by pat howard

THE FRIDAY FIVE | Surprises this season so far

In The Friday Five on October 30, 2009 at 9:18 am

Remember when sweeps used to be a huge deal? (I also remember when broadcast networks relied on movies one night a week.) Now instead of stunt programming, we just get streamlined primetime lineups. It feels like the networks have been more patient this fall than in years past. Nonetheless, I’m thinking Jay Leno might just want to take the whole month off. As we approach the season’s first mile marker, here are some news items that made me furrow my young brow.

Lots of early full-season pickups
Some of these were no-brainers. Glee is going to be rocking that gold single all the way to syndication, I’d guess. Community was a shoo-in, and Parks and Rec seems to be an NBC darling. But Mercy? Really? My plate is already full of middling medical dramas.

Cancelled series are more apt to linger
The ax finally fell on expensive paramedic series Trauma, after weeks of struggling in a horrible time period trapped between Heroes and Leno. But its 13 episodes will be produced, and it’s likely NBC will burn most of those off through the end of the calendar year.

Some hot messes are still on the air
How is Three Rivers still clogging up an hour of Sunday night real estate? Amazing Race fans season passing it solely because of football overruns can’t be great for CBS’s nightly or weekly averages. Does anybody believe Fox will order more Dollhouse? The sophomore entry for the Joss Whedon cult is guaranteed to get through its current 13 episodes (with double runs Fridays this December), but outside of a miracle, future episodes are a long shot. At ABC, someone needs to put both Kelsey Grammar and his sitcom Hank out of their misery.

NBC lies like a rug (okay, not really surprising)
And I’m not just talking about the Peacock’s perpetually limp fourth-place finishes. We want to put on quality shows, they say a week after cancelling critical fave and potential sleeper hit Southland. It is pilot season and NBC does have to suck up to program distributors, especially with one third of its weeknight real estate tied up. This would be why NBC ordered additional eps of midseason replacement Chuck, from Southland‘s mama Warner Bros.

Viewership is on the rise
Overall, despite a dramatically shifting media landscape, eyeballs are back in front of TV sets. New media continue to emerge, but this is a positive sign that despite ongoing growing pains, a major shift in the production model is not coming overnight.

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