Wednesday, November 13

New television shows must leave a lasting impression on audiences to survive cuts for new fall lineups


It might be a coincidence that the time periods of graduation and TV fall schedule announcements happen to coincide. Maybe we just like purging ourselves of intellectual and decision-based responsibility before the summer months arrive.

Regardless of the reason, last week brought the official fall lineup announcements for all the major television networks.

Although some shows had already been confirmed as being continued or terminated, the public gathering in New York of TV executives, stars and media folk proved to be the final declaration of every show’s ultimate fate.

Whether by coincidence or because of the nature of this column, all three of the bubble shows featured in this space over the past quarter (“Mr. Sunshine,” “Breaking In” and “The Chicago Code”) were canceled by their respective networks.

Programs can be canceled for any number of reasons. Inconsistent or nonexistent ratings is usually a primary factor, even for shows like last fall’s “Lone Star,” which received fantastic critical feedback. Sometimes the decision stems from time placement or cohesiveness with the overall schedule, as demonstrated by NBC’s decisions to oust “Outsourced” and “Perfect Couples” from Comedy Night Done Right.

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to analogize the maintenance of a TV network schedule to various intricacies of college life. However, the announcement of fall lineups is perhaps the strongest connection yet, and a reiteration of a lesson that “The Voice” helped us stumble into a few weeks ago: Post-graduate life is all about making quick, positive impressions as fast as possible. Job hunting and all the other side effects of “real life” don’t allow for a lot of wiggle room.

Much like the job market, even the most promising prospects with backing from heavy hitters often come up short in a crowded field. Those shows that had potential couldn’t distance themselves enough from similar shows to warrant placement on the network schedule, especially with a number of ambitious programs on the way.

Fox’s upcoming broadcast year will be comfortably padded with hype, not just in the drama arena (the Steven Spielberg-produced people v. dinosaur drama “Terra Nova”), but in the reality realm as well (Simon Cowell’s new talent show “The X Factor”).

Transitioning from being an unproven product to an established commodity can be difficult when certain voids are already being filled.

Reality TV makes up a significant percentage of returning programming, with even more new prospects on the way. (For those counting at home, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay now outnumbers “Arrested Development” mastermind Mitchell Hurwitz 3-0 in “Shows Currently on a Network Schedule.”)

Then again, there are always exceptions. “Happy Endings” continues to thrive and is on a promising trajectory for its second season. “The Killing” floats along, ever so slowly, but has managed to keep an audience in anticipation of a monumental, season-long payoff to the show’s central murder mystery.

Even “The Confession,” the Hulu-based web series featuring Kiefer Sutherland as a philosophical assassin and John Hurt as a priest trying to get him to change his ways, is on its way to becoming a feature film.

These shows were rewarded for their ability to deliver on a promise of offering something unable to be found elsewhere. As a result, they will be some of the shows that people of all ages, students included, will be catching up on over the summer.

Ultimately, television is proof that persistence is the closest thing to a blueprint for success. After all, there’s always next year’s pilot season.

If you’re sad that the rumored Michael Emerson-Terry O’Quinn show never came to fruition, email Greene at [email protected]

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