What do ABC’s “The Court,” and “Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)” and CBS’s “AFP: American Fighter Pilot” have in common?
They’ve both been pulled from the air within three episodes of their debuts. These shows join the critically claimed “Once and Again,” and the FOX animated series “Futurama” and “The Family Guy” as this season’s victims. But at least the latter shows lasted for over a season.
Every season, the networks debut dozens of new sitcoms and dramas, hoping they fall in their respective niches. But for every “Alias” or “The Osbournes,” a “Bob Patterson Show” slips through and manages to embarrass the networks.
Some shows have a chance of returning. The Julia Louis-Dreyfus vehicle, “Watching Ellie,” may return on NBC. “AFP” may run its last six episodes in the summer. But for the majority of shows, cancellation means it’s time to move on.
With Nielsen ratings often comparable to WB and UPN shows, these series stand no chance in the cutthroat sweeps competitions. Occasionally an awful show will manage to hold on for a few episodes (“Baby Bob”), but natural selection will eventually weed it out.
The problems with building followings for new shows range from seemingly invincible competition – for example, competing against “Friends” on Thursday nights – to general viewer apathy in certain time slots (Fridays and Saturdays in particular). Thus, ratings don’t always tell the full story. Not every show can develop fans by following “Survivor” like “CSI” did, beginning last year.
“The Court” is an example of a show that never had time to correct its flaws. It wasn’t a particularly bad show, and with time to correct its flaws, it may have stood a chance. But ABC wasn’t willing to give it time.
“AFP” couldn’t even rally post-Sept. 11 patriotism to garner intererest in its chronicling of three fighter pilots preparing to take on their first missions.
“Wednesday” was just a poor show, with very little chance of ever succeeding. Few will cry over this cancellation.