This month marks the return after extensive retooling of three drama series fronted by bona fide TV stars — Fox’s Touch starring Kiefer Sutherland, NBC’s Smash starring Debra Messing and ABC‘s Body Of Proof toplined by Dana Delany — just as the proposed retooling of another young broadcast series with top-notch cast, NBC comedy Up All Night, is going up in flames. Touch opened its second season with an underwhelming 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 and this past Friday plunged to a 0.7 rating in its second airing, effectively sealing its fate. (For now, Fox is not talking about pulling the show the way CBS did with The Job after its 0.7 showing last Friday but that seems a matter of time.) Smash‘s second season premiere also crashed with a 1.1 demo rating.
Going against the second episode of Smash tonight, ABC’s tweaked Body Of Proof will be making its third-season debut as the crime procedural is looking to avoid the plight of many of its predecessors which didn’t survive a retool. Ironically, the biggest new addition to the cast of Body Of Proof as part of the overhaul, Mark Valley, was the star of another series, Fox’s Human Target, that was unsuccessfully revamped after its freshman season and didn’t last past Season 2. “This has been a unique experience in that… I’ve been actually retooled myself,” he quipped at the Body Of Proof TCA session last month. Other recent series that didn’t last after a revamp include NBC’s Law & Order: LA, retooled midway through a first season that became the series’ last, as well as NBC’s Harry’s Law and USA’s Fairly Legal, both rebooted after Season 1 and cancelled after Season 2. (In another coincidence, Valley was one of the new additions in Harry’s Law‘s revamp.) In most cases, the networks like the overall premise and love the show’s star (Sutherland, Delany, Up All Night‘s Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph; Human Target‘s Valley, Harry’s Law‘s Kathy Bates and Fairly Legal‘s Sarah Shahi) and/or the series’ auspices (Harry’s Law‘s David E. Kelley, L&O: LA‘s Dick Wolf) but are looking to shake up soft ratings. Unfortunately, a reboot almost never provides the desired ratings jolt and often has the opposite effect as fickle viewers are rarely willing to give a show a second look, and cast changes sometime alienate core fans. (Body Of Proof axed three regulars in the reboot: John Carroll Lynch, Nicholas Bishop and Sonja Sohn).
Working in Body of Proof‘s favor is the fact that the show is more established, having been on the air for two seasons, while most retools are being done during or after a series’ first season. Additionally, the procedural is returning to its old Tuesday 10 PM slot where it has been a steady performer, and it has been a moneymaker for producing studio ABC Studios with solid international sales. What’s more, the series won the California tax credit lottery, making it even more appealing for Disney-ABC. But in the end, Body’s Of Proof‘s future will be determined by performance, and it should at least stay on par with last season when it averaged a 2.1/6 in 18-49 and 9.9 million viewers in Live+7. Touch did even better, with a 2.7/7 and 9.2 million.