Lessons from the Past: TV’s Most Recent Failures

Written by NY Press on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


The Playboy Club

By Magdalena Burnham

Fall is here which means we’re getting into premiere season. Plenty of new shows are being buzzed about and the question is what will be this season’s big hit. As people discuss the new season of TV and try to predict what might breakout, it seems like a good time to look back on some recent failures that networks should learn from.

 

The Playboy Club (NBC): From the slick production to the big ad campaign, it was obvious there was some point when NBC thought this would be a big winner. But, problems arose even before the show aired. The very TV snobs the show was trying to appeal to with its highbrow production quickly dismissed it as a Mad Men knock-off. Plus, there were people who didn’t want to see it either because of its sexual themes and prominent gay characters or because of its objectification of women—when both conservatives and progressives are fighting against a show before it even airs, that’s bad news. And then there was the final nail in the coffin: the actual pilot for the show was just awful. It seemed like The Playboy Club was going to be the most boring show ever about half-naked women. The show actually started getting better by leaps and bounds after the awful pilot, but by then it had already failed and it became the first cancellation of last season.

 

Work It (ABC): This show made it to air. It takes so much time and money just to get a show to air. There are so many checks a show has to go through. It’s easy to just laugh at Work It, but the inescapable fact is that multiple people at ABC decided to bet on this and not something else.

 

Terra Nova (Fox): Now, Terra Nova wasn’t exactly a massive failure. It did get a full season and there was a pretty active campaign by fans to get it renewed. But, its actual performance was an abysmal disappointment compared to what could have been. Everyone wanted to watch see the crazy show about dinosaurs and then everyone quickly realized it was actually a show about whiny teenagers and…farming or something? It seems like ever since Lost became a hit, every season there’s a big, high-concept drama that fails to understand what people actually like about big, high-concept dramas. (Revolution, I’m looking firmly in your direction.)

 

How to be a Gentleman (CBS): How to be a Gentleman didn’t seem like a big risk for CBS. It had an approachable concept, capable leads and generally seemed like a good fit for CBS. Yet after two episodes, CBS shut down production and moved the show to Saturday. The first episode that aired on the Saturday timeslot did worse than the Two and a Half Men re-run that ran before it. For whatever reason, How to be a Gentleman managed to fail even on a network that allowed Rules of Engagement to get six seasons.

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