3 in the 18-49 Demo
New Girl (Renewed):
Oh hi! It's the one new scripted show bright spot on FOX's 2011-2012 schedule. This show got out of the box quickly, and it looked like it would give CBS's 2 Broke Girls a serious run for its money as the highest rated new scripted TV show of the season. It didn't end that way, even though I heard the show got really good toward the end. The good news for it is that FOX doesn't have the same kind of stringent ratings requirements for renewals of sitcoms that it does for dramas. It still rates out as the highest rated sitcom on FOX, even though its ratings aren't that high. FOX will renew just about any sitcom that hits a 1.6 in the 18-49 demo, and New Girl did far better than that.
I watched about four episodes of the show, and then the World Series happened. Then, we had DVR conflicts. Then, FOX's terrible On Demand service made it hard for me to catch episodes. Then, I forgot about it. Then, I was about 6 episodes behind. Then, I gave up trying to catch up, when I found out I couldn't based on how many episodes FOX allows to be out at once. So, I never caught up, and have no idea whether the show really got any good. I hope to at least see some more episodes before the show comes back for its second season.
New Girl Premiere Ratings:
10.28 million Overall Viewers
4.8 in the 18-49 Demo
New Girl Season Finale Ratings:
5.610 million Overall Viewers
2.8 in the 18-49 Demo
Now that I've gotten through the "pleasantries", let's talk about the epic fail of FOX. If you read my season wrap up about FOX last year, which you can see here, you will see some pretty interesting stuff I wrote toward the end of the article. I was highly critical of FOX's apparent lack of willingness to stick with first or second season dramas that would be considered "bubble" shows on most networks. Here was specifically what I said, if you aren't interested in clicking on that link:
"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 Fringe. Fringe 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!"
I think they're finally learning that their scripted drama bar is too high, and maybe CBS has, as well, but I'll get to that in their post. With Touch's renewal, I think it's safe to say that 1.9 is the new bubble line for FOX, for Monday-Thursday scripted dramas. Even though Terra Nova easily exceeded that number, for a good portion of the season, there were too many other issues and cost factors to get it renewed. I'll quickly breakdown the renewed recently began shows, and see if our 10 percent drama renewal rate has continued.
Again, FOX renewed 10 scripted TV shows, based on the information I have seen. Of those 10 scripted renewals, four are animated, four are dramas, and two are sitcoms. Only two shows were renewed that began last season. Only one show was renewed that was in its second season. Everything else was past its third season. Of shows in their first or second season, only 1 is a drama, and it is Touch. There are 10 shows that were renewed, and out of those, only one new drama was picked up. That keeps FOX right at its 10 percent renewal rate of scripted dramas in their first or second season. No second season dramas were renewed, because there were no second season dramas. The moral of the story is that if you're a freshman drama on FOX, your renewal prospects are pretty low. Good thing there are only a couple of freshman dramas, next season, and with the expected demise of Touch on Fridays, the 10 percent rule will likely hold up once again. FOX viewer, be depressed, because...well...it's depressing.
As for next season, let's take a look at what new shows they have to offer, and see if we can find any diamonds in the rough. I'll list each new scripted show, I'll tell you if I'll watch it, and whether I think it has a realistic chance of success. Then, at the end of the season, we can see if my predictions of stuff I have barely seen any material of will hold up. You can see the promos here, if you'd like to check them out.
The Mob Doctor-The promo wasn't any good. I have no plans on watching the show. I think it will fail...badly. The name just screams failure, but I have been surprised before.
Ben & Kate-The promo for this was much better than the premise. I'll check it out, but I don't think it will be any good. This is probably the first in a series of different types of stories told in the New Girl style. This kind of show is generally hit or miss, and I'm predicting that it will be a miss, because I think it skews too old for the typical FOX viewer. Again, stranger things have happened. I'm not terribly confident in this prediction, but I also don't think I'll be terribly wrong, either.
The Mindy Project-I'll be watching, but it sure looks like this show won't be any good. I think it has a very very low chance of making it.
The Following-I'm definitely watching this show. I'm concerned that Kevin Bacon has put a limit on the amount of episodes per season, which makes it very hard for a show to get renewed, as you want to get to syndication numbers as quickly as possible. Shows like this are extremely hard to predict the fate of, because they all come down to execution. I do predict it will have very solid premiere ratings. I also think it has a better chance of making it vs. failing sight unseen.
The Goodwin Games-I really liked the start of the promo, really hated the end of it. I'll be watching at least 4 of these to see if it's any good. I don't think it has much chance of making it.
When I say that FOX had an epic fail this season, it all comes down to what happened. All of their scripted shows went down tremendously in the ratings. I don't think FOX had ever renewed a scripted drama that fell below a 2.2 in the 18-49 demo (changed with the renewal of Touch). They lost their best show (House), and are left with a bunch of shows limping to the syndication finish line. Nearly all of their highly anticipated scripted dramas ended up being nothing more than flat, mediocre shows. They did nothing to make us forget about the 2010-2011 cancellation and scheduling debacle, and have shown absolutely no good faith to its viewers going into next season. There are ten renewed scripted shows on the main fall schedule. Of those ten, four are animation, one is certainly going into its final season (Fringe), one is probably going into its final season (Bones), one is definitely going to be on its way out after next season (Glee will be done after the fifth season at the latest), one is a modest sitcom hit (New Girl), one is a bubble rated sitcom (Raising Hope), and one is a bubble rated drama (Touch). The prospects for FOX improving this, in the near future, are very dim, as their new scripted line up, at best, looks pretty miserable, and at worst is atrocious. Maybe I'll be proven wrong. Maybe I won't. At any rate, next season will be the least amount of FOX scripted programming I have watched in quite awhile, and that's even factoring in that I watch more than I normally would in service of this blog. Now that you've read this, it should be pretty easy for you to see what an epic fail this season was for FOX. Thanks for reading.