In which we dig in to each specific channel, seeing if there really is something to this whole “channel personality” thing
We’re in a tiny dead zone for television, just before everything comes back for its final storm towards the end of the season. I thought this would be a good time to take a look at individual channels, and see how they’ve fared over the last season. I also want to see if all every channel has a sort of personality, like we’ve given to HBO and AMC.
We’re going to start with ABC, the least relevant channel on television. It owns one night, Wednesdays, where Modern Family anchors an entire night of comedy, along with The Middle and Suburgatory, neither of which is bad. The problem spot has been at 9:30. Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night received that plush post-Modern Family spot in the fall, but it was pretty sucky, and is probably being driven out to the farm right now. It’s getting replaced with Mixology, which – having never seen an episode – should be heading straight to that same farm very soon. Is there a single network that has a single night full of successful comedies? NBC had Thursdays forever, but that was forever ago. Now it seems like if you can go three for four, you’re doing good.
ABC was supposed to have another night all to themselves this year on Tuesdays. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD was the highest profile show of the fall, which means it also gets the highest profile fail stamp. The show isn’t as terrible as you’ve heard, and the ratings aren’t as low as you’ve heard, but it definitely isn’t coming close to hitting its expectations. The interesting part is trying to figure out who is responsible.
In one corner, we have ABC, who hasn’t really done anything right in a decade. I can’t think of a single show that we could use as proof that ABC could do an action show, much less a superhero show, well. This is where we start to get into the personality of the channel. Does it boil down to The Avengers divided by ABC’s personality = Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. If that’s the case, ABC sucks. It’s a bit of a doof, and scared of doing anything resembling PG-13 or higher. But Marvel Studios and the Whedons had their hands all over this. Why would you trust ABC to handle your property, which also happens to be the third biggest movie of all time? Did Marvel hamstring ABC? Marvel will protect its franchise at all costs, which should mean making sure it’s of high quality, but instead means that it won’t let the show use any of the Marvel characters that may be in a movie at some point someday. It took them 15 episodes to get to Deathlok. Deathlok! More like Who Gives a Deathfuck. Yeah. Name your character that, ABC.
OK, so it’s Marvel’s fault. But if that’s the case, why are the next four Marvel shows, based on “street-level” characters not flashy enough for movies, debuting on Netflix? Disney owns Marvel. Disney owns ABC. ABC is struggling to survive. Marvel, despite SHIELD, is the hottest property in the world right now. How could this happen? There’s only two reasons I can think of. One: they want these shows to be R-rated (which seems unlikely. Other than a well-place shit or two, Marvel movies are pretty tame). Two: You can’t trust ABC to do shit.
You know how I know that it’s option #2? While they were fucking up the biggest franchise on the planet, they were fucking up the biggest potential franchise on their network. To be fair, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland wasn’t garbage. It was equal in quality to its sister show. I have no idea why the ratings were so low. Maybe it’s because the show just felt different. Familiar characters, but in a show that seemed like it was made by entirely different people. People wanted more of the same, which is a network’s favorite thing to give them, and ABC blew it by giving them something different. Fucking ABC.
Although not as big of a deal as SHIELD, this still sucks ass for ABC. Once Upon a Time seems to be a pretty beloved show. It has a billion characters that everyone, whether you watch the show or not, has heard of. Any of these characters could be spun off into their own show, with ABC crossing their fingers that the audience will stick around. If Wonderland was successful, they could have created a third show, and have had an entire Once Upon night. A night they wouldn’t have to worry about for a while. A night where a moderate but loyal audience hunkered down every week for three hours with no thought of touching the remote control. They could have had their own fantasy CSI. And they blew it. There’s no “Let’s try again” here. This show took such a big shit that it has ruined its Once Upon credibility with all of its viewers. FUCKING ABC.
So is that all there is to ABC? The klutzy fuck up who, no matter how much tape you put on its hands and how many pillows you put on the floor, will still smash the vase the second you hand it to them? (This analogy has been brought to you by Finneran’s Vase Tape, the Vase Tape for your hands.) Sort of…but then there’s this other thing ABC has: a stable of high-profileish (for a major network) dramas.
Castle. Grey’s Anatomy. Nashville. Revenge. Scandal. The aforementioned Once Upon a Time and SHIELD. None of those are ER in its prime, but none of them are Smash either. They are all relatively well-received by critics and/or citizens. Seeing them all lined up like that, it’s almost impressive. But each one feels like it’s on the brink of disaster. They are either old, and their death is impending (Anatomy), or they keep moving backwards after hot starts (Scandal, Revenge) This makes it hard for ABC exec’s to sleep at night – even their successes are lined with failure – but I think this does point the way for what the personality of the channel should be, if it’s not already: daytime at night. Somewhere between The Sopranos and They bumblefucked the SHIELD vase because it’s not what they do. I don’t want channels to have a narrow mind, but that’s the way it works now. People who want to watch SHIELD don’t want to watch ABC’s personality. And people who watch ABC don’t want to watch SHIELD. I think this is honestly where we’re headed, folks. Everything is getting so nichey that even the things we look to to not be niche have to get a little nichey. And it looks like that niche for ABC is decidedly not going to be the Marvel Universe. It should be the Shonda Rimes universe.
To prove ABC’s schizophrenia, look no further than it’s fall offerings, which could be at best described as a clusterfuck of bullshit garbage. Although I don’t think it’s technically renewed, SHIELD’s renewal is probably a slam dunk. Other than that…yikes. Betrayal, Killer Women and Lucky 7, all hoping to join that above list of mediocre dramas, were all DOA, airing one or two episodes each before getting their plug pulled. Betrayal, on paper, seemed right in ABC’s wheelhouse. Unfortunately for ABC, even their most ardent viewers have some standards. Of the four comedies that ABC premiered in September, Back in the Game was yanked as soon as possible, while the other three limped to the finish line. As I said earlier, Super Fun Night is probably dust. That leaves the two Tuesday night comedies, which were “destined” to become hits thanks to their SHIELD lead in. The kinda-OK one, Trophy Wife, will probably be canceled, while the kinda-horrible one, The Goldbergs, will probably be picked up for a second season. Because that’s the way shit works.
Finally, there’s Friday night. The death night. The night no one watches TV. Shows that are banished to this graveyard are never to be heard of again. Except that the once and mighty ABC used to have something called TGIF, a lineup of the greatest shows of all time, assuming you’ve been decapitated. Are they attempting to recreate that greatness? Is it working? This is where you can find ABC’s last three camera sitcom standing, called Last Man Standing and the alien show The Neighbors. Neither of these shows gel with anything else (on any channel). Neither of them get good ratings, but every year do just well enough to not get canceled. Why not bring TGIF back? Why not, during this pilot season, find a couple more cheap, garbage sitcoms about teens and throw them with these two. Friday is a wasteland anyway. If you’re not losing money, people might appreciate a night they can plop their kids in front of the TV so they can drink for two hours straight. And the best part? Kids don’t notice/give a shit about reruns. Give all four shows half orders and play the shit out of them. Three airings a season!
Also, there’s The Assets, a show that aired two episodes, and then it was gone before I could even hear of it. We’ll miss you, I suppose, The Assets.
So there you have it. ABC is in bad shape, but it might not be the worst shape of the five majors. There are some watchable shows here. I’m interested in ABC’s next fall, particular because SO LITTLE worked here. Will they get crazy, and throw some new stuff at us, or will they try some form of Lucky 7 and Back in the Game all over again.
– Ryan Haley