Friday, October 9, 2009

It’s Criminal – NBC Cancels Southland

It’s criminal, I tell you. Finally, a new show emerged last season on NBC that had a great cast, it was edgy, it was different. Now it’s canceled. Despite earlier reports that the new Los Angeles police drama “Southland” would have their season premiere delayed until late October, now it won’t happen at all.

The “Jay Leno Effect” has already hit the network in a bad way. Law & Order SVU’s ratings have dropped significantly since moving to its new day and time (Wednesday at 9:00 PM ET). Spotty reports are surfacing from some local NBC affiliate stations across the country that their 11:00 PM newscasts are losing viewers at a steady clip because of the poor lead in from Leno.

Southland was a ray of hope in scripted dramas. It offered story lines and characters that were real. The camera work also made it look and feel real, as if viewers were riding along with the police as events unfolded. I wasn’t sure if I liked the show the first time I watched – the constant “bleeping” of profanities was overdone. But the show grew on me, and by the time the season ended – with a literal “bang” – I wanted more. I was also looking forward to seeing the show paired with Law & Order on Friday night. Now, I have concerns that the absence of Southland will bring even less attention to Law & Order, now in its 20th season but still producing compelling episodes.

The New York Times reported that Southland “was largely distinguished by gritty police work and sometimes dark, troubled characters — not unlike previous NBC hits like “Hill Street Blues.” That apparently became an issue for NBC: several network executives have said that they do not believe darker shows can be successful on network television right now. Oddly, NBC’s production studio, Universal Television, produces one of television’s biggest hits, the drama “House,” for the Fox network, and it has explored some of the darkest themes on television in recent years, including drug addiction and mental illness. Last year, one of the show’s main characters committed suicide. Ratings have been up for the show this season. "

NBC’s move away from scripted drama at 10:00 PM to lighter far such as Jay Leno is having a ripple effect. Despite the claim that scripted dramas are more expensive to produce than Leno’s show, in the long run, Leno may be costing the network far more in lost revenues from fewer viewers and lower ratings, which translates to less advertising dollars. The network is penny wise, but pound foolish, as the old axiom goes.

In my opinion, rather than add that extra hour of The Today Show – a show that will
eventually run all day, I suspect – they should have created an 11:00 AM show with Jay Leno to compete with The View. While I won’t watch Jay at 10 PM, I would be more than happy to watch him at 11:00 AM. I think he would be great competition for The View and could draw in more viewers than that horrific extra hour of The Today Show, which I will only watch if someone ties me to a chair and forces me to watch. (Note to NBC – don’t get any ideas.)

It’s a crime what NBC has done to Southland and to scripted programming. Hopefully, Southland will find a home on a cable network. If it does, I will be watching.

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Sara said...

That extra hour of Today would be much more palatable in my humble opinion if NBC would lose that awful Kathy Lee. Hoda is classy, but why in the world they ever paired her up with that nonsensical Kathy Lee will remain a mystery. Lee dumbs down what could otherwise be an enjoyable hour of the Today Show.

As for the NBC affiliates complaining about a poor lead in from Leno many viewers, including myself, DVR Leno at 10 and play him back at 11:35 to have another choice besides Letterman and Conan. I wouldn't watch my local NBC affiliate here in Houston with or without Leno.

Anonymous said...

It's official. TNT picks up Southland