Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ABC's Scheduling Nightmare

In the last two days, ABC picked up more episodes of The Forgotten, canceled Eastwick, and announced the Ugly Betty would replace Eastwick at 10pm on "ABC Comedy Wednesday." I happen to disagree with all three of these decisions (though the Ugly Betty decision sits better than any of the others... I just don't feel it's a 10pm show, but better Wednesday at 10pm with a semi-decent lead-in than Fridays).

My preference would be to:
- cancel The Forgotten
- move Brothers & Sisters to Tuesdays at 10pm
- move Eastwick post-Housewives (at least for a tryout)
- move Betty to Tuesdays at 8pm (or moved the Wednesday 8pm comedies to Tuesdays at 8pm and Betty to Wednesdays at 8pm)
- reality / repeats / whatever on Friday at 9pm

But, hey, I'm not in charge.

I know, I know, I'm always the one saying "you can't move everything at once!" But in ABC's case... they kind of need to figure something out. They've got a lot of middling success and modest returns, but, at this point, three big hits by today's broadcast standards:
- Grey's Anatomy
- Desperate Housewives
- Dancing with the Stars' performance show (for viewership)

ABC also has a few mid-level hits
- Modern Family
- Extreme Makeover Home Edition
- Private Practice (thanks to its lead-in)
- Brothers & Sisters (thanks to its lead-in)
- DWTS Results (for viewers)

Beyond that... ABC has a few modest shows that, for the most part, are lead-in (or lack of competition) reliant but don't deliver the same returns that PP and B&S do.
- Castle
- Cougar Town (if the last two weeks are more indicative of a future trend than the first few weeks of near-perfect retention out of MF were)
- Flashforward (wish is in serious need of rescue via a strong lead-in if it's going to survive to a season season given it's high profile and cost)

We'll see what V does tonight and in the coming weeks to see if it can be the lead-in Flashforward needs... in March when it returns.

But let's say that happens and someone at ABC decides "let's make a block of V and Flashforward" (let alone V, Lost, and Flashforward as I've seen suggested). Where can you put V and Flashforward together on ABC's schedule?

- Monday has two hours blocked out for DWTS / The Bachelor
- Tuesday is interrupted by DWTS Results at 9pm (and I don't see ABC sliding it forward to 8pm to face Idol... though I'd welcome it, if it meant making room to utilize audience flow)
- Wednesday from 8:30-10pm is, shockingly, kind of working for ABC... and 9-10pm certainly is, so I don't see them moving it (and, remember, that Idol will be airing from 8-9pm this season on Wednesdays)
- Thursdays from 9-11pm aren't changing
- The shows are too expensive to risk a Friday slot (and, I mean, really, this wouldn't never happen)
- Sundays aren't changing with AFHV, EM:HE, DH, and B&S all doing fine

In short... there is nowhere to create audience flow to save Flashforward, and this isn't even considering the rest of ABC's midseason shows:
- Lost (back in January or February, depending on ABC's counter-Olympics decision)
- V (back in March... will it stay on Tuesdays at 8pm? Will it continue to be as successful as its premiere was?)
- Happy Town (though I have my doubts that this will see the air)
- The Deep End
- Romantically Challenged (which will be replacing Hank and paired with The Middle on "ABC Comedy Wednesday" should 8-9pm stay intact / on Wednesdays).

Since Scrubs / Better Off Ted are replacing DWTS: Results in December and airing, probably, through the March return of DWTS, you can disregard Scrubs/Better Off Ted and think about the dramas, and where you're putting The Middle/Romantically Challenged. Including Flashforward and a few more hours of The Forgotten, that's 7 hours of programming.

So, I ask... where do you put ANY of these shows to try and build hits (and build on hits), given that ABC isn't going to be moving what is working. You have these timeslots available, as I see it:
- Tuesdays at 8pm (versus Idol...)
- Tuesdays at 10pm
- Wednesdays at 8pm (versus Idol...)
- Wednesdays at 10pm (but, oh wait, Ugly Betty is there now)
- Thursdays at 8pm

Stumped? Me, too. Hence my wholesale schedule renovation suggestions way above.

To put it bluntly: it's a problem. I'm kind of glad I'm not the one who has to execute an attempted solution.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Finale, Finally

Oh, Mad Men's third season. I wish you hadn't ended as well as you had. Because if you hadn't... I would feel utterly, entirely justified in my general distaste for and boredom with your tedious third season. Does the destination of the finale make up for a lackluster, directionless, uneven (if still, of course, sharply written, well-acted, sumptuous to look at) season that seemed to lack a cohesive narrative?

Obviously, I don't think it does.

But what a setup for the fourth season! I can't not watch it when it returns next summer. The finale set up a fourth season that, at least on the surface, promises the Mad Men that I was yearning for this whole third season. A Mad Men with focus (getting a new business off the ground), and tension (will we succeed? because if we don't, we are all SCREWED), and drama and ambition and... Joan.

Seriously, how happy was I when our core conspirators were clueless as to where any of the files they needed to gather were stored in the office and knew that Roger was going to call our wayward Mrs. Harris? And despite the too-few moments with Peggy after the first couple of episodes this season... how great was her standing up to Don? And refusing to get coffee for the guys?

I do think that, given the big deal made about not bringing anyone into the ploy that Don et al were pulling, I felt that when Peggy refused Don there was a major missed opportunity to play up "will we get found out?" tension. It just wasn't there, and it made the victory of the success of them all setting up their own agency slightly less "holy crap, I can't believe they actually pulled it off!" than it could have been.

Regardless... how great was the realization from those who weren't brought along?

Let's get to the things I didn't love. Um... Betty...? I have been cold to Betty this whole season (but just as cold as I've been to Don...) I just haven't cared about the Draper Family Drama the way the major seasonal focus on the final disintegration of this family unit required me to be. Was it hard to watch? Yes, and for all the right reasons. But, ultimately... I just don't care. I mean, I feel for the kids and all. But a big part of me is hoping that Betty flying off to Reno, and the final "goodbye" between Don and Betty over the phone, is the last we see or hear of the non-Don Drapers (though I'm sure it won't be... otherwise Sally and Bobby would've been with Betty and not at home with Carla). It's a fine line this show must tread as it presents things that we, as modern viewers, have a very solid opinion of (and are used to seeing) but asking us to treat it as new and different and shocking... because, in the 60s, it wasn't as commonplace (or obsolete) as it is now. Here, it's divorce, but also out of the closet gay men in the workplace, equality for the genders at work, interracial couples... the list goes on.

Speaking of gays in the workplace... where was Sal in the formation of the new company? I guess it would've been too easy, once they mentioned that they didn't have access to the art department / art room. And it was great to see Don kick in that door.

Bottom line: something happened in this finale. A lot of things happened.

My hope is that things continue to happen. Next season has been set up in a way that reignites me giving a damn about this show.

And, really, just having Joan back in the mix is a huge step up.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Does "The Gift" Come With a Return Receipt?

I seem to be tweeting a lot these days. But there are some things that just can't by tweeted, because, really, opinions from time to time are better said in more than a succinctly edited, cut down 140 characters. Ah, yes, the joys of slow-blogging.

Flashforward aired an episode last night that, I think, was supposed to be landmark, world-shattering, expect-the-unexpected.

In short, I think the "The Gift" was supposed to be to Flashforward what "Walkabout" was to Lost. Remember "Walkabout"? We're in Locke's backstory for the first time, there's some sad stuff, meanwhile (um, kinda) on the Island things are happening... BAM, LOCKE WAS A PARAPLEGIC BEFORE COMING TO THE ISLAND. And then you HAD to rewatch to see how the wool had been pulled over your eyes and it CHANGED EVERYTHING because nothing was impossible anymore.

But "The Gift" wasn't "Walkabout". It so very wasn't.

The concept behind the "big event" at the end of "The Gift" makes sense. And should have occurred to someone in some form or another earlier than episode 7 of the series. In fact... it should have occurred in episode 3 (see previous post: Episode 3, AKA The Corrections Department). If you count Lost's two-hour pilot as one episode (even though it was split into two weeks, it was shot as a two-hour!) then "Walkabout" is episode 3. Huh, I can't believe I didn't mention that in my other post!

The concept: defy fate by changing it.

As executed... you knew what was coming before it happened. Well before. And yet... the characters still spent a lot of time talking about it and contemplating and trying to talk Agent Gough off the ledge when, really, all that we needed were some concise (tweetable?) lines in a letter to tell us why he jumped and the SHOCK of the splat that made us go back and see exactly what led up to it. Instead... Flashforward told us how and why what was happening was happening instead of making us DISCOVER it. It's not necessarily "bad" writing... but it isn't "genius" writing like "Walkabout" was.

Even so... Agent Gough falling to his death (and thereby telling all of the other characters that the future is not set in stone) even though he had a flash forward isn't the way I wished this had happened.

Again. To change fate, defy it.

At the end of episode two, Agent Noh (John Cho) got a phone call saying that he was going to be murdered on March 15th. And he continued to spend the next several episodes weighed down by his fate. Yes, he briefly tried to find his would-be murderer, but that hasn't been made much of. Agent Noh was the one who needed fate to be changed the most, and so he should have done it himself. I'm always for adding darkness to a character... why, in episode 3, just to prove fate wrong, didn't he kill someone who had a flash forward? There. Bam. The future isn't set in stone. And that's not the only thing that could've happened to make this point...

... anyway, my problem with "The Gift" is that the event was telegraphed instead of a shock, and that this INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT EVENT happened far too late in the game.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy that the writers saw fit to do this in one way or another. But also don't get me wrong... I'm pretty damn bored with this show and the adrenaline that we can only HOPE has been injected into the storyline by this future-altering event had better show up next week.