Thursday, January 7, 2010

Volume 4, Number 5: Life On Mars Cut Short

(Note: I originally posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on March 17, 2009.)

I got word the other day that ABC has cancelled Life On Mars. The only good news arising out of all this is that ABC told its producers now so that they can plan a series finale (as opposed to cancelling the series with so many loose ends untied, which is what happens with most TV shows). ABC also canned Dirty Sexy Money and Eli Stone, but did not give their producers the opportunity to tie up their "loose ends."

Another fan of LOM reminded me how it stunk that ABC pulled the series off its schedule for two months, which undoubtedly hurt LOM's ratings upon its return in late January; when it did return, they aired episodes out of sequence (which was particularly galling because the previous episode was the first part of a 2-part episode).

Then again, I should know better than to trust ABC. Back in 1991, Robert Iger had just become head of ABC Entertainment when he decided to trash a bunch of shows his predecessor (Brandon Stoddard) put on the schedule (Gabriel's Fire, China Beach); he also never gave Life Goes On a chance, first by keeping it on Sunday nights at 7pm (opposite CBS' 60 Minutes) instead of moving it to a better timeslot, then by shortening its final season to 17 episodes (during which LGO was pre-empted at least twice in favor of political infomercials). Curiously, although ABC slipped to third place among the broadcast networks on Iger's watch (it had risen to second under Stoddard), Iger has since become the head honcho at ABC's parent company, The Walt Disney Company. Over the years, it's become obvious that Iger prefers low-cost, high-profit programming (like America's Funniest Videos, and then look at the Disney Channel, which features kiddie sitcoms as Hannah Montana, That's So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place; and then there are those High School Musical movies) over very good but relatively expensive storytelling.

That's not to say the other networks haven't been perfect themselves. CBS screwed Christy out of what could have been a long run, first by pulling it off the schedule, then putting it on different nights of this week, then cancelling it in favor of such garbage as Central Park West (an utterly forgettable rip-off of Fox soap Melrose Place); NBC canned a great political sitcom called The Powers That Be in the early '90s; Fox drew the ire of millions by cancelling Firefly and Arrested Development before their time; and (this is a personal wish of mine) UPN should have given the Leonard Nimoy-produced action/fantasy series Deadly Games more than just 12 episodes. But the execs behind those decisions are gone. (I think so, anyway.) Iger isn't.

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