We’ve come to that point in a new television season when what excitement there is to be had comes not from anticipating which new shows might actually be good, but in surveying the carnage of which of these new shows have been canceled first.
Friday afternoon and evening provided a slew of freshman series cancellation news. Handling the news like a political firing, the networks announced after close of business on Friday that three fairly high-profile new fall shows had already been canceled. ABC announced that it was axing Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue, though at least the network will allow all 13 episodes of each of those series already in the can to air in their usual timeslot. Meanwhile, CBS announced that Partners, the weak link in its Monday night multi-camera sitcom lineup, was to be canceled immediately. Reruns of Two and a Half Men will start airing in the new comedy’s timeslot starting tonight.
All three of these news shows were obviously very different and took different routes toward cancellation. Last Resort, the latest from respected showrunner Shawn Ryan, was extremely ambitious and extremely critically acclaimed (including by me) but these qualities weren’t enough to overcome its terrible-for-an-ABC-drama Thursday night timeslot. Last Resort joins Charlie’s Angels, My Generation, and Missing as recent ABC Thursday night dramas which failed to last even one full season.
As is so often the case in the TV business, Last Resort failed to transform its critical acclaim into ratings. The series was averaging 7.3 million viewers total and 1.7 million “in the demo” (viewers age 18-49). The most recent episode had the lowest numbers to date with 5.8 million total and 1.2 million in the demo. While these numbers may have been enough to save Ryan’s brilliant 2010 FX Network series Terriers, they aren’t enough on a broadcast network, particularly for the show being asked to open Thursday night, a hugely valuable piece of real estate for advertisers. In addition, the series was an odd fit for ABC, which is seen as “soapy and femme-skewing” in tradespeak terms.
Fellow freshman ABC drama 666 Park Avenue was similarly ambitious, though perhaps a better fit for ABC with its soapy undertones and concern with the doings of attractive rich people. In addition, as the AV Club’s Sean O’Neal memorably puts it, it had the full proof ratings strategy of ”a Sunday evening time slot that took advantage of those who dozed off in a wine-soaked stupor after Revenge.” Even with that advantage, it struggled even more than Last Resort. The most recent hour only scored 4 million overall viewers and 1.3 million in the demo.
Meanwhile, over on CBS the “Tiffany Network” dealt with the presence of a rare underperforming asset within their Monday night schlocky multi-camera sitcom block with swift, rough justice. As TV by the Numbers points out Partners was CBS’s worst-rated comedy by a wide margin, this despite having a great timeslot that saw it sandwiched between perennial ratings juggernauts Two Broke Girls and How I Met Your Mother. As a result, Partners was unceremoniously pulled from the schedule immediately, to be replaced by Two and a Half Men reruns starting tonight.
Partners was the creation of David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the writing duo who created Will and Grace. The two long thought that their dynamic as a gay man and a straight man who are best friends/creative partners would be a good basis for a show and have been shopping the concept around since the early 2000s. The problem is that in 2012 the concept now seems completely passé. As Todd VanDerWerff, the hardest working TV critic in the business, puts it: “And two of the characters are a gay couple, one of whom is a business partner (and best friend) of a straight guy. The two share an architectural firm, where they talk frankly about love and life and making their way in the world today. And if all of that sounds impressive and exciting and cutting edge to you, then, congratulations. You live in 1996.”
Partners represents a rare second cancellation of the season for CBS, which seldom has to deal with underperforming shows. It already canceled the terrible new legal drama Made in Jersey. All these shows join NBC’s Animal Practice, aka the show with the monkey in it, on the short list of new fall shows which have already been cancelled.
ABC Cancels Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue [The Hollywood Reporter]