Four Big TV Gambles That Failed This Season, and What That Means for the Next One
4 Big TV Gambles That Failed This Season, and What That Means for the Next One
If next season turns out to be a tame or even timid one on network television, you can thank the season that's winding down.
This week, networks are debuting their plans for next season at their upfront presentations to advertisers -- and their decisions about what new shows to air are rooted in hard looks at the big gambles of their 2011-12 lineups.
From Fox's multimillion-dollar dino-drama "Terra Nova" to NBC's sexy '60s set piece "The Playboy Club," networks took some very big risks this season – and few of them panned out.
Fairly safe shows like singing competitions and sitcoms were the biggest hits. Fantasy series – like ABC's "Once Upon a Time" and NBC's "Grimm" – fared surprisingly well. But shows set in the past – from the 1960s to the Mesozoic era – didn't succeed. Neither did high-concept science fiction like Fox's "Alcatraz" or NBC's "Awake." They were canceled last week, joining "Terra Nova" and "The Playboy Club."
The networks' most successful gambles this season were with existing shows, not new ones. CBS successfully revamped "Two and a Half Men" with Ashton Kutcher in place of Charlie Sheen. NBC ran "The Voice" in midseason against a CBS Monday night lineup, anchored by "Men," that had looked bulletproof in the fall. "The Voice" ended up briefly surpassing Fox's "American Idol" as the top-rated non-NFL programming on television, though "Idol" eventually retook the lead.
For the sake of full disclosure, an aside: We like risky shows. They keep TV fresh and interesting, and without some rolls of the dice, we would never have gotten "Seinfeld," "Modern Family" or "Lost." But for every risk that pays off, there are many more that make average viewers shake their heads and wonder what those network executives were thinking.
This was a season that seemed to depressingly reinforce stereotypes about the TV landscape: Networks remain the main home for mass-market reality shows, broad comedies and procedurals, while cable is the domain of novelistic period shows like "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire" and hit genre series like "Game of Thrones" and "Walking Dead."