Tag Archives: Ratings

Life Unexpected – “Formal Reformed”

“Formal Reformed”

March 15th, 2010

I don’t have a whole lot to say about “Formal Reformed,” to be honest: by nature of its winter formal setting, it played into the show’s history exactly as one would expect, and its drama was pretty easy to predict based on the title alone.

However, I think it’s interesting to note that the show ended up being able to contain that rather humongous pile of drama without feeling too burdened, and there is a certain ease about the show which has allowed it to survive some narrative rough patches early in the season. This is the kind of show where we should be questioning how the characters can move so quickly between love and hate, between guy and other guy, or between sister and other sister, but there is something about the show which makes those sorts of transition seem almost natural even when we question the realism of the stories being told.

I’m not convinced that this could ever happen in real life, perhaps, but I totally buy the particular brand of television magic that Life Unexpected is deploying in order to keep thing breezy (but meaningful) as they march towards the end of their short first season.

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Series Premieres: CTV’s Hiccups and Dan for Mayor

Personally, Corner Gas had overstayed its welcome when Brent Butt chose to end its run after its sixth season, but the Canadian public didn’t feel the same way: the show was still a success to the point where CTV would have gladly rode the train to Dog River for as long as possible even if it meant diminished returns (or, for me, more diminished returns). I understood Butt’s decision at the time, in terms of being able to end the show on his terms, but I didn’t particularly care about his decision since I wasn’t, after all, watching the show.

But with the arrival of Hiccups and Dan for Mayor, two new CTV comedies that debuted to impressive numbers on Monday, I have come to see the logic behind his decision. CTV has effectively gotten two shows out of one, with Butt creating (and starring in) Hiccups featuring fellow Corner Gas alum (and wife) Nancy Robertson, and Fred Ewanuick taking on the title role in Dan for Mayor as a follow-up to his role as Hank on Butt’s former show. And as someone who had lost my taste for Corner Gas (while maintaining my respect for the show’s starting point, considering I wrote a thesis chapter about it), it’s nice to see the talented people involved bringing two new series to the table. Butt’s decision kept CTV from leaning on a crutch for too long, and instead pushed them to introduce two new series that can only help the state of original Canadian programming.

I don’t necessarily want to pit the shows against each other, but I don’t know if I have enough to say about either to justify separate posts, so I’ll say this much: I really like Dan for Mayor, and I think that Hiccups is pleasant enough.

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The Olympic Myth: NBC’s Failure Overshadows Parenthood’s Potential Success

The Olympic Myth

March 3rd, 2010

I really should have written this post in advance so I could post it as soon as the headlines started to hit, but alas I held out hope that perhaps we could disconnect ourselves from that particular response to solid, but unspectacular, ratings for NBC’s Parenthood.

This myth that the Olympics are some sort of magical promotional tool is not without some merit, in that NBC used a lot of their airtime with a huge captive audience in order to promote the arrival of this new series, but the intense expectation it places on a show is honestly not worth the trouble. The Olympics promotion is not only supposed to increase a show’s chances at success, but it is also expected to create an audience which may not actually exist, whitewashing any of the other problems that the show might face (whether it be timeslot competition, the lack of a compatible lead-in, etc.).

It’s a situation where you have to wonder: would the show have been better off debuting to lower numbers without the hype, just so that the show might have been seen as a mild disappointment instead of another failure of NBC’s network strategy?

Since Josef Adalain has already posted an analysis of the various potential scenarios for Parenthood at The Wrap, I’m going to add this little wrinkle to the mix: in Canada, it “worked.” CTV’s new comedy series Hiccups and Dan for Mayor debuted to huge numbers (1.9 Million viewers) on Monday night after heavy Olympics promotion, which could be seen as proof that with the right show Olympics promotion can result in big numbers.

Except that people tend to focus on the “Olympic Promotion” rather than “Right Show” part of that equation.

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Battlestar Baggage: Why SyFy’s Caprica Deserves to be Judged On its Own Merits

Battlestar Baggage: SyFy’s Caprica

February 23rd, 2010

Early on in a show’s run, there is always room for improvement. Every show will take time to find its feet, and whether it’s a rough pilot or a case of pilot repetition or a character that feels underdeveloped, all freshman series will have points of contention.

This doesn’t mean that, from a critical perspective, we forgive the show these problems, but it also means that we don’t rake a series over the coals for them. The critic’s job becomes almost like a meteorologist’s, analyzing the storm patterns (the cast, the plot’s general direction, the world-building, etc.) that could eventually develop into a great series or fizzle out quickly. It’s still very much a personal analysis of the situation: Starz’ Spartacus: Blood and Sand was written off by many critics (myself included) as something which would never evolve into anything worthwhile, but I’m hearing from a lot of fans that the show (so long as you lowered your expectations based on the quality of the pilot) is surprising them, so this (like meteorology) is not a precise science in the least.

It’s not often that I’ll outright question negative responses to particular series I enjoy, but I’ll come right out and say it: I don’t get the tepid response to SyFy’s Caprica. Judged as a new series, Caprica has overcome a weak pilot with a series of episodes that demonstrate a clear sense of the world being depicted, offer a complicated moral tightrope for the characters to walk, and take their time in order to let the show’s fantastic sense of atmosphere sink in rather than be thrown in our faces. While it is not perfect in any way, it is subtle when it needs to be subtle, and doesn’t allow its more large-scale developments to deliver only large-scale consequences, making significant progress from its pilot even while taking the time to ruminate on key themes and ideas.

In short, it’s in pretty fantastic shape for a new series, so I really wish that everyone would start judging it as one.

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A Policy of Appeasement: Confronting Jay Leno and Heroes’ Role in NBC’s Future

A Policy of Appeasement: Confronting Jay Leno and Heroes’ Role in NBC’s Future

January 7th, 2010

[Edit: now TMZ is reporting that the plan is for Leno to take over from Conan O’Brien at 11:30, either doing a half-hour show leading into Conan or a full-hour pushing the entire Late Night schedule back with it. As someone who likes Conan, this new is sad on a personal level, but it’s even more sad professionally. While NBC can’t entirely throw away what they’ve started, they apparently believe that they can turn back the clock as if nothing happened. However, they barely have the programming to schedule what they’ve currently got, so what are they going to do with five hours of primetime plus the hellstorm that will come with angering Conan (even if angering Leno by promoting Conan is what created this mess). It’s a move that, if true (as I tweeted, it’s odd that I trust TMZ on celebrity deaths as opposed to something ultimately trivial like this, but I’m skeptical), would demonstrate that NBC believes they are still caught up in correcting mistakes as opposed to turning those mistakes into successes, which isn’t easy but would be more preferable to the madness they’re stirring up if the rumour pans out. Either way, my analysis of what NBC should do below stands.]

There are a lot of problems at NBC. The network is suffering from poor leadership, poor performance from a large bulk of its lineup, and the black hole that is The Jay Leno Show. So when news broke today that a) NBC executives are seriously considering (aka rethinking) Leno’s future and b) Greg Grunberg is convinced that Heroes will definitely be returning for a fifth season, the immediate response amongst people who follow television closely is “Yes!” and “No!” respectively.

These reactions come with a strange sense of certainty, as if the idea that NBC isn’t entirely convinced Leno will be sticking around is a clear sign that he will be cancelled, and that Grunberg’s statement of Heroes “definitely” returning is a sign that the show won’t be deservedly canned before heading into the new year (not everyone reacted with such certainty, but I saw enough of it to make a note of it). And yet, while critically speaking both of these shows would easily be cancelled, NBC is in such a state of flux that any decision could upend whatever sense of stability they have: throwing Leno out too soon, or without attempting to revamp the show first, could anger affiliates/shareholders just as much as pretending nothing is wrong, and cancelling Heroes (which remains a worldwide franchise for the network) could create enough chaos to justify keeping the creatively dead show on the air.

The problems for NBC right now are so great that I don’t put anything past them, and while I have my own opinions about how these two situations will resolve themselves (which I’ll discuss below the fold) I think that NBC is trapped between a rock and a hard place: they’re at the point where accepting defeat isn’t an option as it would only further deflate their reputation, even if it results in a slight uptick in their ratings, as there are simply too many people they need to appease to start over from scratch without damaging those relationships.

Because NBC needs more than a Nielsen point to bounce back.

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An Obligatory “State of NBC” Post: Chuck, Jay and Trouble in Southland

nbc-logosmallAs I was getting back from vacation in New York City (there’s some photos of the trip on Flickr), a number of news pieces hit in regards to NBC, easily the most maligned network at the moment. Part of me almost pities the network, to be honest with you: going into this season, every critic was anxious to tear apart the Jay Leno experiment and almost looking for the network to fail. I don’t think this is entirely unfair, as they have ushered in an environment where television drama has become an endangered species on one of the networks, but I think that it meant that NBC was in the public eye in a way that makes this all seem that much more dramatic.

It was ultimately worse than critics could have imagined, and perhaps the worst case scenario for NBC. Jay is getting about the ratings he needs to be considered profitable but well below what he needs to be considered a “success” by any other metric, and the network has all but imploded around him. Outside of reality, which remains buoyed by The Biggest Loser, the network’s dramas (both new and old) are flatlining in a way that no one could have imagined. While Law & Order wasn’t expected to pop on Friday nights, no one expected its spinoff, Special Victims Unit, to implode on Wednesdays. While Heroes’ slide into the ratings basement has been on display for over a year, dragging Trauma into the grave is predictable but nonetheless tragic. Even the Thursday lineup, one that I genuinely love, feels in some way tainted as Parks and Recreation and Community struggle to find viewers. And, of course, to top it all off the network chose to cancel Southland before even airing its second season premiere.

It’s created a network that feels legitimately toxic, an environment that midseason shows like Chuck are going to be forced to wade into. So, when news broke of Chuck potentially being rushed in at the end of October, it seemed like a desperate move for the network to reverse the critical slide by re-introducing a show that we critical folk love. And, for all of my love for the series (I did just purchase a Jeffster t-shirt, after all), I have to say it: I don’t want it to come back this way.

No good can come of it.

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Fringe – “Night of Desirable Objects”

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“Night of Desirable Objects”

September 24th, 2009

Thursday night television is, well, a night of desirable objects. With the return of Grey’s Anatomy and CSI, along with FlashForward, FOX’s decision to move Fringe into this competitive timeslot proved temporarily terrifying for J.J. Abrams and company as the show plummeted 23% in overnight ratings. Now, Live+7 numbers will ultimately tell the story of how many people DVR’d the show in order to catch the more buzzworthy Grey’s opener, but it’s like a big old red flag that FOX knew was coming, but that it hoped could be avoided. Bones has nicely situated itself in the once Survivor-dominated 8pm timeslot, and FlashForward dominated the timeslot with its premiere and CSI debuted to its own lowest premiere numbers since likely the first or second season.

What’s unfortunate for Fringe is that “Night of Desirable Objects” isn’t particularly desirable, effectively stopping the long-term storylines dead in favour of presenting a pretty simple (and not overly complex) frightfest along with a slow burn reveal regarding Olivia Dunham. For those who want the show to be a full-fledged television serial, it’s the kind of pace changer that turns them off entirely; meanwhile, for those who are mostly tuning in to see Walter have too much fun investigating dead people and to get some cheap thrills with some characters you enjoy, it was a harmless hour of entertainment that did some good work making Olivia more interesting and perhaps provide some laughs or scares along the way.

As someone who kind of sits in between, it was a not entirely unwelcome change of pace, although one that’s likely to prove an ineffective lure for new viewers.

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Parks and Recreation – “The Stakeout”

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“The Stakeout”

September 24th, 2009

Last night’s ratings report, in all of its complexity, has a lot of big stories. Some are positive: FlashForward won its timeslot, Bones held up well against the increased competition, Grey’s Anatomy grabbed what will be the week’s highest demo numbers, and The Vampire Diaries actually grew in a competitive timeslot on The CW. Others, however, are negative, like CSI plummeting to all-new lows while handicapping The Mentalist which struggled to match last year’s premiere numbers in a more high-profile time slot.

However, the real sadness is in the fall of two of NBC’s sitcoms, in particular Parks and Recreation. Community, with its Office lead-in, is in a somewhat safer position and put up solid but significantly lower numbers than last week’s sampling. But Parks, which struggled in the ratings in the Spring, dropped down to the same levels as The Vampire Diaries and is on a sort of ratings life support. In a month, these two shows are going to be sharing this timeslot, and if they’re already struggling that’s only going to get tougher as things move further into the season.

And this is kind of terrible for Parks and Recreation in particular, a show that not only deserves more viewers but deserves to earn back the viewership of those who bailed early in its uneven first season. “The Stakeout” is maybe not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Community’s sophomore episode, but I’d argue that it was the best constructed of the three sitcom episodes on the evening, utilizing its characters to hilarious effect and confirming just how much better the show is this season. It may be struggling in the ratings, but it’s killing where it matters most (to us, if not to NBC).

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Season Premiere: Fringe – “A New Day in the Old Town”

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“A New Day in the Old Town”

September 17th, 2009

From the very beginning, I’ve said that Fringe is a cross between Alias and The X-Files, two shows that were pretty similar to begin with. While The X-Files leaned more towards the blatantly supernatural, both shows dealt with elements of prophecy which linked investigators with the events transpiring, and each dealt with the impact of bureaucracy on such investigations. So when J.J. Abrams created Fringe, in some ways it was an example of a creator taking an element of one of his earlier shows and simply expanding it into a new arena. There is not a huge leap between Rambaldi and the Pattern, and at various point in Fringe’s first season you could see Abrams (along with Orci, Kurtzman, etc.) tweaking the formula in an effort to avoid what happened to Alias, where serialized storytelling overran any chance of the show maintaining a procedural structure.

But at the end of the first season, Fringe truly came into its own. Once the show started more carefully considering the impact of the pattern and really indulging in its serialized side of things, the show picked up a new head of steam. Early complaints about Anna Torv’s performance mostly melted away, and the show should some skill in how it handled the conclusion of Mark Valley’s time on the show and eventually how it introduced the fairly huge development of an alternate universe. By linking said alternate universe both to Peter’s sense of identity and to Walter’s damaged mental state, and by placing the mystery of William Bell directly within it, it became part of the fabric of the show as opposed to tearing it all apart. When we panned out and discovered the Twin Towers still standing in said universe, it was a shocking moment that showed a series very much in control of its own destiny, and not just a collection of leftover ideas from Alias or The X-Files.

And to be honest, I think “A New Day in the Old Town” is probably a far better episode than I’m about to give it credit for, as its ‘big twist’ fundamentally took me out of the episode and right back into feeling as if this is Alias: Part Two for Abrams, in some respects. While parts of the episode really felt like the show that I came to really enjoy at the end of last season, there were other parts which were designed to capture new viewers and to trick unsuspecting viewers into feeling sad, or concerned, or anything else. It’s a trap that is often considered necessary for procedurals (which Fringe technically is), but by delaying the resolution to last season’s cliffhanger and providing a simulation of conflict it felt as if the episode was all about that big twist at the end…and when that was Abrams blatantly ripping himself off, I guess I’m just not as excited about this episode as I expected myself to be back in May.

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The Dichotomy of Spontaneous Familiarity: Reviewing The Jay Leno Show

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The Dichotomy of Spontaneous Familiarity

Reviewing The Jay Leno Show

Spontaneity is not Jay Leno’s forte.

That’s really the whole point of Leno’s appeal, at the end of the day – people tuned in at 11:30 at alarming rates because of what they deemed his charming nature, making him like just another part of your nightly tradition. But in relaunching himself as part of the Jay Leno Show, which started tonight on NBC and which will air five nights a week until…well, we don’t quite know.

See, what’s strange about The Jay Leno Show is that they want it to seem spontaneous. They want it to seem like an old variety show, with special guests and different bits and no stuffy desk. So when Leno walks out to his new set, a group of people “spontaneously” rush the stage and crowd around to high five their favourite talk show host for a set period of time. It is true that the crowd seems to enjoy having Jay back, but he’s stuck in a really weird place: he has to appeal to those same viewers while enticing entirely new demographics (who weren’t watching his show before) to tune in. As such, he needs to be appear spontaneous in order to broaden his appeal, and yet at the same time not actually be spontaneous at all so as to appease the crowd who watched him so religiously and who will soon have other options (like CBS’ crime shows, which tend to appeal to the same crowd).

In the end, as a hardened critic who’s on the lower end of the key demographic and who has never particularly enjoyed Leno’s brand of comedy, I wasn’t a fan. However, the problem with the show is that it seemed desperate to try to make me into a fan, a position which was neither spontaneous nor charming, and as such my verdict is clear: on every measurable scale of subjective observation, the Jay Leno Show is an egotistical failure.

But if it turns into an economic success, trust that we’ll be dealing with it for a while.

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