It happens every year. No sooner does the fall television season begin than people start speculating about which show is going to be cancelled first. I've come up with a name for it. Panic Season, as in, how soon before network suits press the panic button to cancel underperforming shows?
The first victim of the new season was NBC's The Playboy Club. After all the hype, and the predictable whining from the Parents Television Council and like-minded groups about its content, ignoring the fact that it was airing at 10 pm (ET), when children aren't likely to be watching, Playboy failed to attract enough viewers to merit sticking around, much to the disappointment of Playboy founding father Hugh Hefner. Only 3 episodes aired, but consider the competition. CBS had the revival of Hawaii Five-0, in its 2nd season, and ABC has Castle. Factor in Monday Night Football on ESPN and Raw on USA, and you have a formula for disaster. Those considering hindsight have now said that Playboy should've been targeted for cable all along, instead of broadcast television. Putting it on NBC was sure to attract the wrath of the PTC and other moral watchdog groups.
NBC also tanked the American adaptation of the British series, Free Agents, which had Hank Azaria ("The Smurfs", The Simpsons) in a lead role. Luckily, both NBC casualties are presently available On Demand from your cable system, at least for the time being. Catch 'em if you can.
Meanwhile, ABC was banking on a revival of its own, relaunching Charlie's Angels. But the first mistake came when the series was plugged in on Thursdays instead of Wednesdays, where the original series was a ratings champ for much of its run. Also, the format was completely rehashed with the new Angels not being affiliated with the police at all, unlike the original series. Co-star Minka Kelly may've been the only other selling point, if but because at the time of the relaunch's official announcement, she was dating New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter. The couple split right before Angels went on the air, and there went any real chance of the new version gaining any foothold, even though one of its executive producers, actress Drew Barrymore, co-starred in two feature film versions of Angels a decade ago.
Two weeks ago, MTV2 brought back Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors after a year's hiatus, during which time the promotion had long since completed production on seasons 2 & 3. The network stubbornly and stupidly kept the tapes in the vaults until they decided it was time to bring the show back. I reviewed the start of season 2 over in Saturday Morning Archives, and, admittedly, not much has changed. MTV made a similar mistake 4 1/2 years ago with Wrestling Society X, withholding episodes for a year before airing, then cancelling the show after about 2 months. This tme, rumors state that Masked Warriors may be saying "Adios!" after tomorrow's broadcast, further proof that "Empty-V" just doesn't care what their audience thinks. They're better served farming out Masked Warriors to corporate cousin Spike TV, so they can enable crossovers with TNA Impact Wrestling, which could certainly use the help, as would LLUSA.
The future isn't so rosy for another wrestling promotion, either. Micro Championship Wrestling, airing Wednesdays on TruTV, has gotten buried in the ratings, but then, that was to be expected opposite baseball's post-season tournament. The ratings for MCW, featuring Hulk Hogan, are far worse than Impact's on Thursdays on Spike, and Hogan's a prominent presence there, too. What does that say about the supposed power of Hulkamania in 2011, pilgrims? Anyway, Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter has speculated that MCW may also end up being cancelled.
In virtually every case, one part of the problem has been scheduling. It's either the wrong day or the wrong channel. In the case of LLUSA, it's a case of a network refusing to properly service the program's core audience and treating them with apathy and disrespect. I've often said that TNA often trips over its own shadows, but it seems they're not alone in doing that. Spike might be wise to pick up MCW, considering that co-executive producer Eric Bischoff, like Hogan, is employed by TNA, should TruTV (a TimeWarner network) go ahead and cancel the show.
Programming television never has been an exact science, but it wouldn't hurt if the people responsible for these decisions actually did a little more research into the products before taking a risk on being second-or-third guessed.