Fall TV: Which new show gets the ax first?
Gentlemen, start your engines! Fantastic. Now, you there — please shut your engine off, vacate the car, push it off the track, and turn in your keys. Don’t feel so bad. You’ve actually won this race — the race to be the first cancellation of the new TV season! Actually, on second thought, maybe you should feel bad.
Yes, it’s that time of year, when scores of programs debut on network schedules. After months of hard work, hype, and continually looped promos (thanks, CBS, for assaulting me with ”Everybody Wants to Rule the World” 3,274 times in your weepy Kid Nation spots, igniting both tears and fears on my end), the latest offerings are finally here. But for how long? Predicting the fall season’s first casualty has become an irresistible spectator sport — but it’s not so easy. There are several elements to consider. The first, of course, is whether the program features cavemen characters inspired by an already played-out advertising campaign. Such programs have a remarkably poor track record. This also speaks to the much broader issue of quality: Sometimes a show is simply so bad, you know it is not long for this world (ABC’s Big Shots, I’m now looking your way). However, well-pedigreed dramas often get the hook just as easily. Back in 1999, Fox’s Harsh Realm seemed to have everything going for it: It was an intriguing Matrix-like look at life in a virtual world, came from red-hot X-Files creator Chris Carter, and, perhaps most important, featured Terry O’Quinn rocking a pencil-thin mustache. No matter. It was dumped after three episodes.
Often it comes down to two other factors — time-slot competition and whether the network has something ready to put on in its place. The first one causes me to wonder if NBC’s Life could be dead on arrival. It’s a quirky take on a fruit-obsessed cop who was wrongly convicted and spent time in the pen. It’s also going up against CBS’ established CSI: NY and ABC’s camptastic attention-grabbing Dirty Sexy Money. And as for the second point…oh, wait, I feel a song coming on. And it goes a little something like this: ”Oh, Viva Laughlin, you thought you were smart/Delaying your debut with an Oct. 18 start/So your musical drama wouldn’t be the first to go/But with Melanie Griffith singing Blondie songs, I fear for your show.” Another reason Laughlin may be this fall’s first dead show walking — other than its featuring, you know, people breaking into song — is that CBS has a new season of The Amazing Race all wrapped and waiting in the wings. (I can already sense Phil Keoghan arching his eyebrow in anticipation.)
CBS certainly didn’t exhibit patience last year with its expensive heist drama Smith (pulled after three airings), but when it comes to itchy trigger fingers, no one compares to Fox. The network is notorious for pulling programs after ridiculously brief runs and replacing them with fare like Former Child Stars vs. Mentally Challenged Hyenas II: Who’s Laughing Now? Fox’s history leads us to the most ironic part about this entire column — the fact that the first ax of the season may very well have already fallen by the time you read this. Offering a huge extended middle finger to the first-cancellation-of-the-season gods, Fox debuted reality show Nashville two weeks early — on Sept. 14. Bold. Daring. Stupid. The show attracted fewer than 3 million viewers, making it the odds-on favorite to get a premature pink slip. Whichever show goes first, give all these nominees a big round of applause. It may be the last one they hear.
NEXT PAGE: Good and bad news for fans of Blade the TV series, and The Five!
OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
I was never a huge fan of the Blade movies. They were solid, but Wesley Snipes has a habit of taking himself way too seriously, and that can’t help but make me not take him very seriously (and this was before he got nailed for all that loony tax evasion stuff). So I didn’t expect much when they made the comic-book-turned-feature-film-franchise into a TV series for Spike. But damn if it didn’t turn out to be an addictive, intelligent, and, yes, gruesome surprise. At least I thought so. Maybe I was the only one. The show never found an audience, and was promptly canceled at the end of the first season. Well, in case you were a fan of the show or were curious to check it out, I have good news and bad news. The good news: The two-hour pilot is now available on DVD under the new title Blade: House of Chthon (which I suppose has less of the stink of failure attached to it than Blade: The Series would’ve had). The bad news is that means that the rest of the show will most likely never come out. It’s odd in one way, seeing as how the premiere ended on such an unresolved note. On the other hand, season 1 ended on a huge cliff-hanger, so maybe it’s no more awkward to leave people hanging at this point. Whatever. I guess I just get off on pimping shows that no one else cares about. Which also helps explain my bringing up Harsh Realm again in the preceding bit on prematurely canceled shows. What? I liked it!
Head on over to our video area to check out The Five Reality Shows I’m Most Embarrassed to Say That I Watched From Beginning to End.
NEXT PAGE: Fan mail for Dalton’s wife!
We may as well change the title of this week’s Reader Mail section to The Christina Kelly Fan Club. Scores of readers — both female and male — wrote in to get my wife’s back and profess their love for Cappie from Greek. Here is just a small sampling of this disturbing trend…
I think your wife and I could be friends. (Well, except for the fact that Hugh Grant annoys me.) I too ADORE Cappie — he made that show appointment television. When Casey asked him where he wanted to be in 10 years and he said ”With you,” I melted into a puddle on my couch. I can’t wait for season 2. I also adore [Friday Night Lights’] Tim Riggins. I had to IMDB the show to find the actor’s age because I was feeling creepy. Now, not so much. Your wife rules! —Kristen Anderson
Feel creepy, Kristen. Feel creepy. And what’s with you women and your bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold obsession? I don’t get it. I took a Tim Riggins vs. Jason Street poll last year, and Street got not even a single vote. Serecen, Smash, and Coach Taylor received votes, and they weren’t even candidates. The dude is paralyzed! Throw him a bone, ladies!
Dalton, your wife has excellent taste. I too was smitten with Cappie from the start (the same way I was with Droz, Ty, and Otter upon seeing those other frat-tastic movies…and see, all funny movie frat boys have to have silly names). I mean, did you see the episode where Cappie insults some dude in LATIN?! What’s not to like there? Incidentally, I refuse to have anything to do with frat boys in real life. —Jessica Rouke
Dead language. That’s all I have to say about that.
Dalton, your wife has good taste! I will admit that despite being out of the target age range for Greek viewers (I’m 29 and I’m assuming the show is meant to appeal to a younger audience), I found myself hopelessly hooked on the series this summer. What’s more, I totally understand why your wife would have a crush on Cappie. He’s exactly the kind of guy I went for when I was in college. He never worries about anything, doesn’t think much about the future, has that sloppy-cuteness thing going on, and knows how to have a good time. Cappie symbolizes everything that was so great about college…plus he is fairly dreamy. —Kelly West
Even you, Kelly? You’ve turned against me? I can’t help but be convinced that this is merely some contagious disease that is spreading like wildfire among viewers of the ABC Family channel. You know what, though? I know when I’m beat. Fine, Cappie’s a dream boat. Mmmmmmmmm, he’s so damn sexy. How can I get me a piece of that? I’d like to Cap the night off with a little Cappie. (There. Happy, everyone?)
Oh Dalton, you disappointed me. I’ve never written in before, but the fact that you neglected Lewis Black’s hilarous attack on corner pop-ups and news crawls forced me to. For someone who was creaming their manties over their brand-new DVR and switching from full to wide screen compulsively, how could you forget that? —Stephen Raulli
I realize this is inviting a storm of hate mail, but I’ve never been a big Lewis Black guy. The dude just gets too riled up for my taste. Reminds me of what Krusty the Clown once said of Sideshow Rahim: ”Angry. Angry young man.” That said, I thought what he was saying was pretty funny and hit home for what a lot of us think while watching TV. But it also seemed so random. He showed up out of nowhere with no real explanation for being there, yelled for a few minutes, and then left. Had he been a host or a presenter or something, maybe it would have made a bit more sense. As it was, it felt a bit like a drive-by shooting. And one that ended up missing the target.
Dalton, with regards to spoilers, I think a good rule of thumb is one week for TV, one month for movies. If I can’t find 30-60 minutes to watch something I TiVo’ed before the next episode airs, then the responsibility of staying in the dark is mine. I mean, how can you write a preview of an episode on the day of its showing, if you can’t reference ”previously on”? As for a movie, after a month, you’ve had plenty of time to go see it. If you wanted it to be an unspoiled experience, you should have gone sooner. One exception is for ”surprises” like Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects. The surprise should be kept until one month after the DVD is available, as it’s crucial to enjoying the movie. —Mike Menditto
I like Mike! Actually, I’ve never met Mike. He could be a raging a-hole for all I know. But I do like his suggestion for term limits on spoiler-free zones. A week for TV and a month for new movies seems fair — after that, you’re on your own. (So no more complaining, okay, readers?) I also like the fact that his e-mail not once mentioned the name Cappie in it. Ah, Mike — can he do anything wrong?
Have a reality show you’re embarrassed to have watched from beginning to end? Have I convinced anyone out there to give Blade a try? And what do you think will be the first canceled show of the new TV season? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week!