It's been a week now and I still find myself thinking about last Thursday's episode of "Glee," which paid solemn tribute to the passing last July of Corey Monteith and the death of the beloved character he portrayed, Finn Hudson. "Glee" missed a chance to offer some balance in this matter by telling the audience that Finn, like Monteith, died because of alcohol and drugs, and by making clear that such things can happen -- and more importantly, that they don't have to. Lives might have been spared as a result.
Sitting through commercial breaks doesn't have to be a bad thing. As AMC and "The Walking Dead" are showing us, with a little thought and a lot of planning it can be engaging and rewarding. I'm interested to see what advertisers have to offer during future episodes. When was the last time you heard anyone say that about anything on television outside of the Super Bowl?
In one of the most interesting developments of the 2013-14 season to date NBC and CBS, the two networks that have been the clear leaders among adults 18-49 and in total viewers, respectively, each have suffered a significant failure along with their successes. And both of those failures concern their comedy programming. Specifically, CBS has sprung a leak on Monday nights, long the home to a two-hour block of hit or at least modestly successful sitcoms, while NBC has toppled off the cliff on Thursdays, where it reigned as the home of Must-See TV sitcoms for more than 20 years.
It's been a challenging fall for the broadcast networks. Not that all the news during the first three weeks of the 2013-14 season has been bad; but other than "The Voice" powering NBC to No. 1 in the 18-49 demographic and "The Big Bang Theory" achieving record high ratings at the start of its seventh season on CBS there hasn't been anything happening with any of them that comes close to the excitement that surrounded the series finale of AMC's "Breaking Bad."
Network schedules are already springing leaks -- and it's only the third week of the brand new broadcast season. The first two failures in the 2013-14 freshman class -- ABC's "Lucky 7" and CBS' "We Are Men" -- happened after each of these shows were telecast only twice. That kind of fast failure is known as being D.O.A.
For the second year in a row, NBC has charged out of the gate in the early weeks of the new television season as the network to beat among adults 18-49. Yet its late 2012 success fell to pieces in January 2013 to a desultory 5th place for that demographic, behind its Big Four competitors and Univision. Although NBC is not in the same situation this season -- its coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games begins in early February and leads directly into the return of "The Voice" -- it will face a gap before Olympics coverage begins.
It looks to me like the best new broadcast comedy of the 2013-14 fall season may be CBS' "Mom." It's the one freshman series that seems to have stabilized in the ratings, has held up despite a weakening lead-in and massive competition from its network's three broadcast competitors, has improved creatively week by week, and has begun to feel like a show that should be acknowledged come next year's awards season.
I can't believe I'm about to type the following words: Thank God for Miley Cyrus. Without intending to do so, she has brought more life to television during the early days of the 2013-14 season than any of the new shows on the broadcast networks. In the space of a few short weeks, she has almost singlehandedly reactivated the slumbering MTV and charged up the new players on "Saturday Night Live" -- all while simply trying to promote herself. And she topped it off this morning with a cheeky performance on NBC's "Today."
You've got to hand it to NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." It isn't very often that a fifteen-year-old drama series catapults itself back into the media spotlight and raises its ratings above those it earned in previous years, as this show has done during the last two weeks. In fact, this may never have never happened before, simply because few series last fifteen years, and those that do tend to slowly slip below the radar and stay there.
Comedy Central's "South Park" on Wednesday night delivered a standout episode for anyone who has ever experienced frustration with his or her cable company or who has objected to content on one or more basic cable networks. That would pretty much be all of us, wouldn't it?