One of the more highly touted dramas of the new season, Fox's "Lone Star," is gone after only two episodes. The new drama had dramatically low ratings, most recently registering a low 1.0 area among 18-49 viewers.
What happened? Many critics won't be able to tell you why, since many were the show's cheerleaders. Others might say "Lone Star" wasn't a "Fox" show -- that the show didn't speak to the Fox brand.
The network usually produces quirkier dramas -- "House," "Lie To Me," "Fringe," and the departed "Dollhouse." "Lone Star" was a bit more straight soap opera -- more of an ABC thing; maybe CBS. (Yes, we are thinking about "Dallas" as well.).
Given all the testing and marketing a network does these days, there seems to be fewer outright failures on network television -- even with broadcast rating erosion. There is a lot more to lose now.
If nothing else, TV executives take pride in being able to "open" a show, get viewers in for at least the premiere. (Film marketers also talk about "opening" a movie.) After that, TV marketers more or less hand it off to the TV producers, leaving it to them for survival.
We don't know the inside stuff. No doubt, Fox got some positive audience test results. Additionally, marketing executive must have seen decent "tracking" for the series over the summer. Tracking senses how consumers respond to media and marketing efforts, and can be adjusted accordingly.
What we do know is Fox benefited from some great TV reviews -- which would have given the network some strong confidence.
Where Fox went wrong was with women viewers, I'm guessing. They didn't buy into the fact the lead character, Robert Allen, was not only a conflicted con-man but had somehow figured out how to be married to two women by the second episode. That was a bit too much to handle.
He's a complicated, mildly interesting character. But how much scheming -- with seemingly little in the way of redeeming values -- can one endure? It's a prime-time soap, and women are attracted to bad boys from time to time. But they also need to be sold on specific positives -- even if just a little bit. Fox's own Dr. Gregory House is a good example.
Marketing materials showed viewers Allen's split world, split personality. Print materials show a split screen of two pictures with more or less the same composition: Two different women sitting on a bed behind Allen, holding him.
Marketing should have gone with another angle -- pitting his bad side against his good side. (For example, trying to do right for the smaller community where his he and his girlfriend lived.).
Instead, all this caused Fox and the show to split.