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Routine 2013 TV series cancellations turn into a primetime massacre…

Posted on May 17th, 2013
Posted on May 17th, 2013

by Coop Cooper

I was a little bummed that my favorite major network, primetime show “Last Resort” got cancelled before Christmas. It was like “Battlestar Galactica” inside of a U.S. nuclear sub and was set up to be the most intense action thriller of the season. Instead it got lost in the sea of mediocre primetime entertainment and sunk before it could reach a first season resolution. But that’s the nature of the TV network biz and with each passing year, the competition gets more brutal. With the traditional TV season coming to a close, the word has come down and over 20 primetime shows on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) have been unceremoniously cancelled. Here is a list of the primetime shows getting the ax so far…

Happy Endings, Body of Proof, Malibu Country, Red Widow, How to Live with Parents, Family Tools, Smash, CSI NY, Rules of Engagement, Vegas, Golden Boy, Southland, Monday Mornings, The New Normal, Rock Center, Go On, Whitney, 1600 Penn, Up All Night, Guys with Kids, Touch, and Deception.

The only one of these I’m mildly disappointed about losing is the uproariously clever Matthew Perry sitcom “Go On” which deserved a better audience for it’s brilliant writing and hilarious ensemble cast. With ratings being the primary reason for cancellations, other rare happenings can sink a show. Christina Applegate suddenly quit her starring role in “Up All Night,” basically killing it even though it was doing well enough to continue another season. Regime changes in the studio can also lead to a cleaning of the lineup slate, eliminating even critically-acclaimed shows.

Reality TV plays a big part in drawing many viewers away from the fictional network shows but cable networks have shocked the system to produce some movie-quality TV shows that put the safer, more sanitized major network shows on notice. These cable shows go for shorter runs (11-12 episodes as opposed to the 24 episodes of the traditional shows) and pour more money, care and talent into them. The writing, photography and acting are frequently higher-quality, so it’s no surprise that audiences are finding their way to shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “Justified,” and “The Walking Dead.”

As a result, the major networks are starting to dabble in this cable formula. NBC has a critical hit with the superb “Hannibal.” Although it’s technically a prequel to “Red Dragon” and “Silence of the Lambs,” it feels more like a gritty reboot of the franchise and features a chillingly original performance by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter. The cinema-level camerawork of the show is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on primetime TV. When the show wraps-up for the season, it won’t return until midseason 2014, adhering to the new cable formula. Fox tried something similar with “The Following” but the practice of quantity vs. quality formula that the major networks are so used to is still pervasive in the industry. I doubt they will completely abandon their ‘spaghetti principle’ technique – throwing a mess of hastily put-together noodles at the wall and seeing what sticks – anytime soon.

What’s up for the new fall primetime (major network) season? Here are a few which could prove interesting… The classic detective show “Ironsides” will be rebooted into a new series with Blair Underwood in the title role. An “Avengers” TV spinoff titled “Agents of Shield” might bring some fun back into the primetime lineup. The action series “24” is being resurrected with Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role. M. Night Shyamalan is getting into the TV game with a 2014 midseason mystery thriller called “Wayward Pines.” “Almost Human” about futuristic cops paired with robot partners will feature “Dredd” and “Star Trek” star Karl Urban. “Believe” features a young super-powered girl who is on the run from a religious cult and protected by an ex-con in a series produced, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, director of “Children of Men” and the third “Harry Potter” film. “Community” surprisingly returns after losing Chevy Chase and almost getting canceled mid-season.

I don’t have a lot of faith in the major TV networks anymore and I generally avoid all but the few shows that look promising. The days where people turn on the boob tube and watch whatever nonsense is on seems to be waining. As this continues, the major networks are going to have to figure out a new business model or fade forever into the shadow of cable and the internet.

Coop Cooper is a film critic and filmmaker based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a B.F.A in Cinema, and received his Masters in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Hollywood. You can read his past articles at: http://www.smalltowncritic.com/

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