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Flashes in the TV Pan

Dave Randall

Posted on May 14, 2018 22:45

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Networks cancel under-performing TV series so fast, we don't know they're there until they're gone.

Six Feet Under, an HBO show about a family of undertakers, was a great title for a series. It would also be apt for whatever any network wants to call the destination of most new programs. Not so much HBO, or other pay TV outlets, but for the one-time titans of broadcast programming, the networks. Looking at the long list of programs canceled by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox is a bit baffling because so few from this glut of shows are familiar to anyone. These are series that must have been watched by someone napping in a Lazy-Boy, mouth agape, catching flies instead of Alex Inc. or Ten Days in the Valley (two ABC shows given the ax).

We are far from the days before cable, satellite and streaming, when the fall preview issue of TV Guide unveiled the new TV season. It provided an anticipation for TV addicts not unlike Christmas morning. That's now a quaint memory, like drive-in movies and 10-cent ice cream cones. But the nets keep churning out series, then planting them deep; they're pushing up daisies with shows we didn't even know were there.

This explains the rationale behind rebooting hit series of the past. The leg work's been done, and the curiosity's certainly there; what do they have to lose? The answer is nothing. When NBC brought back Will and Grace, its success set off brainstorms in the heads of programming execs at the other networks. That's how Roseanne wound up not just returning to ABC but reclaiming the No. 1 spot in the ratings it held as long ago as 1989. Don't look now, but CBS has stepped up the reboot mania by committing to 13 weeks of Murphy Brown, last seen in 1998. 

Technically, reboots (new versions of old shows) have been with us since the '60s. These are reboots bringing back the original casts. Roseanne Barr is as cantankerous and controversial as she ever was, though her outspokenness in support of the president comes nowhere near her cringe-inducing rendition of the national anthem or her antics with her ex, Tom Arnold. In fact, the only things missing from her resurrected, self-titled classic is Arnold and loose meat sandwiches.  

Television, like the record business or any entertainment, really, has always been copy-cat in nature, but it must be galling for actors, writers and show-runners alike not to be able to break through with something new.

Occasionally, the Do Not Resuscitate order is rescinded, and a worthy new series, or older, little-watched but revered program escapes the mass grave. That's the case of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the hilarious cop comedy that buffeted about the schedule for five seasons. Never able to generate a mass audience, despite great reviews and a cult following, Fox saw fit to pull the plug. Luckily for fans, NBC Universal produced the show, and it was spared by NBC-TV. A rare reprieve in a medium that euthanizes quickly.

Dave Randall

Posted on May 14, 2018 22:45

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Source: The Blaze
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