If you’re anything like me, there’s a slew of TV series that premiere in the warmer months, after school ends and responsibilities fall by the wayside, that you wait around all year for. “True Blood,” perhaps? “Orange Is the New Black?” Maybe it was “Weeds” or “The Closer?” Or maybe it will be “The Leftovers” or “The Strain?” To some, summertime equals vacations, beaches, sunshine. But to us, it’s all about television.

It wasn’t always like that. Years ago, the months between May and September were a TV wasteland, back during a time when the broadcast networks — the likes of CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX — were all that existed and people would actually go outside and enjoy what the season had to offer. Since the advent of cable — and with it, quality summer offerings from dozens of providers — the old fashioned broadcast nets have been forced to play catch-up. But as I watched the latest episode of “Extant,” perhaps the biggest investment a broadcast network has ever made in the lower-rated season, I couldn’t help but think … this is the best they can do?

“Extant” is CBS’s expensive 13-episode sci-fi epic, executive produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Halle Berry in her first regular television role since 1989. That sentence alone is enough to make any TV executive drool, so, not surprisingly, the drama was ordered straight-to-series, bypassing the pilot stage and ensuring a comfortable launch date accompanied by a significant marketing campaign. However, when “Extant” finally hit the screens on July 9, its critical and commercial reception was more or less a resounding shrug. By episode four, the series’ timeslot had already been shifted and its ratings were losing out to “Sharknado 2: The Second One.”

This from the man who gave us “ET,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the perennially underrated “AI: Artificial Intelligence,” and the woman who made history as the first black Best Actress recipient. Despite a cable-sized episode order, a summer launch and Academy Award winning talent — both behind and in front of the camera — “Extant” is just further evidence of the broadcast network’s continued struggle to compete with the likes of FX, AMC and HBO. And as we grow more and more accustomed to having our televisual expectations shattered — in the last year alone we’ve seen “Game of Thrones,” “True Detective,” “Mad Men,” “Fargo,” “Masters of Sex” and the final season of “Breaking Bad” boldly push the bounds of storytelling — broadcast’s situation is even more dire. Middling just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The biggest hurdle facing the broadcast networks in their struggle for relevance is unfortunately a defining piece of their DNA. Because broadcast networks cater first and foremost to advertisers, the standards and practices are much harsher — after all, if Walter White were slinging crystal meth on a free network at 9 o’clock on a school night, it would be pretty hard for Applebee’s to sell their wholesome, eatin’ good in the neighborhood routine at the commercial break. Rather than let the creatives simply create, there’s a lot more corporate intervention at the broadcast level.

Commercial breaks also create their own challenges. Which is to say, commercials are the worst. The more interruptions within a program, the harder the show has to work to keep viewers engaged. On broadcast, where it can feel like advertisements eat up half the running time of your favorite show, writers are forced to write for interludes, delivering mini cliffhangers and climaxes over and over throughout the hour. If you’re not a “Scandal” or a “Blacklist,” on which the constant crazy twists and turns are justified, the forced frenetic pacing and artificial story lines can be a deal breaker. (Looking at you, “Nashville.”) For a series like “Masters of Sex,” consistently breaking the narrative would hinder its slow-build, making its tense writing seem boring or eventless.

It also doesn’t help that the ratings expectations are still much higher on a network like CBS or ABC. Even the critical successes on broadcast — that are few and far between — are marred for failing to attract the massive audiences a series like “ER” or even “Desperate Housewives” once garnered. The best broadcast series (see “Hannibal,” “The Good Wife,” “Hannibal,” “Parenthood,” “Hannibal”) aren’t rewarded with undying network support, but rather labeled as “bubble” series on the chopping block every year. (Seriously, watch “Hannibal.”) The general message sent to audiences: a great show with bad ratings on cable is still a great show, but a great show with bad ratings on broadcast is a failure.

“Extant” isn’t a great show. Far from it. At best, it teeters the line between entertaining and something marginally more substantial than that. Despite the caliber of talent and early enthusiasm from the network, it’s proven to be nothing more than a product of its environment. The sophistication is half-baked, the storytelling is impatient and creator Mickey Fisher’s vision seems to have been meddled with. It’s even more disappointing to think how good this series could have been.

Instead of forging its place somewhere in the heightened zeitgeist, “Extant” seems destined to exit quietly after just one season. (Ironically, the definition of extant is to continue to exist.) But if it has just one lasting impact, the series has simply highlighted broadcast television’s quality free-fall — and how powerless the networks might be to stop it. Because ultimately, if Steven Spielberg, Halle Berry and mysterious alien pregnancies can’t do it … what can?

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