Why FOX’s “Previews” don’t work

A few weeks ago, I watched a fun new show: The Good Guys. Starring Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, it’s fun, a little quirky, and even has a mustache. Honestly, I’ll watch anything with Bradley Whitford in it. Even those old movies when he’s always the jerk. But I like him.

Then a few weeks went by and I though, Hmm, when does The Good Guys air? Did I miss that? I saw a commercial: June. June? Are you kidding? I have to wait until June?

June came, and here we are, June 15. I have no idea when The Good Guys returned. I have no idea when it airs. How do I know it’s currently being aired? Well, Friday night I caught an episode that was new–well, new to me. It was a rerun. From when, I don’t know.

I’m going to make the large assumption that the show airs Mondays. Not because I was flipping channels. No, it’s because other TV blogs are covering it today. Guess what I was doing last night in primetime. Watching Lost and season three of The Guild–neither of which FOX is going to benefit from, let alone Whitford and Hanks.

FOX seems to be one of those few networks that does new show “Previews.” They show the pilot–or special presentation, whatever you want to call it–on a random night to get people interested. Then, they later air the show on its regular night and time.

I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to watch a TV show, I’m a creature of habit. If something’s aired on Tuesday at 9 pm, I’m going to assume that next week, it will probably air on Tuesday at 9 pm.  I don’t expect to wait a month before seeing the new episode. And when you plop a new show in the middle of the season finales of the current season, there’s a good chance that people are going to get a little too focused on the BIG EPISODES of their favorites and miss this special “preview” anyway. Why’s that a problem? Inconsistency, really. Sometimes FOX will air the “preview” again when it starts the official season, sometimes it won’t. I don’t like starting a new show feeling like I’ve already missed it.

But let’s not just look at The Good Guys. This preview strategy is what killed Drive. FOX did a Sunday night preview for Drive–a two-hour pilot. Then they showed the next episode the following night on Monday. The fourth (and final, I might add) episode? The following Monday night?

Again, creatures of habit. If the network just gave me two hours of a show on a Sunday night, I’d assume it’s going to air on Sunday. But tuning in the following week, nothing was on. On the other hand, knowing Monday was part of the game, I taped Monday’s episode. Ok, what if you just tuned in at the regular time? Mondays? You’ve missed two hours of action that’s actually needed to understand the series. What if you watched all three? Well, you’d either think it’s some sort of miniseries, where maybe another installment is on Tuesday, or you just assume to catch it next week. But when?

It’s true, this strategy worked for Glee, but I’d say Glee was a bit of an exception. First, it’s a distinctive new series. Name another series that habitually combines drama and music, and you’ll see what I mean. Ultimately, The Good Guys is a procedural and Drive was a mystery drama. They have their own features, but they blend into the background. With enough momentum, like Glee had, you can make it stand for a whole summer. And maybe that was another issue: You were sustained for the entire summer.

It wasn’t one night or a month. You knew this was a fall show. You weren’t guessing when you’d be seeing it again.

But mismashing the show on random night just for the hell of it and expecting people to figure out when it’s on based on a website and the occasional commercial (sorry, FOX, but I don’t watch American Idol so I don’t see your commercials for the two other series you have on deck) is just madness. It’s not successful. It’s way too close to the Scrubs treatment. And honestly, it’s killing your shows.

Now, I don’t know how The Good Guys is doing in ratings. Hopefully it has some upside, what with there being very few new shows out right now this summer, but I can’t say this is doing much for it. After all, when a TV blogger doesn’t know when to watch, I’d say there’s more of a problem with the strategy than with the audience.

*images from TheTVAddict.com and BuddyTV.com


If I could raspberry ‘Happy Town,’ I would

HAPPY TOWN: 1.03 “Polly Want a Crack at Her”

There is no suspense anymore. Actually, there kinda never was. They should have worked on that. And there’s really very little plot anymore. And finally, other than Dave’s assumption that Friddle was the Magic Man, how does he even fit into all of this? I thought we’d see someone else disappear, for goodness’ sake!…

I’m going to sit through tonight’s episode, sure, but whether I’ll make it to the burn-off in June, well, I just don’t know. If only they had played to their strengths a little more. Where’s Amy Acker and Steven Weber on the screen when you need them?

Those were some quick quotes from my last review of Happy Town. Well, I got one thing that I wanted: someone else disappeared. Of course, we took away one of the key people that I was watching the show for.

Seriously, why is Amy Acker always the one who’s kidnapped. Will the rest of her appearances in the show be like the ones on Drive? Just a still picture on a “Missing” poster?

I should say one thing about this episode: At 10:39 pm, I looked at the clock and said, “Holy crap. We’ve watched forty minutes and nothing’s happened?!” It’s true. Nothing happened until the final five minutes. And sorry, those five minutes might not keep my attention until June. Especially because they got rid of one of my favorite actors.

First, the whole Henley storyline was just stupid. I didn’t care if she hooked up with “Greggy,” as we discovered that he was. And the minute I saw her pull that hammer out of her bag, I knew he’d see it. After all, that’s why I said, outloud, “Why is she doing that while he’s just lying there? He’ll see it.” What a moron.

Second, I’m really fed up with Tommy and Dave. Just arrest him already. Clearly, you think what Dave did was wrong, and even if you didn’t, he killed a man. Take him in. Stop protecting him. The problem is, the show didn’t establish a strong enough bond with Tommy and Dave (in its episode and a half before outing him as the killer) to make Tommy’s protection warranted. Bah. Just lose it.

And then there’s Georgia’s dad and his boyfriend. Boy, did this bore me. I really didn’t care about any of these characters, except maybe Georgia, who just kept reiterating that her dad didn’t hit her and that just got tired. Dude, I know her dad didn’t do it, and I didn’t want to believe her. Bah.

I don’t know what to say. The last episode moved way too fast for its own good and this episode moved way too slow. I feel like we were in a slow episode 5 or 17 in a 22-episode season–you know, one of those filler episodes. It didn’t warrant the surprise ending, and it certainly needed to move faster to grab a third episode slot. Bah.

I might have to have a whole separate post on “How to fix Happy Town.” Maybe on another day. Sigh.

Thursday Open Thread: TV Epic Fails

We’re almost done with 2009. And that leaves me with one question:

What were the epic fails in television this year–or in the past decade?

That’s right, vent it out. Tell me all about the shows that you wish were still on the air. Tell me about the shows that you wish were never made. What really deserves the Twitter fail whale stamped on it?

This can be shows, actors, plotlines, general TV annoyances, commercials–anything! Heck, you might just be mad that your old TV with the antennae doesn’t work anymore. Let me know.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

Cancellations: Networks, I am angry. You take our favorite shows and then drop them. All the time. Here’s my off-hand list of what I miss from this decade (or will miss, in some cases): Firefly, Tru Calling, Joan of Arcadia, Eli Stone, Dollhouse

By the way, I still want to know how Reunion and Drive end.

Heroes: Dear God, cancel this show. It’s terrible.

Jay Leno: Aaaaaand, ditto.

Reality TV: I really wish this hadn’t grown to what it is today. I know it technically started earlier than 2000 with MTV shows, but since Survivor, it’s somehow everywhere now. Boo. Hiss!

Networks: You just don’t give shows a chance anymore. And well, that’s not fair.

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments. Vent. Vent away.

image from ioffer.com

Nathan Fillion looks angry…

Random news update thingies

I was going to spend this time writing about more Monday night shows, but let’s just cover some other things first. I’m behind anyway.

Bob Saget can’t be brought down. He’s a force to be reckoned with.

So last summer, I go to my car and find a flat tire. So I take it to Goodyear, and as I’m waiting for them to plug it (at least I didn’t have to buy a new one), I was stuck in a small room with a TV. It’s Saturday afternoon, and of course, nothing’s on. I figured it’d be stuck on sports, but no, it’s The CW’s preview of their fall shows, hosted by the mother from Privileged and Bob Saget. And what was he advertising? Surviving Suburbia.

Does anyone remember this show? Does anyone remember that it was supposed to be on Sunday nights on The CW? Does anyone remember it was never on?

Well, ABC is turning on its Brangelina style and adopting it. Bob will get his shot to shine in April, based on this Futon Critic report. But hey, at least it’s a new show. Not that I’m opposed to the adoption of Scrubs, but ABC is kinda taking on the older and has-beens.

Like Cupid, which was a 1998 comedy that was cancelled. Well, now ABC is taking it on, as I reported before, but in a worse way. Worse actors for one. What’s another?

Delays. The premiere has been moved from March 24 to March 31. Plus, now there are less episodes. Yes, they’ve cut the episodes they’ve signed on for all the way down to 7 now. From 13 to 9 to 7. Pretty soon they’ll be at 4 and have Drive‘s young life.

Really, TV Squad asked the question right: Honestly, why are they even bothering with another Cupid? I believe that was my question all along.

But in good news, we’re now getting closer and closer to Dollhouse. A week and a day, people, so I hope you’re all planning your Friday nights accordingly. No Tivoing the first episode, ok? That will give FOX license to cancel. Show support.

And get excited!

Are the networks devoid of smart?

It’s not really a new question. In fact, people have asked it a lot. And in the void of new episodes of TV, I was thinking about it.

I remember when The Sopranos started on HBO. Now, I’ve never had HBO, so I never saw this series or Sex and the City until they were syndicated many years later. So it would bug the crap out of me to watch the Emmys or the Golden Globes and find all the awards going to shows I’ve never seen. And it still happens with HBO series and Showtime, too!

But now it’s spread a little further. If you look at the most recent list of Golden Globe nominees, you’ll see that the four basic networks–ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX–aren’t nearly as represented as HBO, Showtime, and even TNT.

And why is that the case? Well, it seems to me that the four basic networks just don’t really have the time or money to spend on “smart” TV.

But let’s backtrack. What do I mean by “smart”? Well, I don’t mean “creative,” though there have been a number of cancellations for creative shows. I never watched Pushing Daisies, but you can’t disagree that it had a creative background and premise. Eli Stone, too. So it’s not necessarily creativity that I’m looking at.

Take a look at Studio 60. It was a very “smart” show. You really had to tune in and pay attention to really enjoy the show because there were a lot of storylines that fell below an episode’s plot–like Danny’s past addictions or Tom’s brother at war. It provoked thought.

Now, we take a look at shows like 90210 and The Office, which are basically spin-off/remakes of older, fresher favorites. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Office, but we’ve moved away from subtle humor in past seasons, and we’re now to the slapstick variety and cardboard characters.

And yes, there are exceptions. Lost is clearly a smart concept, though again, I haven’t seen it (sorry, I missed the first season and never caught up). But other shows have tried to keep mysteries throughout a series and they’ve fallen flat with few viewers: Hidden Palms and Reunion are just two.

Other shows have brought about the smart in the viewers; Numb3rs is  a huge example, where the show is actually bringing about mathematical ideas into a show that would otherwise be just a basic crime show.

But overall, there seems to be a lack of smart. When The West Wing, ER, and Gilmore Girls started, there were random quips and stronger storylines. However, people followed them. I know it seems odd that I included Gilmore Girls in there, but honestly, the fast-talking pop-culture basis really carried a smart feel–a feel that really declined in later seasons.

So what’s bringing this about? I’m afraid to say it (though I already have), but time and money. But whose?

Without viewers, shows can’t last. So if viewers won’t give a show like Studio 60 a chance because they don’t want to put that much attention to an hour-long program, then what can the networks really do? But then again, Pushing Daisies did have viewers. So what happened there?

Clearly, some of the fault lies in the networks. How long is long enough to decide? Four episodes (Drive)? Nine episodes (Reunion)? Fourteen (Firefly)? Twenty-five (Tru Calling)?

[Ok, I wasn’t trying to only pick FOX shows there, but hey, look what happened. You get a prize if you can figure out what else all of those shows have in common.]

And you have to admit, the networks do have more problems with money. Unlike HBO, they don’t have a subscription basis, which means they can’t put all their money into one show. Cable series have had this advantage. They have much tighter budgets, and if something doesn’t make money AND QUICK, it can’t be on TV.

So true, they are at a disadvantage, but why do they have to go to reality TV before putting together something quality? Raising the Bar could have easily been shown on any network other than TNT, but it wasn’t. Possibly The Closer, too. Instead, we have too many competition shows and game shows–and Jay Leno’s getting his own nightly talk show at 10:00 pm!

What’s disappointing is that now I watch TV, and I’m bored. I want the smart back. I’d like to know that our basic networks aren’t free due to bad programming.

But anyway, what do you think? Viewers’ faults for not watching? Networks for not giving shows a chance? Or cable for being bullies? All opinions welcome.

Worried about Dollhouse on Friday nights?

So I’ve been reading a lot about how people are angry, worried, or confused about the move from Monday to Friday for FOX’s Dollhouse. Perhaps it’s because I’m a glass-half-full person when it comes to TV shows when they’re about to air (a reason why I sat through the horrible The Secret Life of the American Teenager premiere and beginning episodes), but I didn’t find this switch to be devastating. I thought that just maybe it was a good idea.

Fire up those torches and sharpen those pitchforks, but I do. Monday night is a killer night. I’m sure shows strive to be on it (and others, like The New Adventures of Old Christine might be aching to get back on it, though I don’t know how the ratings for that show are going). So hearing that Dollhouse might get a Monday night spot was just fantastic for a show that’s new.

But the problem is, shows fail. And it’s not based on whether it’s good or not. If that were true, I would like to ask people again how Secret Life is still a popular favorite. It’s based on who’s watching. And the big problem is that Monday nights, people tend to have booked.

As much as people claim it’s failing, Heroes is picking up steam again. It’s got a cult following for sure, so people just won’t give it up. The CBS Monday night lineup is HUGE with comedy, so certainly people might not pass that by once they’re home from work. The CW is stealing teenagers all over the place with Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill is even growing. Basically, stealing viewers would be hard!

So moving it to Friday sounds pretty nice. At 9:00, it’s open for business. CBS just recently canceled The Ex List at that time slot, so clearly there are people out there looking for something to watch. But people think Friday is a dead zone. Who watches TV on a Friday?

That is an issue as of late. Sure, people still watch Ghost Whisperer and Numb3ers, but Moonlight couldn’t handle it, right? Different network, same issue. But Friday night used to be huge. TGIF was ABC’s Friday night for a long time. FOX was famous for The X-Files on Friday night. So why can’t we bring it back?

But this isn’t all just from me. FOX has some great words on the issue (and their entire schedule) here. The hows and whys are explained, and instead of screwing Dollhouse, they’re actually giving it a chance (along with Sarah Connor). Take a look at this excerpt:

Having all but abandoned scripted programming on Friday nights of late, Fox is jumping back onto the night in a very big (and expensive) way. Starting in February, the network will pair Joss Whedon’s lush new drama “Dollhouse” with the network’s big-budget action hour “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

While “Dollhouse” has been plagued by production shutdowns and rumors that Fox executives are uncertain about its commercial appeal, Mr. Beckman said scheduling the show on Friday is simply a byproduct of trying to design the strongest possible schedule for the network.

Mr. Beckman doesn’t pretend that “Dollhouse” and “Terminator” have an easy path ahead of them. But, particularly in the case of “Dollhouse,” Mr. Beckman thinks the less competitive Friday night will give the show a better chance to build an audience than a more high-profile night.

“If we put it on Monday and it didn’t do well, we might have to yank it,” he said. But because Fox’s winter lineup should be solid on Saturday through Thursday nights, “We can afford to let these shows run their course. We can give them 12 or 13 weeks to find an audience.”

Overall, Mr. Beckman said his goal coming out of the 2008-09 season is “to have four tentpoles for next year, and if we surprise ourselves, a Friday night,” he said. “If these moves work, it sets us up nicely for next fall. And with a little luck from our development, I think that for the first time we can put together a schedule that could actually let us be No. 1 in the fall.”

Anyway, I’d say give it a chance. When shows like Drive have been canceled in only four episodes (or even Tru Calling‘s second season in six episodes), 12-13 sounds pretty good.

Dollhouse in the doghouse


Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we might not be seeing Dollhouse for the midseason. According to TV Squad, it looks like we might not be seeing it until next fall. I’ve heard a lot of stories about Dollhouse stopping and starting production, as well as rewriting and reworking scripts, but in the end, it still seemed to be on track. Now, though, it’s not?

I’m heartbroken. I am really looking forward to this show, as well as a lot of other Whedonites out there. And honestly, I’m really not sure if this is the fault of the show or FOX. We all know that FOX doesn’t treat new shows well (think back to Firefly, Drive, and Wonderfalls).

I do know this, though: FOX has picked up the full season of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. As TV Squad tell us, this will take the place of the Dollhouse/24 Monday night lineup. So is the reason we won’t see Dollhouse because of the production of the show or because we want Sarah Connor?

Now, I hate to pick between my Joss Whedon alums–I love me some Summer Glau–but Sarah Connor just has no interest for me. I watched the first few episodes of the series, and they all seemed to be the same blow-’em-up shows, and I wasn’t too interested in the plot. Plus, the ratings are tanking! Why keep it on. I’d rather see Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker in Dollhouse with an original storyline.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did Dollhouse blow it or do people just really love Sarah Connor? Are the rumors of a delay true? Can they just air Dollhouse on a different night? Were they expecting Sarah Connor to tank for Dollhouse to exist, and with popularity came a downer for the exciting new show?

I don’t know. I’ll investigate, but I’ll also say this: I’m bummed.