Overthinking Everything: Pass the Towel

A few recent events have gotten me to thinking: When does a network know it's time to throw in the towel on a failed show?  How do they decide to keep pushing something audiences aren't watching versus taking it off the air?

First, there's the whole DC Nation debacle.  For those that don't know, the DC Nation block was abruptly dropped last weekend from Cartoon Network's schedule - so abruptly that CN's own Facebook page was telling people to look for new episodes that day.  They quickly responded to the upset fans by letting everyone know that the block is off the air until January, no reasons given.  A few have been bandied around (retooling, rights issues, etc.), but I noticed that they've replaced its main run on Saturdays with the How to Train Your Dragon show, which they've also been hyping for more prime time runs as well.  I haven't heard ANY feedback, good or bad, on this show; when I caught some of it, it struck me as well animated but aggressively bland.  The prevailing theory is now (and I am behind this) that CN is trying super-hard to find an audience for a show that no one is really watching or discussing but won't just say as much.

Second, there's NBC cancelling the first casualty of their latest turkey shoot of a schedule, Animal Practice.  My mother tried to watch it, and while she found some elements funny (it's the only time I've seen her get over her fear of monkeys to marvel at Annie's Boobs in a labcoat being cute), the decision to center the show on a largely unlikable couple with no chemistry left her cold.  She apparently wasn't the only one, as sitcoms still fail to learn that not all ensemble set-ups need to be based around some extra-boring One True Couple.  NBC cancelled it... and replaced it not with Community, like people actually wanted, but with the unwatchable trainwreck that is Whitney (a show I am convinced is only on the air because the title star/creator does "favors" for NBC's higher-ups, not because of actual ratings).  Animal Practice was a show that NBC rolled out with great fanfare, trying to bridge that gap between us Community fans & the rest of the nation, and once they realized it was a failure, they admitted as much and removed it.

I put this out there - which is the better tactic?  I really can't say.  On one hand, I more than understand how much it sucks to have a favorite show yanked so a network can shill crap that no one seems to actually enjoy (see the above paragraph).  But I can also understand wanting to force something into a success as a simple matter of pride.  No one likes to admit that they made a bad call or spent too much on something that's proving to be not worth it.  I'm sure Animal Practice cost NBC as much as Dreamworks charged CN, but it almost makes me respect NBC's decision makers because they were willing to admit they'd made a bad call instead of flooding their schedule with extra airings of a show they knew no one was watching (although, again, the decision to replace said show with Bad Stand-Up Comic Who Gives Great Head to Any & All Network Execs instead of a successful show does shoot that in the foot).  It doesn't help that CN has a culture of secrecy around it (for example, finding out the main reason Symbionic Titan was cancelled was because of the execs' casual sexism was revealed by another exec under condition of anonymity), and they have less of a reputation of actually talking to the press, let alone the viewers, about any of their decisions. 

Part of being a TV viewer of any sort is knowing that the people who make decisions ultimately don't give two cents about what the people watching their shows actually think.  But you have to wonder if trying to force something into not being a failure, despite all feedback to the contrary, is the right way.  And if you do admit failure, is it right to replace an unsuccessful show with one that largely seems to be just as unsuccessful & just as much of a "if we air it lots, they'll HAVE to watch" scenario?  At the end of the day, viewers lose - CN takes off the one block that really had a lot of buzz in such a way that it actually engenders ill will towards a show they wanted to salvage, while NBC just gives us more of a show that no one capable of higher brain functions wants to watch.  But at least one is willing to keep us in the loop about their awful schedule changes, thus showing us a modicum of respect.  Maybe that's it.  The execs will still look like morons to us, but at least they'll look like polite morons.

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