The dust has settled on the TV season— Glee and The Good Wife are in, FlashForward and Heroes are out. VIEW OUR GALLERY rating all the hits and the flops.
Where did the broadcasters go wrong this season, and what did they do right?
The biggest story this year, of course, was the drama at NBC, as the network flailed about, first making pronouncements about the 10 p.m. hour, and then being forced to alter its strategy midstream when The Jay Leno Show failed. The Peacock took some major flak this season for the entire Leno/Conan O’Brien affair—and it didn’t help that many of their new scripted shows were DOA. Next season allows them to go back to the drawing board, and the network picked up no fewer than 12 new series for fall and midseason, as well as keeping some of their critical and audience hits alive for another go-around.
Click Image Below to View 21 Winners, Losers, and Draws of the TV Season
ABC’s season was helped by the breakout ratings of the spring edition of reality staple Dancing With the Stars, which rebounded from a poor showing in the fall, overtaking competitor American Idol in total viewers and key demos several times. (It certainly helped that tabloid-fodder celebrities like Kate Gosselin were among the “stars” this time around.) Far more successful was ABC’s Wednesday night comedy block, comprised of such critical and audience-pleasers as Modern Family, The Middle, and Cougar Town. However, with the end of Lost and middling hit Ugly Betty, as well as the sagging ratings of aging dramas Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, and Grey’s Anatomy, the network desperately needs to find new hits—and struck out for the most part with FlashForward, The Deep End, and Happy Town, while comedies Better Off Ted, Romantically Challenged, and Scrubs all failed to connect, too. With some promising new series on the slate for next season, ABC needs to reinvent itself a little and find some new zeitgeist-grabbing shows that will score with viewers.
Over at CBS, the network has had to deal with the declining fortunes of its once bulletproof CSI franchise, all three of which have seen their ratings fade. But CBS has been able to stem the tide with its crime procedurals NCIS and spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles on Tuesdays, as well as surprise breakout hit The Good Wife. Likewise, the network has managed to successfully create a bona fide hit on Thursdays at 10 p.m. with The Mentalist. And it has cleared house, canceling many of its struggling dramas and comedies (two of which, Old Christine and Ghost Whisperer, could turn up at ABC—at least at press time). While the network ordered very few new shows, CBS is making some changes, sending Survivor to Wednesdays, attempting to carve out a new comedy block on Thursdays anchored by The Big Bang Theory, and putting CSI: NY on Fridays. Canny moves or catastrophe in the making? Only time will tell.
Fox is set to walk away with the key adults 18-to-49 demo this year, but the network did lose some traction this season. Its once-unstoppable American Idol showed signs of faltering, as viewers continued to bail on the music competition. This month, the network renewed some struggling dramas like Lie to Me and Human Target and kept its Thursday combination of Bones and Fringe intact next season, showing some real confidence in both shows. And the musical-comedy Glee was the breakout hit of the season on any network.
Finally, there’s netlet the CW, which once again seemed to be operating in a universe all its own. Out of the new series it offered this past season, supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries was its only hit, scoring with viewers on Thursday nights. But the CW, which rose out of the ashes of the WB and UPN four years ago, had some major issues this year, with the disaster of the Melrose Place revival series, a creative breakdown on Gossip Girl, and struggling fledgling drama Life Unexpected, which earned a surprising eleventh-hour renewal, thanks in part to a devoted core audience. With two new dramas— Nikita and Hellcats—on deck for the fall, the CW has finally achieved all original, first-run series on five nights a week, something it had aspired to for the last four seasons. But Dawn Ostroff and her development team had better be working overtime to replace the series that will likely end after this year, including Smallville, Supernatural, and One Tree Hill, if they hope to increase their viewership and kickstart some new franchises.
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 websites and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.