This season has seen two genre sent to the network executioner thus far, both freshman series from ABC: the “what if?” military drama Last Resort and the supernatural soap opera 666 Park Ave. Both shows will get the chance to air out their thirteen episode commitments and both were given enough notice that they will have the chance to resolve their major storylines. As for why they were cancelled, the simple answer is always that the ratings were low. But I will take a deeper dive here and consider what factors contributed to the lack of ratings success for these two shows.
Last Resort (ABC, Airs Thursdays 8 PM EST) – This series had a couple of things working against it right off the bat, and first and foremost was ABC’s scheduling choice for the show. The Thursday 8 PM EST hour is highly competitive with CBS having a lock with its sitcoms (lead by ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory) and NBC usually taking a (distant) second with its comedy counter-programming. Then The CW usually picks up what’s left of the young adult viewers with their highest rated show Vampire Diaries. There just wasn’t much left for Last Resort, and it doesn’t help that the timeslot skews toward family viewing while that drama aimed at a more mature audience. It did regularly pick up significant gains when its DVR viewing was factored in, but networks still heavily discount that (though they seem to be wavering on the point) because advertisers (who pay for the shows) want the live-viewing numbers to be higher so they know people aren’t fast-forwarding through the commercials.
The second major hurdle that Last Resort faced was that its premise seemed better fitted to a mini-series than an ongoing weekly serial. True, as the series progressed, it started to lay the groundwork for how it would carry its story through multiple seasons (the Colorado and her crew as the face of the resistance movement against the forces that ordered the nuclear attack), but perhaps too many people felt like the show was padding out its premise.
The fact is that Last Resort started with mediocre numbers and only went down from there, so I believe the scheduling delivered the first blow and an initial wariness around the premise dealt the second. The series did receive very positive reviews and developed a notable if small fanbase, and as I mentioned, it’s delayed viewing numbers were good. I’m of the opinion that the networks should pay more attention to these with genre shows because they often have moderate at best numbers in their initial runs but still have the potential to develop into long-running franchises (Star Trek anyone?).
ABC could have also done the show a favor by trying it out in a different timeslot more amenable to the audience the show targeted. The good returns from the critics and the strong DVR numbers justified a schedule change to see if this one could have performed better at a different hour. But unfortunately, networks are typically reluctant to do much schedule juggling, even when they have reason to believe that could keep a show afloat. And thus yet another promising series gets cut short after early struggles in the ratings.
Can It Be Saved? There’s a Facebook page out there for this one right now trying energize fans, but I can’t see that it has too much momentum. The cancellation announcement for the series came early enough that writers will have the chance to wrap up the main storylines, and maybe enough fans feel like a thirteen episode run will be sufficient for this story. Netflix could raise their hand to save it, but I’m guessing it has a pretty high production budget and would be out of their reach. So short of some miraculous “Save My Show” effort, consider this one sunk once it has aired its thirteenth episode.
666 Park Ave (ABC, Airs Sundays 10 PM EST) – This series was not hampered as much by its timeslot as the late Sunday hour better fit its subject material, though ABC hasn’t generated too many hits at this hour over the last few years. But the fact is that the supernatural soap opera aimed at adults is something that just has not caught on with Prime Time audiences. ABC actually misfired twice before with this type of show; in 2009 with Eastwick and in the Summer of 2010 with The Gates. The CW has had some success with the young adult skewing supernatural soap Vampire Diaries, but they weren’t able to replicate that with last year’s The Secret Circle and this season’s Beauty and the Beast appears to be sinking fast. ABC’s hit Once Upon A Time could be called a supernatural soap opera, but it has broader appeal, especially with younger viewers, because of its fairy tale roots.
And what I personally noticed about 666 Park Ave is that while I thought the show was decent, I didn’t find myself engaged by it (though it has started to grow on me more). And I have heard similar feedback from critics and genre fans that have tuned in for the show. The problem is that network executives may have toned it down too much. Last season, the cable network FX had a success on their hands with The American Horror Story, which could also be labeled a supernatural soap. But they didn’t try to sanitize that one for Prime Time audiences as they played up the horror elements and added plenty sex and violence as well. They targeted the niche horror audience and that paid off. In fact, the ratings that American Horror Story pulled last season and this year have actually surpassed what 666 Park Ave sees most weeks in the all-important 18-49 demographic. ABC had a heck of a good cast in place for this series and some potential to grow with it, but they may have missed the boat by delivering a horror story shooting for broad appeal instead of focusing more on the audience more likely to tune in for this type show.
Can It Be Saved? There’s an online petition out there as well as a Facebook page and Twitter campaign trying to get ABC to change their mind. But I don’t see that the effort to keep the show alive has a ton of momentum at this point. I would guess that this show would be a more viable pickup for Netflix than Last Resort because it’s certainly less expensive. But without a larger showing of fan support, I don’t know that the streaming service will have much interest in it. I’d say at this point that 666 Park Ave is almost certainly headed to its final resting place.
Why Were They Cancelled?
The Plight of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television in the Face of the Unforgiving Nielsens and Networks
Ever wondered why your favorite science fiction and/or fantasy show disappeared from the television schedule, never to deliver anymore new episodes? The reason why, most likely, is that it was cancelled because its ratings were low. And this book looks at those many cancelled sci fi/fantasy shows as well as the Neilsen ratings and television networks that dictate their fates. Available now for only $2.99 on Kindle from Amazon.com.