Two Cancellations

Posted on November 29, 2012


Since I’m still watching Vegas and developing my impressions and critique, this week I’ll talk about two recent cancellations.

666 Park Avenue

Way back on May 23, I talked about this show as part of the 2012 TV Upfronts. My hope was that it would turn out gloriously trashy, like the original Dark Shadows, or maybe like Passions.

Alternately, as my friend Sue mentioned, we might have gotten a puzzling show where characters had to be make hard choices, with one choice being a solution offered by the devil – something American Gothic tried to be.

None of my geeky friends talked about it when it premiered, and now it’s gone.

There’s a real problem with bringing genre entertainment to a major network. Genre fans know when you’re faking it. Either commit to the genre or go home. Big networks have to please everyone. Committing to a genre means that they risk alienating everyone who doesn’t enjoy that genre.

So why did ABC try it? Three words: American Horror Story. Last season, FX had a surprise hit with this horror show, and I think that ABC wanted a piece of that pie.

They should have realized that AHS did not air on FOX, it aired on FOX’s basic cable spin-off – which already had a reputation for edgy entertainment with shows like Sons of Anarchy, Justified, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, Wilfred, and Archer. FOX may not be one of the “big three,” but it is still too vested in the status quo for edgy shows. That should have been a big warning flag to any of the big three.

We should have realized that The Walt Disney Company owns ABC, and edgy isn’t really their forte.

Last Resort

On October 3, I explained why I wasn’t watching this show. I felt that it was a techno-thriller without the real commitment to the “techno” part of the title.

Again, this show was on ABC. Again, this show was a genre show. Again, it seems to me that the network gazed into the abyss of genre programming, and flinched.

For all the witches that Disney has given us through the decades, it strives for wholesome, family, entertainment. A show where Satan lives in a Park Avenue high-rise is going to get toned down by network executives to keep it in line with corporate messaging.

Last Resort, however, wasn’t trying to slip Old Nick past the guard at Cinderella’s Palace. The genre from which Last Resort sprang is chock full of bestselling authors – like Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Stephen Coonts, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler. Therefore there’s clearly a big audience out there for such entertainment.

And yet, ABC flinched, and that was obvious from the premiere. In my opinion, the fear didn’t stem from brand management, but rather from an underestimation of the audience.

I believe that the show ran roughshod over technical details (as discussed in my previous post on the show) in order to firmly establish the concept of the show and the characters. For some reason, ABC felt like it had to cram all the events setting up the series into a single 60-minute episode. Most productions would have stretched that out to a 2-hour premier, especially when you add in all the political maneuvering in Washington, DC. Some series would have stretched that out over 3-4 episodes.

My impression is that ABC did not believe that it could duplicate the success it found with Lost, and get people to stick around through several episodes of development.


Because I wasn’t there and have no insight into the production process, I’m not going to point fingers at any particular writer, director, producer, studio head, etc. I wish everyone involved in both shows the best of luck in their careers and their lives.

What I will say is that when a show is neither fish nor fowl, then you hope for an audience to find it. When you commit to a direction, or genre, and fully embrace that commitment, you lock in an audience (e.g. of horror fans, of techno-thriller fans) and can grow from there.

In short: Never get off the boat, unless you’re going all the way. Otherwise, a fucking tiger will eat you.

Posted in: television