Terry Hazlett

Terry Hazlett: Networks tweak lineups

While you’re shopping and eating, networks are dumping losers

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While you were inhaling turkey, networks were upchucking theirs. Last week, five more new series were tossed out – “Partners,” “Emily Owens, M.D.,” “Mob Doctor,” “666 Park Avenue” and “Last Resort.” “Animal Practice” and “Made In Jersey” were previously canned. Most likely, you didn’t watch or even hear of any of these shows, which merely underlines the fact that none of the cancellations came as a surprise. What is interesting, however, is that all but “Partners” will be allowed to complete their 13-episode run.


As much as I’d like to report that networks are finally listening to audience demands for series closure, the decision to let shows wrap up loose ends was most likely a financial one. Series are increasingly expensive to produce, so networks are ordering fewer pilots to replace failed series. And, while it used to be common to quickly pull low-rated series off the air, regardless of how many episodes were “in the can,” networks now are more likely to air any and all episodes that have been filmed, if only to recoup some costs. Once in a great while, one will surprise. At Halloween, NBC tossed the expensive, but rejected pilot for “The Munsters” remake onto the schedule and it drew an impressive number of viewers. While none of the current canceled shows is likely to experience a ratings bump, they can at least fill air time during December, when TV viewing becomes secondary to holiday shopping.


Shopping also is the reason networks pick Thanksgiving week to dump series. Networks can be fairly certain the “bad news” is lost in the shuffling of coupons and newspaper ads, at least until pesky columns such as this spill the beans. While we’re at it, here are a few more post-Thanksgiving morsels:


At least three more series are unlikely to make it through the season: Fox’s “Ben and Kate,” NBC’s “Guys with Kids” and ABC’s second-year disaster, “Don”t Trust the B in Apt. 23.”


Wonder if Angus T. Jones collared ABC about that filthy ‘B” word?


I have no problem with Jones bad-mouthing his own show (while still collecting that reported $350,000-per-episode fee,of course), but telling people not to watch his “Two and One-Half Men” is presumptuous, much like actors telling us who to vote for. 


Since “Two and One-Half Men” is still the third highest-rated sitcom on the networks, it’s highly unlikely to be canceled. As Jones’s “Jake” character is already in the service, having him lost in some foreign country for the remainder of the show’s run is very plausible and in keeping with the actions of the scatterbrained character. There are also multiple ways to add another “one-half man” to the comedy, if that’s even necessary at this point. 


It’s always been amusing to me that the most interesting (and sometimes funniest) characters on “Men” are the women – Berta (Conchata) and Evelyn (Holland Taylor).


If you’re still worried about a possible cancellation of “Men,” consider this. The top five syndicated shows in the country are, in order, “Big Bang Theory,” “Judge Judy,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy” and “Two and One-Half Men.” As syndication is the end-game pot of gold for TV series, no one’s going to shut down the series while that lucrative pipeline to reruns remains.


“Partners” notwithstanding, new sitcoms are doing well this year, with the surprising “Neighbors,”  “Go On” and “The New Normal” all likely to get a second season. The jury is still out on “Malibu Country” and sophomore entry, “Last Man Standing” but both received good news last week – an additional order of five episodes.While I’m not sure America will ever endorse ABC’s “TGIF” concept again – we’ve moved beyond “family night” – both sitcoms are winning their timeslots in the 18-49 age group.


Don’t think anyone noticed – or perhaps cared – that “Standing” changed out the oldest daughter for another actress this year. Unfortunately, none of the three daughters have the charisma of Allen’s three “sons” on “Home Improvement.”


Expect “Last Man Standing” to get a one-time ratings boost when Allen’s former co-star Richard Karn (“Al”) makes a guest appearance.


It says here that ratings for almost all of the Christmas specials aired in the last two weeks, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” SNL Christmas” and “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” are up over previous years. That’s usually a sign that we’re in a recession, so don’t tell anybody.


It might also be a sign that people are tired of cookie-cutter procedural dramas.


Oh, and “filthy” sitcoms.


Awards shows have also been trending upward in recent years, but that track record was broken by last month’s “American Music Awards.” which tanked when pitted against the Steelers-Ravens game. My guess is that the show – which featured Justin Bieber – will recover considerably when DVR ratings are released. Can’t imagine too many households opting for the Beeb over that NFL matchup.


Perennial ratings champ CBS, which is taking a bit of a beating from NBC’s “Revolution” and company this season, is finally going to offer some legitimate summer programming. It’s airing the 13-part “Under the Dome,” a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Stephen King.


Not surprisingly, “Dome” is in the same sci-fi vein as “Revolution.” Innovation has never been CBS’s forte.


By the way, if you haven’t seen Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” you should. It’s riviting viewing and a cinch to win multiple acting honors. I suspect it could win “Best Picture,” too, if Spielberg had known when to quit. There is a tone-perfect, inspiring and uplifitng end point about 10 minutes before the movie’s conclusion. Unfortunately, Spielberg tacked on a few more totally unnecessary scenes.


It also was a little disconcerting that the “f” bomb was tossed into the middle of the historical drama, if only for comic effect.


Angus, you’ve been warned.


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