Just four weeks into the fall 2011 season, five new series have already met with an early demise. The failed five are: Charlie's Angels (ABC), How to be a Gentleman (CBS), H8R (CW), Free Agents (NBC) and The Playboy Club (NBC). That these series were virtual flops-on-arrival hardly comes as a surprise. In fact, Primetime TV Insight co-author, Steve Sternberg and I accurately predicted that these series would be among the first to fail in our 2011 Fall Preview Report (released back in early August). On a more positive note, nine shows have received full season pickups.
There are several reasons behind these quick cancellations:
The Show is Derivative: Viewers embrace new shows that have refreshing and unique points of view. Just because one show works, doesn’t mean that audiences will roll out the welcome-mat for obvious knockoffs. Bad imitations will invariably breed outright rejection.
Poorly Executed Comedies: The best sitcoms (see The Golden Girls, Seinfeld and Modern Family), were successful, because the characters were interesting, appealing, had great on-screen chemistry and were embraced by audiences who wanted to watch them week after week. Conversely, when a sitcom features one-note characters and also requires a laugh track for joke recognition, it’s not long for this world.
Self-Destructive Scheduling Practices: Networks have an annoying habit of pitting similar series directly opposite each other with the purpose of hurting their competitors versus airing a smart counterprogramming alternative and growing the time period instead.
Below is our post-mortem assessment for each of the five Flatliners:
Charlie's Angels (ABC) Cause of Death: ABC attempted to update this cheesy 70’s series by re-imagining the Angels as former bad girls and transforming the fatherly character of Bosley into a hot Latino. In the end, there was little chemistry between the characters and they lacked the charisma to keep viewers interested enough to tune in to see what happens next. NBC’s decision to opt against picking up remake Wonder Woman was a wise one. Remakes, with the exception of CBS’s Hawaii Five-O rarely ever work.
The Playboy Club (NBC) Cause of Death: This drama, set in the sixties, was NBC’s failed attempt to capitalize on the success of AMC’s critically acclaimed period piece, Mad Men. To make matters worse, NBC also slotted the drama directly after family-friendly competition series, The Sing Off, a scheduling move that still hurts my head.
How to Be a Gentlemen (CBS) Cause of Death: CBS introduced two new comedies featuring the unlikely friendship between two characters that come from very different backgrounds and lifestyles. 2 Broke Girls was an instant success because the characters quickly endeared themselves to audiences. How to be a Gentleman failed because the characters alienated audiences.
Free Agents (NBC) Cause of Death: American adaptations of British Comedies, generally have disastrous results. (see Coupling for reference). The Office, on the other hand, is one of the rare exceptions.
H8R (CW) Cause of Death: This silly and short-lived reality series featured ordinary people who get to meet the very celebrities they love to hate. Since it aired opposite The X Factor in the hour, H8R was unable to get any love from viewers,
We expect several additional rookies to be M.I.A. prior to the onset of November sweeps. About one third of the them will be toast by the end of fourth quarter. Typically, two thirds of all freshman entries will never get to be sophomores.
Several additional new series, including ABC's Once Upon a Time and Man Up, NBC's Grimm and Fox's I Hate My Teenage Daughter will get underway later this fall.