Tube Talk: Random ramblings about the new TV season

It’s that time of year again. New network series are falling off the schedule like leaves off trees, while some are clinging on for dear life, and the lucky few are getting full-season orders.

Shows already gone or on “indefinite hiatus” (meaning they’re not officially canceled, but probably won’t be coming back unless the network has a gaping programming hole to plug), include: Smith, Vanished, Runaway, Happy Hour, Twenty Good Years, Knights of Prosperity and Kidnapped.

Heroes and Ugly Betty are the only bonafide hits of the new season. Both have drawn and retained huge audiences, so it’s no surprise they were among the first new shows to get full-season orders. Other shows with full-season commitments are ABC’s Brothers & Sisters and The Nine, CBS’ Jericho and Shark, and CW’s The Game. ABC ordered four additional episodes each of Help Me Help You and Men in Trees, but stopped short—for now—of requesting full seasons.

Fox surprised some by ordering three more episodes of the poorly performing ‘Til Death, but the biggest surprise of the season could be that one of the most ballyhooed new shows—Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip—is struggling to retain a shrinking audience, yet managed to get an order for three more episodes. Some people can’t believe it didn’t catch on, others are wondering why it hasn’t been canceled (don’t be surprised if it gets the ax soon since NBC has already pulled Studio 60 from the schedule and temporarily replaced it with another struggling newcomer, Friday Night Lights).

As always, some shows are on the bubble. ABC’s critically acclaimed 6 Degrees has been losing more of its audience each week, so don’t count on it hanging around much longer. And while NBC’s 30 Rock has only aired a handful of times, it’s already losing viewers—and if you think finding an audience is hard when you air opposite Dancing With the Stars, just wait until NBC moves it to Thursdays later this month.

In an effort to resurrect their long-dead Must See comedy line-up, NBC is following the successful pairing of My Name is Earl and The Office with the ever-underappreciated Scrubs and 30 Rock. The problem? Four comedies don’t stand much chance against ABC’s Ugly Betty/Grey’s Anatomy juggernaut.

Some other shows with as yet undetermined fates include The Class, Justice and the aforementioned Friday Night Lights.

Of this season’s new shows, The Nine is the one that’s really hooked me. On a recent Wednesday, I realized I was looking forward to seeing The Nine even more than a new episode of Lost, and The Nine officially became my favorite new show of the season.

Maybe I just love shows with complicated back-stories, which could be why Heroes is a very close second. Ugly Betty’s a distant third. Despite my taping it, and the fact that it repeats on SoapNet, I don’t always remember to watch Ugly Betty. If it were my favorite, I couldn’t wait to watch it. Right?

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications.

From the Nov.8-14, 2006, issue

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