TVision: Struggling shows get another shot

Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 12:17pm
America Ferrera

While most network shows have already started their seasons, there are still a few programs whose debuts were delayed until October. Most of these programs were held back to allow new shows to get a foothold, or in some cases thematic changes required that they begin later in the season.

One example is the Brad Garrett/Joely Fisher Fox comedy ’Til Death, which returns Friday night at 7:30 on WZTV-17. While many people anticipated that it would be canceled, and it went on an unplanned hiatus last October, it’s coming back with a mix of unaired programs from the previous year and some newly filmed episodes.

If that weren’t confusing enough, they’ve also added both a cast member (Lindsey Broad) and a returning contributor (Timm Sharp). But the biggest question will be whether a program that never was that big a hit to start with and has been off the air almost a year can come back on a different night and in a new time slot and somehow find an audience.

Another show that suffered rather marked audience decline in its third season is Ugly Betty, which starts its fourth year Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. on WKRN-2. The producers are planning some new plot and cosmetic tricks, among them having Betty (America Ferrera) shed the braces on her teeth and also highlight some internal workplace tension between Betty and Marc (Michael Urie) as well as Claire (Judith Light) and Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams).

This is a key year for Ugly Betty, as it seeks to make it to the five-year mark considered most ideal for syndication purposes.

NBC enjoyed some early buzz for its cop drama Southland, but then ratings and audience share declined rapidly the rest of its early run. When it returns Oct. 23 at 8 p.m., a lot of leftover items from the cliffhanger will be resolved. These include the fates of Russell Clarke (Tom Everett Scott), shot at point-blank rage by an overheated neighbor, and Chickie Brown (Arija Bareikis) who turned in her partner Dewey (C. Thomas Howell) for drinking on the job.

Even though it once again dominated the Emmys, NBC has decided to wait until Oct. 15 before returning the acclaimed comedy 30 Rock to the airwaves in its customary 8:30 time slot. Part of that was probably due to both basking in the glow of 22 Emmy nominations, but also trying to figure which way to take some of the more eccentric plot lines left hanging from the season-ending cliffhanger.

One possibility involves Jenna (Jane Krakowski) doing a country CD. Another includes a new member of the household for key cast member Tracy Jordan, and also the possibility of a separate talk show for Liz (Tina Fey) and some political opportunities for Jack (Alec Baldwin).

But despite all the awards and critical praise, NBC has yet to find the means of making 30 Rock something beyond a cult show.

For those who can’t get enough of medical soap opera, Private Practice begins its second season Thursday at 9 p.m. on WKRN-2. The first order of business will be determining whether Violet’s (Amy Brenneman) survives the trauma of the finale. The Noah (Josh Hopkins) and Addison (Kate Walsh) affair will be concluded, and things will move forward from there.

Leno problems

It didn’t take long for the euphoria to die down from the early big ratings for NBC’s The Jay Leno Show.

After attracting over 18 million viewers for the opening episode, by the start of week two the audience was down to five million viewers nightly. NBC is publicly taking a wait and see attitude, saying they anticipated a drop once the other networks began running their new seasons, and that the real test will be how Leno does against reruns.

Critics also blasted the program as a rehashed version of The Tonight Show, with several asking where was all the comedy that was promised in the summer promos. Having seen bits and pieces of three shows before bailing, it doesn’t strike me as a surprise Leno’s reworking things he did before.

In every interview Leno gave before the show began, he stated he wasn’t going to reinvent the wheel, and that there would be elements incorporated from his previous program alongside new bits like the correspondents.

The bottom line is NBC would rather lose critical points than big dollars. Taking some hits from writers mean far less to them than spending the millions it would take to be competitive at 9 p.m.

Look for NBC to get completely out of scripted drama and comedy within the next five years, no matter how much criticism they get from the Hollywood community and TV writers. 



1 Comment on this post:

By: Kosh III on 9/28/09 at 11:32

"Look for NBC to get completely out of scripted drama and comedy within the next five years, no matter how much criticism they get from the Hollywood community and TV writers. "

How about criticism from VIEWERS who actually enjoy drama and comedy? O, yah, we don't count do we?