The Buzzkill in the Ratings War + Cancelled Shows of 2012

Posted November 18, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

666 Park Avenue didn’t succumb because of poor quality, it suffered because networks are only interested in the numbers – plus learn who else got the boot

I know this 1000-word post is going to look like some crazy newspaper editorial coming from a guy that’s probably signed one of those silly state secession petitions. But by the end of this essay, this rant is going to make sense.

First, to all of you who personally feel the recent cancellation of 666 Park Avenue (a suspenseful drama that happens to be one of my favorites shows to debut this fall) had everything to do with the show’s inability to grasp the viewer’s attention span or felt that the show “sucked,” you need to rethink your process of opinion.

Since the advent of reality-TV, television sitcoms and drama have been suffering in their ratings for quite some time. Actually, Nashville, another new show on ABC that’s wowed critics and viewers is also on the brink of isolation, since it also fails to pick up in ratings. The first episode showed a 6.8 rating, while consequent episodes showed drops from week to week (4.5 on week two, 4.4 on week three). Nashville is also rumored to be on the chopping block, but because the network is home to the Country Music Awards and is becoming more and more Southern-friendly, they believe the Hart of Dixie-esque soap opera can be saved.

Promotional ad for 666 Park Avenue (ABC)

Actually, 666 Park Avenue may have been doomed from the start. First and foremost, having the devil’s call letters on a show airing on a Disney conglomerate, also on Jesus’s weekly day of rest, naturally seemed like a case of bad luck. They may have done better doing a primetime drama loosely based on The Ten Commandments. Had this show been nurtured on a network that’s unafraid of making risks and willing to shed some of that family-friendly image, things would’ve worked out better. Ratings for the show – based on a Midwest couple’s ongoing saga with their tenancy at a haunted residential hotel in New York, featuring Terry O’ Quinn, Vanessa Williams, Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor – have been dropping since it premiered. It did receive a great deal of early marketing, but the ratings never picked up, dropping from a 2.1 rating for its debut to 1.7 on week two (down 19%). The show’s fate is being compared with Pan Am, a show that was also gloriously exalted by critics, but was also cancelled in its first season for low ratings.

CBS also recently cancelled their comedy Partners, their only new sitcom for 2012. A show that feels like a male spin-off of Will & Grace (oh yeah, no wonder, it was created by the creators of Will & Grace) and oddly casted Superman one-timer Brandon Routh as a gay guy just didn’t stand a chance on CBS.

Let me say this much: These networks – who are all suffering from some sort of strange identity crisis – do not necessarily care about how sucky a show is. All they want are your TV boxes to gravitate to their network so they can pick up Nielsen research points for “end of the day” calculations. You didn’t seriously think they kept Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, Honey Boo, Jerry Springer and X-Factor on because its Emmy-winning “must see TV?” I don’t care how many guests walk up to Springer trying to convince him he deserves an Emmy, you cannot convince me that his show has been on the air for 22 seasons because it inherits good quality and value.

Ratings are even dropping for Dancing With the Stars, a show that’s been ABC’s ace of spade since its inception.

Cast of ABC Family's cancelled Kyle XY

I hate to see good shows bite the dust, especially before they’ve even reach their full vpotential. I’ve witnessed good shows being axed in recent years, some that I’ve picked up through subscription services like Hulu and
Netflix. For example, ABC Family’s Kyle XY, which ran for three seasons, was cancelled all of a sudden in its third season, even though its ratings were pretty fair for the newly-developed ABC off-shoot. NBC also axed another show with potential – The Cape. In just one season, the show was terminated even before the show could take off. Surely some of the show’s plots were undercooked in places, but it was a springboard for big networks to jump in on the superhero franchise that turned Batman and The Avengers into box office cash cows. Now CW’s Arrow and Beauty and the Beast, two shows that have been recently renewed for second seasons due to decent ratings, are filling in the void left by The Cape and the other crowning achievement in CW’s distant past, Smallville.

Maybe if The Cape debuted on CW it would’ve stood a chance.

Listen clearly: NBC is a network who’sbeen baffled by the ratings war of Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. NBC is a network that went into a hissy fit when David Letterman started to beat Conan O’Brien when he took over the reigns of The Tonight Show back in 2009 and then was fired and quickly replaced with Leno. Meanwhile, ABC – on the other hand – can’t even sustain decent numbers. Their top shows – even DWTS – are severely losing steam. And trust me, FOX isn’t totally off the hook either. American Idol, X-Factor and Glee are all losing their audiences with each passing year, losing to Grey’s Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory and Person of Interest. In 2012, it seems like Idol’s fans are dropping faster than their share of celeb judges.

So let me remind you again why I’ve composed this letter. It’s a reminder to you, the viewer. Networks no longer care about quality. For the longest the goal has always been about being the industry top dog. And in this stinky business, the show with longevity doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best in the business.

I just learned that another favorite show of mine, Burn Notice, may also be calling it quits. Season 7 could very well mark the last season for the USA Network hit show. But this show didn’t get the kind of fate that 666 Park Avenue, Kyle XY or The Cape got. Nah, it maintained its share of viewers, did well in syndication and sold well in DVD/Blu-ray box sets. Plus, the show’s stars are happy with seven being the show’s lucky number. “Seven would be perfect,” said Bruce Campbell, who plays Sam Axe. “Once you get to eight, people want too much money, people get tired and get crabby. You’re going to lose an actor… some guy is going to hold out for too much money. It always gets complicated.”

Burn Notice has endured and has taken on plenty of U-turns, shifts and directional changes. But at least they had a chance to write their endings. It also helps when you have a network that sincerely supports you.



In case you didn’t know, here’s the short list of shows that won’t be returning in 2013.

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About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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