Fall TV lineup is a mixed bag
blog by The Canisius Griffin • October 18, 2011 @ 4:25pm
The Fall TV season is well underway, and networks are pulling out all the stops to attract new viewers. As with previous years, there are certain themes carrying along the new offerings. Some capitalize on the success while others fail to stand out in the crowd. It’s open season, though, and networks won’t wait long to start canceling shows that don’t deliver in the ratings.
“Mad Men” has been around since 2007, but it’s taken until now for other networks to copy the show’s 1960s setting. ABC has Christina Ricci starring in “Pan Am,” about the glamorous life of flight attendants, which has been performing fairly well in its 10 p.m. slot on Sundays. While not set in the fast paced world of advertising, the show borrows its swinging 60s setting. NBC hoped to achieve similar success with its racy “The Playboy Club” but learned the hard way that setting your show in a popular decade does not make a successful show. After three episodes of mediocre ratings, in the 3.4 million range, NBC pulled the plug, certainly pleasing the Parents Television Council in the process.
Steven Spielberg is back in his element. After a successful summer run with TNT’s “Falling Skies,” Amblin Entertainment’s head honcho transitioned from aliens to dinosaurs with his ambitious new project “Terra Nova.” The series follows an average American family, the Shannons, and transports them back in time 85 million years to a prehistoric version of earth inhabited by a much more vicious Barney and friends. After an oversized, two-hour season premiere, the show settled in to its regular Monday 8 p.m. timeslot.
Quirky female driven comedies are apparently all the rage this season as well. Fox’s “New Girl” has been a surprise hit, delivering consistent ratings since debuting a few weeks ago. The Zooey Deschanel sitcom follows Jess, a girl that moves in with three guys after a bad breakup. She’s not the only wacky roommate show on the docket, though. CBS’ “2 Broke Girls” stars Kat Dennings as streetwise Max and Beth Behrs as recently bankrupted trust fund baby Caroline living together and working at the same diner and has brought in huge ratings for The Eye. In fact, it’s the highest rated freshman series this season – bragging rights if there ever were any.
Of all the new shows though, the biggest surprise has been in a returning program the show following “2 Broke Girls.” “Two and A Half Men” returned without its star Charlie Sheen after a much-publicized meltdown and subsequent comeback. In his place is Ashton Kutcher playing a billionaire yatta, yatta, yatta. Though the ratings have dropped since its premier this season, to no surprise, they have settled at a rate that is matching and at times beating previous seasons of the show. After its gargantuan premiere of 27 million, the show has lost a number of curious viewers interested in seeing a Sheen-less show. Still at 17 million a week, CBS should no longer be nervous about losing its biggest, but also most expensive star.
Other returning shows include NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup, consisting of “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Community” and new to the lineup “Whitney.” Fox’s “Animation Domination” is back, too, with fan favorites “Family Guy,” “The Simpons” and “American Dad.” FX has returned with “It’s Always Sunny,” and “South Park” is back on Comedy Central. The CW is also making an effort with its new Sarah Michelle Gellar series “The Ringer,” her first since “Buffy,” and is hoping their reliable “Vampire Diaries” audience is also interested in witches with the show “The Secret Circle.”
Plenty of shows are beginning to settle in and find their audiences. While some are secure with strong lead-ins and block schedules, others still face uncertain futures. While “The Playboy Club” searches for a new home (and hopefully one that’s not afraid to show a little skin), other shows will continue their full on advertising assault hoping to lure you away from your studies.
By Sam Scarcello & Tom Ippolito