Now that the new TV season is under way people are laying odds as to which show will be the first to get the hook by the US networks. There are something like 21 new shows appearing on American network TV and it's not unusual these days for the axe to fall quickly. Last year, there were shows that were gone after just two or three weeks. It's not even unheard of for shows to be cancelled after one showing. It's like the Broadway show that closes after one night ( a la "The Producers").
Officially, this is Week One, and nothing's gone, yet. The new FOX shows like Vanished, Justice, Standoff and Celebrity Duets all made their debuts in the last couple of weeks, and none of those shows look ready to leave the schedule yet. There's also massively-hyped shows like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and you know there will be an audience to see that. So that narrows the field down a bit and makes the job of picking the first show to get the hook a little easier.
The people over at Brilliant but Cancelled have a death pool going and you can find it at www.brilliantbutcancelled.com/deathwatch. The current odds favor Fox sitcom Happy Hour at 3:1, followed by ABC's Men in Trees at 4:1 and Ugly Betty at 10:1. They also have the lame Ted Danson sitcom Help Me Help You listed among the top five shows that could get an early boot.
Usually in predicting these sorts of dismissals it's pretty easy: if the show looks lame, it probably is. Also, you have to figure any show in a terrible timeslot is likely to get killed. In this case, I am likely to agree with the odds and say that Happy Hour is going to get the boot, because sitcoms are usually the first to go and this show looks like a train wreck.
I was up in the air between that show and Help Me Help You. But I'm more inclined to think that Ted Danson's name recognition will keep his show going for more than a couple of weeks--- all his die-hard fans will tune in. But name recognition doesn't always work. A fat lot of good it did Don Johnson to be on the WB's Just Legal, the show was cancelled after three weeks! I think Ted Danson's associated himself with a loser of a show and everyone knows it, and I think ABC has a lot of stale ideas. This show is basically a rehash of Dear John, the old Judd Hirsch show on NBC. And Men in Trees looks like a rehash of Northern Exposure. In fact, I hate ABC's entire schedule. I think they're in for a really bad year and I think lots of ABC shows are going to be cancelled-- possibly all of them before the season is over.
I'm not convinced Men in Trees will be cancelled quickly, in part because it has weak competition on Fridays to deal with, and people are saying it might actually be a good show. But I'm not going to watch it, and from the looks of it not many others will either- a lot of people say they hate the whole idea. As for Ugly Betty, this show has been given a prime Thursday lead-in to their big hope Grey's Anatomy and I'm convinced this is suicide: ABC is going to get slaughtered by CBS. I don't care how good Grey's Anatomy is, they will have to move that show. I know that people say this Ugly Betty show has been a big intenational hit in the Spanish language and all that. This show got its start in Colombia and swept the world apparently. But this isn't Colombia we're talking about here, it's the United States of America, and just because a show is a big hit outside of the USA means nothing: heck, look at what happened to Coupling on NBC, it was gone after a few weeks! And these Latin Americans have different tastes from Americans; they watch lots of beauty contests on TV and are generally obsessed with looks and fashion and all that nonsense on their TV shows. They'd watch Las Vegas, and Nash Bridges, and Baywatch and all this other escapist junk with beautiful people in them. Americans aren't interested in any of that, in fact they freak out the moment they see a woman in a bikini on TV! So I just don't know if Ugly Betty, a show about fashion and looks, will play well with a US audience. It'll either be a huge hit or a big train wreck, one or the other.
I think the real betting pool is determining which new shows survive to a second season! I've collected back issues of TV Guide for years and these fall preview issues are all packed with writeups of all these forgotten-about shows, none of which survived very long. Usually it's about seven or eight new fall shows that even make it to a second season; the rest are all cancelled. In fact, back in 1978 programming legend Fred Silverman famously junked the entire fall lineup of new NBC shows after only a couple of months. That's every new show on NBC, cancelled. Johnny Carson made jokes about it, said NBC stood for "Nine Bombs Cancelled". And they're even more trigger-happy these days! Those were the good old days when shows were given a minimum four weeks to get their act together. I really don't see a lot of big hits on the schedule this year, I think a lot of shows are going to end up getting the axe.