The week of May 14th-18th will be the annual TV network upfronts, in which America’s least predictable executives present their next fall’s schedule to advertisers in hopes of fostering viewer anticipation and large sacks of money. These mostly finalized lists provide us with the best possible confirmation of renewals, cancellations, midseason postponements, and symptoms of executive dysfunction. Thanks to the last two days’ deluge of announcements from Entertainment Weekly and other sources, 2012’s final results are mostly in ahead of schedule.
Several shows were already canceled in previous months; some of them, mere minutes after their second episodes ended. Some crews have been notified of their loss within the past 48 hours and are still working through the Five Stages. For me the casualties of the 2011-2012 season fall into five categories.
(Please note: I am far from completist on this. No doubt we’ll receive solemn notice of more victims shortly. Let it be known I pay no heed to reality-show obituaries at all. Or reality shows in general, for that matter.)
Shows I watched at least once:
Ten minutes of Prime Suspect was enough for me. I no longer remember why, though I recall the hat didn’t help. I lasted through the full two-hour premiere of Alcatraz but couldn’t forgive Sam Neill’s stern appropriation of Dr. Evil’s cocked eyebrow. Awake started strong, but I bowed out after four episodes, once it lapsed into its own unique but grating formula that required the exact same scene twice every week:
“Let’s go check out this completely irrelevant thing! It’s extremely important to our case!”
“What? Why? It has nothing to do with anything.”
“That’s utterly stupid. Let’s roll.”
Terra Nova, on the other hand, I followed from start to finish. For the first several episodes, I had little love for any of the Shannon kids (mandatory cutie-pie Zoe, lovestruck rebel/dork Josh, and Not Quite Jan Brady), but by the end their family was functioning much better as a unit and had developed a rudimentary foundation of supporting characters that could be built upward in future seasons. Sometimes there were even dinosaurs. My son appreciated that every episode had a one-dinosaur-head minimum. The cliffhanger finale hinted at interesting new directions in the days ahead, but the showrunners’ imaginations wrote checks that their advertising income couldn’t cash. I had hoped for a second season with downgraded expectations (say, CG supplanted by sock puppetry), but I’ve had to let that go.
Shows I never tried, but bear no ill will:
A Gifted Man
If someone bought me a Complete Series set as a gift, I wouldn’t sneer and toss it in the Goodwill bag, but it might be several years before I find time to sample episode one.
Shows you could pay me to watch once, but no one ever did:
Are You There, Chelsea?
How to Be a Gentleman
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Some shows I look at and say, “Why?” TV execs look at them and say, “Why not?” I await their cancellations and say, “That’s why.” Many shows have outlived my expectations. None of these did.
Shows you couldn’t pay me to watch because of, shall we say, scruples:
The Playboy Club
Shows 100% unfamiliar to me:
Best Friends Forever
I first learned about the existence of these two shows in this week’s headlines. I think I blinked at just the wrong month.
I was pleasantly stunned, however, at some of the renewals. As a past viewer of Firefly, FlashForward, Persons Unknown, Brimstone, and other unplanned fatalities, I’ve come to expect most of my shows to vaporize every year as a tradition. My TV habits dwell in a Hunger Games world where Grey’s Anatomy and Two-and-a-Half Men are Career Tributes and my favorite scripted shows are the carcasses that fertilize the field around the Cornucopia.
Surprise twist for me, then: other than Terra Nova, all my shows will return next season, even NBC’s widely shunned Thursday lineup. I’m grateful to those responsible for granting stays of execution for my unfairly unwatched shows this year, despite attempts by those nefarious Nielsen families to ignore them into oblivion.
For once, the day is saved thanks to…TV executives!