The big media story lately is the death of all the new serialized dramas the networks have launched over the past two years in an attempt to captue the success of LOST, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and 24. Basically, nobody seems to have the time, energy, or trust to commit to a deep, lasting and meantingful relationship with more than one or two of these series. After the death of shows like SURFACE, KIDNAPPED, REUNION, THIEF, INVASION, SMITH, and the anemic ratings of VANISHED, THREE DEGREES and THE NINE, The New York Times reports that the networks are finally getting the hint:
In every television season
some new lesson about the American audience is imparted. This season’s
lesson was clear within the first weeks of the fall: you can ask people
to commit only so many hours to intense, dark, intricately constructed
serialized dramas, to sign huge chunks of their lives away to follow
every minuscule plot development and character tic both on the air and
on Internet sites crowded with similarly addicted fanatics.“The message we received was that people have strains on their
lives,” said Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment. “People
are saying, ‘I’ve got my handful of shows like this, and I don’t want
[…]Dana Walden, president of the 20th Century Fox Television studio,
said: “What the audience seems to be saying is: ‘Enough. We can’t get
involved with more of these.’ ”Logically this result should have been expected. But logic often
runs aground in the offices of television executives who endlessly try
to anticipate the future by repeating the past. Or, as Preston Beckman,
executive vice president for entertainment for the Fox network, put it,
“In this business we always overcompensate.”
Even LOST is feeling the heat. The Los Angeles Times notes that CRIMINAL MINDS, which is in the same time slot, is drawing almost as may viewers these days.
…conventional wisdom would dictate that "Criminal Minds," now in its
second season, should be moldering on TV’s rubbish heap. So why
is the series growing into a bona-fide hit that last week delivered its
most-watched episode ever, with 16.8 million total viewers, just a
shade behind the still-formidable "Lost" (17.1 million), according to
Nielsen Media Research?
"This was the year of serialized dramas trying to recapture lightning in a bottle the way
that ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Lost,’ ’24’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ did,"
said John Rash, director of broadcast negotiations for
Minneapolis-based ad firm Campbell-Mithun. "But almost all of them were
rejected by the audience."
The growth of "Criminal Minds" is
maybe the most convincing proof that not everyone wants to be chained
to a dense, character-packed drama that unspools like a Dickensian
novel. And even those who do have their limits. There is a reason why
formula sells, why genres become generic in the first place.