"While there probably aren't any new hits, there are no disasters either," Preston Beckman, executive vice president for strategic program planning at Fox, explained to TV Watch. But he cautioned: "Just wait and see what happens at the end of this week."
So the cancellations and hiatuses are coming. Only one show has been given the OK for a full season's worth of episodes: CW's "Gossip Girls." Could it be that networks are finally a bit more conservative -- or maybe the looming writers' strike has something to do with it?
Many rookie shows -- including those, like CBS' "Cane," with somewhat-falling ratings -- have received orders for more scripts. Of course, that's way different -- and a lot cheaper -- than actual episode orders.
The positive from all this is that networks won't look and sound like they have schedules chockfull of watered-down reality shows like "Extreme Makeover: Closet and Washer Edition," "Deal or No Deal: The Monty Hall Years," or "The Beauty and The Geek: The Sisters."
As recent TV history tells us -- and as Beckman notes -- many shows that do get pulled are usually replaced by shows that fall even further in ratings. (Hello, "Studio 60"!)
A more pressing issue is that networks will soon have an answer to at least one big question of the season: Whither commercial ratings? What shows do the best? Which network really does better in keeping its viewers around for clients' commercials?
It would be nice if broadcast networks go back to giving shows a little more time to develop, change, or revise, before ditching them. Perhaps the strike is a backhanded way to do this.
Now comes word that the stockpiling of scripts by the networks might have been a bad plan. As opposed to TV dramas, TV comedies need table readings, rehearsals, and, chiefly, rewritings -- all part of the process.
Even then, how many TV producers will be ready to crash strike protests? Perhaps the ones that don't want their shows cancelled -- even if their ratings are below a picket line.