Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jay Leno sucks and FOX can't get with it...

First things first, the television season is starting to really see some cancellations. It's not like the olden days when the networks saw what happened during the rerun season. These days, if you can't get an audience, you get the axe. That's what's going on.

Kelsey Grammer's latest project, Hank, has been cancelled after only five episodes.

According to the NY Times, they were working on the 10th episode when the announcement was made.
The network said it would halt production on the series after work is completed on a 10th episode. Five episodes have been broadcast, and ABC has not yet announced its plans for the five remaining episodes it will have on hand. “Hank” is the second short-lived series for Mr. Grammer, who played the unctuous Dr. Frasier Crane for 20 years on “Cheers” and “Frasier”. His sitcom “Back to You,” on which he and Patricia Heaton played rival television news anchors, ran for one season on Fox in 2007-8.
Dollhouse, a low rated show on FOX, is also a goner.
According to multiple insiders, Fox has informed Joss Whedon that it will not be ordering additional installments of his low-rated drama beyond the current 13-episode order.
Back to the Jay Leno experience, it has been a failure for NBC. Anyone could have told NBC that this would happen. Were they expecting that people would watch him 90 minutes earlier? I would certainly not think so.
When it came to ratings, the network's goal was modest because the show costs almost nothing to make compared to average 10pm dramas. But what's going to happen to the great Jay Leno experiment now that the show isn't even garnering the tiny audience NBC expected for it? Up against juggernauts "Monday Night Football" and "CSI," Leno's last two Monday night shows have dipped way below even their modest goal. To make things worse, other NBC shows and local affiliates are starting to complain that Leno's unpopularity is dragging their own ratings down, too. The phenomenon even has a nickname: "The Leno Effect," and it's turning into a disaster for other NBC shows.[...]

"The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," for example, was building an audience and holding its own against David Letterman before Leno's show debuted. But now with a poor lead-in, "Tonight's" ratings are so dismal that Letterman beats Conan soundly night after night. Similarly, "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," which was a moderate success when it debuted last spring, can point directly to Leno for its own ratings dip. And even NBC staple and fan favorite "Law and Order" is suffering because Leno's show stole its classic 10pm time slot. The producers of these shows are no doubt grumbling in-house, where Leno is probably not very popular right now. But making some very definite noise are NBC's local affiliates around the country, who are finding that nobody is watching their post-Leno local news shows because by the time they air, the audience has long since changed the channel.
Take a look at what Mark Harris had to say on the matter.
It’s easy to enumerate how dire things are for the network: The fourth-place finishes, night after night, in both total viewers and the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that still serves as TV’s gold standard. The absence—for the third year running—of any new hit show. (For the week ending November 1, NBC placed exactly one series in the top 30.) The continued attrition of the network’s Thursday-night lineup, which throughout the eighties and nineties was the bedrock of both NBC’s wide appeal and its yearly Emmy tally and now has only The Office and 30 Rock keeping that old tradition-of-quality candle burning. And the fact that the network’s one big prime-time ratings success—Sunday Night Football—goes off the air in early January, making the season’s second half, particularly after the Winter Olympics, even bleaker.

And when you step back for a broader view, things get even worse; they devolve from “What’s wrong with this network?” to “Why own a network at all?” Because this isn’t just about the new sitcom with Chevy Chase and the guy from The Soup pulling in only 5 million viewers, or Trauma failing to become the next ER. This is about a company that has lately seemed to hold in contempt the very idea of a broadcast network, and that has become a symbol of the death of ambition in an industry that, in its glory days, attempted to program for both mass and class. Without that goal, a network is nothing but a basic-cable channel with a gloomier business plan and an uglier balance sheet.[...]

And then came the Leno move, for which Zucker was so intent on the cost-per-hour benefit to NBC that he failed to anticipate the collateral damage. With its wee audience—around 5 million people per night—Leno has robbed the network of viewers that could be watching promos for its following evening’s lineup, which means that, except when it airs football or The Biggest Loser, NBC tends to start each evening’s prime-time schedule with an already diminished audience. Handing 10 p.m. to Leno has also hurt ratings—severely in some cities—for the late-night newscasts of NBC’s affiliates. That, in turn, has dinged the Tonight Show, which, in the shaky hands of Conan O’Brien, now loses to David Letterman (who, even mid-scandal, seems to be having the time of his life). And that weakens NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and helps CBS’s Craig Ferguson. Back in prime time, NBC’s highest-rated scripted series, the durable warhorse Law & Order: SVU, has suffered because of its eviction from its longtime 10 p.m. slot. And on October 26, a humiliating report in Advertising Age revealed that NBC has been able to charge an average of only $57,486 for a 30-second ad on Leno, in contrast to CBS’s $127,000 for a new hit like The Good Wife and ABC’s $240,000 for a demographic blockbuster like Grey’s Anatomy.[...]

But these days, with its lineup zigzagging from football to low-end cheapo reality like The Biggest Loser to botched onetime hits like Heroes to media pets like 30 Rock, NBC’s brand is scattershot. The face of the network, by virtue of sheer omnipresence, is Jay Leno, who, at 59, is not any network’s demographic ideal. He may not be killing NBC, as TV Guide recently speculated, but it’s beginning to feel like he’s participating in an assisted suicide. One thing’s already clear: Remaking an entire prime-time lineup in his familiarly peevish image was a Hail Mary pass, not a long-term business strategy. And one suspects the network knows it. With Jeff Gaspin already working hard to repair NBC’s relationship with the creative community by signing deals with high-profile producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and J. J. Abrams, it’s hard to imagine that he and Zucker are not beginning, very quietly, to consider a Plan B. That could involve paying off Leno and canceling his show, cutting it back to three or four nights a week to give the grid a little more flexibility, or even returning Leno, “by popular demand,” to the Tonight Show. Start sweating, Conan; Leno recently told a trade reporter he’d take that deal if he were asked to—a seemingly offhand comment that sounds a lot like the beginning of a gigantic face-saving maneuver. In any case, even if, as media watchers gossip, the 44-year-old Zucker is unlikely to survive for long under Comcast, the various regulatory hurdles the deal has to clear will give him at least a year either to right the ship or sink it.

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