Fox’s decision to pull the woefully rated Texas-based drama Lone Star after just two episodes shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone following the ratings game.
Despite overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and an expensive promotional campaign, the Kyle Killen-created series—which revolved around a second-generation con man with a double life—premiered with just 4.1 million viewers tuning in, a sizable drop-off from the 10.5 million who tuned in to the show’s lead-in House an hour earlier.
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Killen took to the Internet, writing an open letter on his blog begging for audiences to deliver a “stunning upset” and save the show from premature cancellation. He also wrote a piece on The Daily Beast, in which he interviewed himself about Lone Star. Killen’s pleading and Fox’s repeated promotional support this week didn’t bring about a stay of execution for Lone Star, which dropped 23 percent in its second outing, luring just 3.2 million viewers. Understandably, the network opted to pull the show from the schedule immediately.
While that might seem harsh, it also underpins just how cutthroat the broadcast network business has become of late. Unlike cable, there is no significant opportunity to find an audience if a show doesn’t click with the public in the first week. After all, if positive critical notices and ad money can’t lure audiences to your show, the network can’t be in the business of carting around a wounded horse. The only sensible thing is to put the beast out of its misery.
Last season, the networks axed quite a few shows early on in their runs: ABC pink-slipped Kelsey Grammer comedy Hank after five episodes; Fox sent Past Life to an early grave after three episodes (and then later burned off a few more); and CBS decided Canadian import The Bridge was, well, a bridge too far after just three installments.
But those shows, while they didn’t charm the American public, at least made it past the all-important second episode, which is something that Lone Star and the 10 shows on our list of the most quickly canceled TV shows of the last 15 years weren’t able to do.
Jace Lacob is the writer/editor of Televisionary, a website devoted to television news, criticism, and interviews. Jace resides in Los Angeles. He is a contributor to several entertainment Web sites and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.