Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A bad sign for major networks

Last week NBC cancelled a show called GOOD GIRLS.  What shocked me is that it was cancelled after four seasons.  Why am I shocked?  Because I had never even heard of this show.  How can a show be on the NBC television network for four years and I’ve never heard of it?

Says something about how much I watch NBC, doesn’t it?  

NBC also cancelled these shows I’ve never heard of:  CONNECTING, DEBRIS, and MANIFEST.  These might have been great shows.  I have no idea.  I don't even know what they're about. 

ABC cancelled UNITED WE FALL, whatever that was.  

FOX cancelled something called NEXT, THE MOODYS, and FILTHY RICH.  Never heard of any of ‘em.    They renewed THE GREAT NORTH for season 3.  What’s THE GREAT NORTH?  

And the CW doesn’t count.  No one knows what’s on that network besides superhero shows.  

Even twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable to not know what shows were on the major networks.  You maybe didn’t watch them, but you were aware of their existence.  There were enough promos on the shows you did watch that they were on your radar.   

To me this is yet another sign that broadcast networks are on borrowed time.   If a show is on NBC for four years you would think it would be some sort of a hit.  It doesn’t have to win Emmys — WEBSTER and FULL HOUSE never won Emmys — but it should at least be known.  Don’t you think?  Four years?  Yikes.  

At least people heard of AfterMASH.  Wait.  That might not be a good thing.

57 comments :

Jim Rafferty said...

I only heard of it because I saw an article somewhere that mentioned that the ultra-buxom actress from MAD MEN was on it. I watched it once, found it boring, and forgot about it.

Jeff said...

NPR reviewer David Bianculli said pretty much the same thing the other day. If the good stuff is going to streaming services, what's left for the networks? https://www.npr.org/2021/06/25/1010147519/evil-and-the-good-fight-are-great-network-shows-for-a-price

Michael said...

AfterMASH was better than 99% of what's on now.

Covarr said...

It's almost as if the best writers will gravitate toward the platforms that allow them the freedom to do a good job or something, and the audiences will gravitate toward the platforms that have well-written shows.

Who would've guessed?

Wm. Adams said...

I suspect part of the problem is the use of DVRs to zip past the commercials. I watched 2 seasons of Good Girls, it was pretty good at first, then got extremely repetitive.

Dave Widel said...

It's gotten to the point that I assume all new shows on any platform will be canceled just as they get interesting. There's no point of even starting to watch a new series until it has a couple of seasons. That being the case the only reason I have networks is for NFL and the local news.

That being said, I did watch a few episodes of Debris because the promo's made it seem like a cool, new X-Files. It was not. I'd say something snarky about what it was but the only thing I remember is being bored.

15-Seconds said...

Never mind show -- nowadays there are streaming NETWORKS that I have never heard of.

Tom said...

The "ultra-buxom actress" has a name, and it's Christina Hendricks.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Never heard of any of these shows either, but just by looking at the promotional image, I can just tell those "good girls" are anything but . . . just look at those sinister glares - like they're staring into our souls with the intent of stealing them.

Steve Bailey said...

I actually watched Good Girls, and other than Christina Hendricks' prodigious chest, I couldn't tell you a thing about that show.

Jeff Boice said...

The publicity machine the networks/studios used to promote their TV shows has disappeared. Everything from TV Guide, the local newspaper Sunday TV supplement, to game shows like Password and Hollywood Squares- down to the Scholastic Book Club, which offered kids novels "based on hit TV shows" including Get Smart and Man From U.N.C.L.E. Scholastic Book Club is still around, but like everything else, its changed since the Sixties.

Call Me Mike said...

So what will eventually happen to the networks if this continues? Will they reach a point where they no longer bother with original shows and simply use the space as advertising for their streaming services? Maybe drop a freebie here and there to entice us to sign up, in between local news, Lucy reruns, and infomercials for vegetable choppers.

Maybe it will be something like what happened to network Saturday mornings, once a glorious land of cartoons and other kids programs, now... nothing you've heard of.

Greg Ehrbar said...

For goodness sakes, we even kept track of "Occasional Wife" and "Love on a Rooftop." By the way, if you're still outraged that "Broadside" was cancelled, almost every episode is on YouTube.

Steve said...

(Aside) I LOVED the first episode of AfterMASH. The rest, not so much.

Steve said...

Ken, I'm a master control operator for an NBC affiliate during prime time and I have never heard of "Connecting." But we've been running trailers for "F9" the latest Fast and Furious film for - I'm not kidding - over a year. And the promos for the Peacock streaming service are everywhere.

I'm sure you know this, but a "season" does not equal a year anymore. A "season" is an arbitrary grouping of episodes, usually a production run, that can range from 6 to 13ish episodes. These "seasons" run their course, and then the show disappears from all existence for about 6 months or more until the producers get around to making another "season." By then, all momentum a show had at the start has vanished, with the audience thinking, "I thought that got cancelled." No wonder you've never heard of these shows.

Jeff R said...

Agree - tuned in to see Christina Hendricks - but I ended up liking the show - thing is, I only watched this on Netflix, cut the broadcast networks a long time ago. Between Netflix & Prime, there's way too many shows to watch...

Kevin said...

I've never watched any of those shows, but I've heard of them. Don't you read Deadline or get Variety or Hollywood Reporter?

Mark said...

I enjoyed Manifest, but then I’m one of those geezers who hasn’t embraced the streaming universe...

Edward said...

I just looked up this show that I also never heard of until today.

"4" seasons and just 46 episodes

Seasons 1-3 started in Feb or March and only aired 10, 13 & 11 episodes

Season 4 is 16 episodes March through July 2021

If you blinked, you missed it, as did I and a lot of other people

Mike Bloodworth said...

Since I still watch broadcast television I've seen some of these shows or at least the commercials for them.

I'm guessing that many of these shows stayed on the air longer than they otherwise would have if not for the pandemic.

I have only seen the promos for "Good Girls." It didn't look like the kind of show I'd want to watch.

I think "The Great North" is part of FOX's animation bloc.

I watched the entire season of "NEXT." It was a big disappointment. It had a similar premise to "Person of Intrest" and "Tron." A rogue computer program tries to take over and only its borderline psychotic creator and a skeptical FBI agent can bring it down. The season finale was so blatantly obvious that I swore I would not watch the second season if there was one.

I watched several episodes of "United We Fall." It's a desperately unfunny sitcom starring Will Sasso. Normally, I like Will, but not in this. He and his Latina wife (Yes. I said it.) try to keep their mixed family under control. The show was filled with clich├ęs and stereotypes. And most of the jokes would just sort of hang there like they were waiting for a punchline that never came. One of the major selling points was the show's diversity both in front of AND behind the camera. But considering how bad it was it's more of an argument against increasing diversity rather than for it. And I'm part Hispanic. Actually, I thought that ABC had cancelled it last year. Maybe they were just reiterating it.

I only watched the first couple of episodes of "Manifest." It's sort of a combination of "Lost" and an old "Twilight Zone." Plus it's one of those serialized shows where if you miss a couple of episodes you're lost for the rest of the season. For me it didn't live up to the hype.

I believe "Filthy Rich" was FOX's version of "Dynasty" or "Dallas."

I agree with DAVE WIDEL about "Debris."

I never heard of or watched the other shows on the list.

Ken, I hope you give CBS a similar reaming when their list comes out.

M.B.

Ted. said...


"Connecting" was one of those sitcoms in which a diverse group of mostly very attractive people are all old friends for some reason, with the usual tropes (job troubles, family troubles, will-they-won't-they?). The gimmick was that the whole thing was pandemic-themed, and it took place almost entirely over video chat. Not surprisingly, this was excruciating to watch in the middle of the actual pandemic -- possibly the worst idea for a show ever. NBC aired four episodes last fall, then gave up and stuck the rest on its streaming networks. I don't know if it was officially canceled before now, but it was a goner almost from the beginning.

Brian said...

Manifest is on Netflix now. It's OK. I had never heard of it until a week ago.

stephen catron said...

The networks all appear to be dead man walking. Except I have a friend that does watch some gladiator stunt thing. I used to love the fall new season. Other than the NFL I watch no networks anymore.

sanford said...

I knew about Good Girls. None of the others

DBenson said...

I do watch Penn & Teller's "Fool Us" on CW and usually Samatha Bee's "Full Frontal" on TBS. I became a "Big Bang Theory" fan after it left the network and became the new "I Love Lucy" of Mon-Fri syndication. Beyond that, I tend to latch onto PBS whodunits and others that have beginnings and ends.

I too remember the days of reading TV Guide and the newspaper listings, and those half-page "spotlights" on specials. Variety, holiday (a new Rudolf wannabe!), and occasionally big deals like an original movie or musical (Anybody remember Kirk Douglas as a singing and dancing Jeckyll/Hyde?).

Chester said...

Please comment on the proposed Fraser reboot.
https://youtu.be/0sNLiEauQHs

Will you and David be involved with the prep, story breakdowns, scripts, etc.?

Brandon in Virginia said...

I couldn't identify most TV shows, let alone the network/streaming service they air on, if you gave me a million dollars. At least with movie theaters closing last year, I recognized quite a few Oscar nominees.

While I know it has a lot to do with SEO, I hate how many TV and movie titles nowadays are generic one-word titles. I know it's nothing new (Dallas, Dynasty, Friends), a name like Debris tells me nothing.

BTW, the CW does have the Dynasty reboot.

Elf said...

If a show today could get the same ratings that AfterMASH did when it first aired, it would be bigger than The Big Bang Theory was.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I suspect part of the problem is the use of DVRs to zip past the commercials. I watched 2 seasons of Good Girls, it was pretty good at first, then got extremely repetitive.

I heard good things about it, was intrigued by the cast and premise, never got around to watching it. What you say makes me think of Alan Sepinwall's theory that more shows need to leave a good-looking corpse rather than aging badly. I've seen a couple of the later-season Modern Familys in syndication and... hoo boy.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

What I liked about growing up with 70s-80s television is that even if a show was crap, at least you knew what you were watching. Mind-numbing entertainment at worst, but still watchable. And if a show was truly excellent, everybody would be talking about it.

So there was WEBSTER, but then also CHEERS. And even some of the forgettable shows like IT'S YOUR MOVE (I dare anyone to remember that one) were not half bad.

tavm said...

I remember "It's Your Move"! I knew it was Jason Bateman's (when he was either a pre-teen or emerging teen) first starring series after leaving "Silver Spoons" (that show lost something with him no longer on it). He played a sneaky kid with a hot older sister who was a cheerleader (I can't remember an ep of her not wearing that uniform!) I didn't find out until later that David Garrison played the sneaker father or stepfather. He later was part of the original cast of "Married...with Children"...Oh, I also remember former "SNL"er Garret Morris in a few eps... I think I remember enjoying it a little...

Pat Reeder said...

"It's Your Move" was a great show with brilliant writing. Jason Bateman played a kid who appeared to his single mom (the delectable Caren Kaye) to be a perfectly well-behaved teenager. He was actually a Bilko-style promoter running all kinds of schemes and con games and sneaking money into her purse so she'd never have to worry. She began a relationship with the new neighbor (David Garrison), and Bateman smugly began running one of his con games to break them up. He quickly discovered that underneath his normal, nerdy exterior, the neighbor was also a Bilko-like wise guy who knew all the con games.

Episodes would consist of the two of them running elaborate cons and trying to stay one move ahead of the other (hence the title.) It must've been a monster to write those scripts. I was really P.O.'ed when they canceled it. I believe there may be some episodes on YouTube. Watch the one where Bateman conned the school into hiring a nonexistent rock band called "The Dregs of Humanity."

PS - Don't ever dare me not to remember some obscure piece of showbiz trivia. The only thing I Googled to check in that paragraph was the spelling of Caren Kaye's name. But I admit, even I never heard of any of the recent NBC shows Ken mentioned.

Scott S said...

I’ve been watching GOOD GIRLS since it began. It’s a minor miracle of a series. It takes a deeply improbable premise that might make a fun 2-hour movie or 10-episode half-hour series and somehow manages to keep a dozen balls in the air and plates spinning for four seasons. It’s smart, deeply witty, suspenseful, funny, and has a lot to say about the struggles of working and middle class people. The trio of leading actresses is impeccable, Christina Hendricks especially. The male supporting cast does incredible work as well.

The problem with the series is that while it does manage to keep things interesting and entertaining, they’ve needed to find new ways to do the same things. As a fan of the show, I have to say it’s time to wrap things up before it eats its own tail.

But to your point, Ken, it’s upsetting that networks don’t manage to get the word out about what they’re offering. Even long-running series aren’t widely known. The number of times I’ve heard “Is GREY’S ANATOMY still on?!?” (It is. And it’s somehow still pretty fabulous.)

When GREY’S started as a mid season replacement in 2005, it’s all we heard about. “Ellen Pompeo stars…” Nobody knew who she was before the promos for that show but they made her a headliner before it even debuted.

So yeah, it’s troubling that network series can come and go without notice. Hell, ZOO ran on CBS for three seasons before I heard about it. I’m sure plenty of you are finding out about it now.

DougG. said...

Isn't this posting a rerun? It sounds awfully familiar and this is the only blog written by a comedy writer that I read on a regular basis. At the very least, Ken has written before that broadcast television has no future vs streaming entertainment. I think that brings up a question that I haven't seen addressed here or anywhere else: what happens to the network affiliates?

Mike Chimeri said...

When it comes to The CW, all I care about is Whose Line is it Anyway?, which was thankfully picked up for another season starting in October. With no studio audiences to improvise for, get suggestions from, and embarrass by picking two audience members to (fail to) do sound effects, the "new" episodes are culled from unaired games from previous tapings. I'm fine with that.

PolyWogg said...

Ken:

What do you mean you haven't heard of The Great North? I've mentioned it in your comments several times, you didn't immediately rush to watch it? :) I'm shocked, shocked I say. It's an animated show about living in Alaska, and despite the fact that I skip 98% of the comedies out there, I've been enjoying it. Kind of a dorkier older version of Lisa Simpson as the main character living in Alaska with backwoods-y family. I'd love to hear your take sometime on animated comedies vs. sitcoms and what works/what doesn't.

You didn't miss much for GG if you weren't already watching NBC. Never high ratings, basically Breaking Bad/Sopranos with housewives, but also could be confusion that there were about 5 or 6 shows in the last five years all with similar names. I watch NBC live for the American Ninja Warrior show, and they advertised GG every week. Meh.

You didn't miss anything at all for Connecting (Zoom-based comedy about COVID-like lives), Next (cancelled after 2 EPs about an AI going rogue), Debris (short-run before cancellation about meteorites with unusual properties landing on Earth), The Moodys (Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins), United We Fall (short-run with Jane Curtin moving in with kids), and Filthy Rich (1 season run cancelled quickly as a Dallas/Dynasty-like show).

I find it odd though that you have never heard of Manifest. The show debuted three years ago and was touted as the new "Lost". The premise is a plane that returns from Jamaica, hits some turbulence, lands in NYC and is greeted by the FBI, emergency crews, etc. Everyone wondering what's going on -- because it was reported lost ***dun dun dun*** five years before. WTH happened? 16 Eps for S1, renewed, 13 EPs for S2 and was on the bubble for a bit before renewal (i.e. they found a way to reduce the cost), but got some write up, and 13 EPs for S3. There have been a ton of articles in the last month as it was on the bubble and the producers were shopping it around to anywhere and everywhere to see if someone would pick it up. They recently announced "nope". So it is formally cancelled without signs of resurrection.

I follow some of the prognosticators like TV Grim Reaper, and it's interesting to see the overall decline in ratings and audience size from even ten years ago. Shows that were hits this year would have been cancelled immediately ten years ago, and would never have made it to EP4 in the 90s. Overall numbers are so much lower. The shows people talk about are the ones that are NetFlix, and personally, I think they make the news because you can binge a whole season most of the time. Lupin got a lot of press for 5 EPs in Season 1, and it was dubbed!

I am waiting for your next post about how when you were a kid, you had to walk to the studio office up hill both ways while typing on a typewriter or inscribing changes on stone tablets... :)

P.

Fed by the muse said...

The only thing I really watch on the networks is the news. As for entertainment, I enjoy the offerings on Decades and Me TV and the new movie classics channel (where else can one see "Straight Time" "The Sunshine Boys" and "The Sea Hawk" all in the same week!)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I knew about GOOD GIRLS, but didn't care for it (watched I think the pilot plus another episode). I haven't heard of most of the other shows you mention, but I did know about MOODYS, which is a terrible US remake (despite the presence of Elizabeth Perkins in the cast) of a charming and funny Australian series in which The Moodys of the Title celebrate a series of six varyingly disastrous Christmases. I highly recommend looking up the Australian series, though not so much the attempt to make it into an ongoing sitcom by doing a second series.

wg

Greg Ehrbar said...

Disney's relationship with Lucas actually began with their record company, ten years before there was a Star Tours. Disneyland/Vista Records introduced a line of LP and read along records based on each of the films and also created original stories, all with Lucafilm's approval and John Williams' music. George Lucas visited the studio lot to meet with the Disney record staff and they staged an elaborate welcome for him. None of this is usually mentioned. Star Tours is often cited as the first Disney/Lucas collaboration.

Steven Spielberg also collaborated with Disney's record division years before Roger Rabbit. When a young Drew Barrymore and her mother recorded the E.T. story record, he attended the session and decided to direct it. He put his jacket next to Drew and told her to pretend it was E.T. and led her through a brilliant new set of lines for the story adaptation. Trouble was that the read-along book had already gone to print (printing takes longer) and he had changed the script. After he left, Drew and her mother were asked if she could re-record the original script as written, as there was a production deadline to meet. Spielberg's version was not used.

Tyler said...

I am down to only 3 current network shows that I watch, the two Law & Order series and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which is ending after its upcoming season). And even those I never watch "live" but wait for them to hit Hulu. Other than sports and the news, I don't really watch any traditional broadcast TV anymore.

I was thinking recently about how for kids my teenage nephew's age, there surely doesn't seem to be any real difference between the traditional networks and the biggest cable channels. But then I realized I literally couldn't remember ever seeing him turning on the TV to watch a channel as it aired in the first place. For him, TV is about streaming or video games. He doesn't channel surf, and he would much rather plug in his ear buds and watch stuff on YouTube or stream music on his phone than find something to watch on CBS.

Masked Scheduler said...

Ken
How many shows have been under your radar at NETFLIX, HULU, HBOMAX, APPLETV+, PEACOCK etc.etc.? The networks are no different.
It's all about filling the shelves and broadcast shows are part of bigger entities who see networks as creating content for the other platforms and you will see shows that start on other platforms come to the broadcast network. Retrans and sales keep the networks going. CW actually figured out this model before the big networks did. As Don Ohlmeyer always said "EVERY show is somebody's favorite show.

Roger Owen Green said...

If I'm recalling correctly, there's more new non-sports, non-news programming every year on the networks, cable outlets, streaming services, et al, than anyone could watch viewing TV 24/7/365 and has been since 2018.

So this informs who is "famous", who is a "celebrity". I watch promos for these Celebrity game shows and I don't know who many of them are. At first, I thought I was just getting old, but now I know it's just too much to be knowable.

MikeN said...

When Norm MacDonald had his show, a network exec X came to him and said to him,'the ratings came in, your show is the #1 new show.' Someone else comes by and asks where is X?

Norm:"He's over there telling Jason Bateman that his show is the highest rated new show the network has ever had."

CaptainZim said...

Do you really think I that many of us actually ever knew anything about the majority of Network shows? Back in the day - say 1991 when I was in high school - I could have named maybe 5 shows. Maybe. Most of us watched and still watch a few favorites and nothing else.

Heck I loved MASH bit had never heard of AfterSHAVE until reading about it on your blog!

Breadbaker said...

TV categories on Jeopardy are a real challenge these days. I'd say there's at best a 50% chance I've so much as heard of a show they ask about these days (and the CW is often the network involved)

Necco said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Big Murr said...

I'm not quite following your point. True, networks are needing a life-jacket or something, but the fact you never heard of a show? So what? Can you recite every show streaming on NetflixAcornAmazonAppleCraveEtc? While skimming my social media and other sources, there is a constant barrage of titles of "must see!!!" shows or wails of anguish that some show was cancelled...I never heard of any of them. There are just too many fargin' titles and choices out there.

As a point of coincidence, I was aware of Good Girls. The first season was a delightful "fish out of water" riff with a dangerous edge. But, the hazards of any fish out of water theme is that, if the show has any toe dipped in reality, the fish adapt to life on dry land. The core charm of Good Girls evaporated. We quit an episode into the third season.

Roger Owen Green said...

CaptainZim- I'm about 2 decades older than you, but I had watched a lot more than 5 shows:

Watched: Life Goes On, Murder She Wrote, 60 Minutes, Eerie IN

Knew: AFV, Married With Children, In Living Color, Man of the People

And that's just Sunday when the elder three networks had two-hour movies slots.

I also watched Murphy Brown, Law and Order, Seinfeld, Golden Girls, LA Law. Oh, and Cheers and Wings. And a lot more.

I think it's an age thing

Dixon Steele said...

What's particularly notable is shows getting cancelled before Season 5. In the past, that happened a lot less because of potential syndication. Today, that market isn't what it was and shows aren't cheap to produce anymore.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Aside from sports, none of the (former?) "big four" hold any interest for me. Except for promotions during sports casts, I'd know very little about their programming - including so-called "news".

I mostly regard those promotions as "fair warning", anyway.

I somehow found out the luminous Christina Hendricks was on this show, so I tried it out for Season One and never tried Season Two.

Bill Nuss said...

All of the Big Five "Broadcasters" have franchise hits, the biggest being Wolf Shows on NBC and Berlanti Shows on the CW. Because of the need to fill an antiquated time slot grid, the rest of the schedule consists of "Narrow Casting" filler shows that run far longer than expected, thus the "hits you never heard of" syndrome. Cable and streaming have no time slot requirements. Bottom Line -- we need time to change our POV because us old network creators and Show Runners are fucking old!

DrBOP said...

Too many people = too many stories
Too many stories = too many programs
Too many programs = too many streaming services
Too many streaming services = too many actors and musicians
Too many actors and musicians = too many stories
Too many stories = too many people
(NOTE: there can never be too many screenwriters;>)

And remember, only 55% of the people on earth currently have access to the net.
What happens when it approaches 100% = TOO MANY PEOPLE!

Life Is WonderFULL! ;>)

Richard said...

While I do agree networks are nowhere near where they used to be...I did read somewhere that streaming services only make up like 20% of the total "tv watching audience".

And the vast majority of that 20% is Netflix and Hulu. Most of the other streaming services (espn+, paramount, tubi, peacock etc...) combine to only equal 1% of the tv watching audience.

So i find it kind of weird that tv networks have just... IDK -- given up on providing quality shows people want to watch? What am I missing?

Gary Theroux said...

After a run of only two years, the classic sitcom "Car 54 Where Are You" was cancelled by NBC (despite high ratings and Emmy success) in order to turn its half hour time slot over to "The Virginian" (expanding it, for no logical reason, to 90 minutes weekly). That happened 58 years ago -- and a lot more people today remember "Car 54" than any of the present day NBC series Ken cites.

David G. said...

Part of the problem is that shows like "Good Girls" have been summer-only series, with no traditional rerun airings to build up audience and public familiarity with the programs.

And, for the record, I would love to see a 3rd season of "AfterMASH" (recast now, of course) ... if only to get resolution out of Max Klinger being stuck in the psych ward when that series ended and to know that he finally got back into regular life. Even a one-off 30 minutes with Jamie Farr visiting with Radar or Soon-Lee or whoever that just referenced how that dragged-out storyline ended.

Mike Doran said...

I wonder sometimes just where your correspondents get their information.

-Car 54's two seasons were '61-'62 and '62-'63 -both on Sunday night.
Side note: according to a book about Nat Hiken, if NBC had gone to season 3, Joe E. Ross would have been fired, and Al Lewis would have become Fred Gwynne's partner.
Car 54's replacement on NBC was Grindl, with Imogene Coca.

- The Virginian began as a 90-minute show in '62 - on Wednesday nights
It was never expanded; you're mixing it up with Wagon Train, which ABC expanded in fall of '63 (with no connection to Car 54 on NBC).

Roger Owen Green said...

Mike Doran is correct. That slot between Disney (7:30) and Bonanza (9:000) was not particularly successful. After Grindl - 1 season; The Bill Dana Show moved from Sun at 7, and died months later. Branded - 1.5 seasons; Hey Landlord - 1 season. Mothers-in-Law - 2 seasons; Bill Cosby Show - 2 seasons; Jimmy Stewart Show - 1 season.