The broadcast networks have canceled (or all-but canceled) five shows so far this season, exactly the number pulled from the airwaves by this time a year ago. But one crucial difference between this year and last: This year has some breakout hits.
The cancellations help illuminate several trends about the season: Funny women are thriving. The dramas that have done the worst, as a group, are the ones that made the most naked attempts at sex appeal.
And NBC has been hit the hardest by cancellations.
Three shows this season — NBC’s “The Playboy Club,” and ABC’s “Charlie’s Angels” and “Pan Am” — tried to lure men and women alike by putting bold women in dramatic situations and tight clothing. It didn’t work with “The Playboy Club” or “Charlie’s Angels,” the first and only two dramas of the season to be canceled.
“Pan Am,” easily the smartest and least jiggly of the three shows, is earning only decent ratings and trying hard to fly right. Its cast is on a promotional tear to draw more eyes to the series.
NBC’s Still Struggling
So far every network has been hit with a cancellation except for Fox. Only NBC has suffered two: “The Playboy Club” and “Free Agents,” which took a sometimes somber look at the dating habits of grown-ups. NBC seized on the cancellations to try to promote two shows for which it has high hopes.
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The most successful shows of the new season includes CBS’s “2 Broke Girls,” the biggest new show overall, and Fox’s “The New Girl,” the most successful new show on the network. NBC’s high hopes for “Whitney” are obvious — the network is trying to increase sampling of the show by giving it the timeslot “Free Agents” left behind.
Here’s our roundup of the new fall shows that have fallen so far. We’ll miss them. Well, some of them.
THE PLAYBOY CLUB (NBC)
Debuted: Monday, Sept. 19, 10 p.m.
Canceled: NBC nipped the tail of its bouncy bunny drama on Tuesday, Oct. 4, the day after its third airing received a mere 1.2 rating in the cherished 18 to 49 demographic. Now we’ll never know if Bunny Maureen and lawyer Nick can keep hiding the — wait, you have no idea who these people are? Unfortunately for NBC, you aren’t alone.
Status: Pulled from the airwaves and replaced with repeats of the low-rated “Prime Suspect,” for which NBC hopes to increase sampling.
Why it failed: Contrary to everything cynics might have expected, viewers didn’t want to watch beautiful women in revealing clothes. Or maybe they did, but we live in a world where that kind of thing is readily available, without commercial interruptions, a 1960s setting, and subplots involving fictional, half-century-old political campaigns.
FREE AGENTS (NBC)
Debuted: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 10:30 p.m.; moved the next week to its regular time, 8:30 p.m.
Canceled: Again showing decisiveness in defeat, NBC canceled the Hank Azaria-Kathryn Hahn comedy on Oct. 6, the day after it scored a mere 1.0 rating with its fourth episode — just as it canceled “The Playboy Club” the day after its third airing earned a paltry rating.
Status: Pulled from the airwaves and replaced with repeats of “Whitney.”
Why it failed: “Free Agents” had an at-least decent lead-in from “Up All Night,” the Will Arnett-Christina Applegate-Maya Rudolph new-baby comedy. But its sometimes dark take on relationships made it a tough sell. Its first episode featured a grown-man crying after sex in the first scene.
CHARLIE’S ANGELS (ABC)
Debuted: Thursday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.
Canceled: Proving that the failure of Jigglevision isn’t limited to period pieces, the ultra-modern “Charlie’s Angels” was canceled Oct. 14 after four episodes. By then it had fallen from its decent 2.1 premiere rating to a 1.3.
Status: Remaining episodes are airing in its original timeslot
Why it failed: This year’s poster girl for the “TV has no new ideas” whiners coudn’t capture the dumb fun of its 1970s predecessor. The notion of hot women solving crimes in sexy disguises is a bit anachronistic, so the show took itself awfully seriously to make up for those outfits.
HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN (CBS)
Debuted: Thursday, Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m.
Status: “Gentleman” isn’t technically, officially, 100 percent canceled. But it’s very unlikely to come back. Production has been halted on the show and its remaining episodes are airing Saturday nights — the TV equivalent of the pasture. If it somehow becomes a big hit on Saturdays, it could theoretically go back into production. But nothing hits big on Saturdays.
Why it failed: It debuted to a 2.7 demo rating, down 33 percent from the eventually canceled “$#*! My Dad Says.” In its second week, it fell to a 2.5. Those numbers wouldn’t be so bad, except that the show’s lead-in, “The Big Bang Theory,” is a huge hit: It managed a 4.4 rating on the night “Gentleman” scored only a 2.5. CBS moved it to Saturdays on Oct. 7, after its second episode, and then quietly shut it down.
We had high hopes for the show given its pedigree: creator-star David Hornsby is very funny as a writer and actor on FX’s brilliant “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the supporting cast includes comic genius Dave Foley, and we’ve always liked Mary Lynn Rajskub and Kevin Dillon. But it’s tough to sell a show with an actual gentleman at its center, so the show was promoted as an “Odd Couple” rehash. Viewers weren’t interested.
Debuted: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m.
Status: Like “Gentleman,” “H8R” isn’t officially canceled. But on Oct. 6 it was pulled from the CW’s schedule, with no plans to air its remaining episodes until summer, at earliest. If it thrives there, it could theoretically, be given another chance.
Why it failed: “H8R” has a fun concept: fans meet celebrities they despise. But the show watered down the H8Rade by inevitably doing damage control for those celebrities. Like everything on the young CW network, the show also didn’t draw as many eyes as shows on the more established broadcasters. Its last episode had only a 0.4 rating in the demo.