Television Items

This new TV season is so lacklustre so far, it seems even the news about TV is a bit dull — Jeff Zucker leaving NBC is practically the highlight, and even that isn’t actually very interesting. But here are a couple of things that are worth noting:

– ABC Family has canceled Huge, the best of the three new series they introduced this year.  (Their other two shows are the successful Pretty Little Liars, and the comedy Melissa & Joey, which is likely to be renewed in spite of dwindling viewership — though that show does confirm that Joey Lawrence is a genuine pro who probably deserves to be on a big network comedy again.) It was one of the better new series of the summer, a show that handled a tricky subject in an intelligent way, and managed to impart some degree of humanity and individuality to all its characters. I don’t know why it was canceled, exactly, though Occam’s Razor would suggest that the network simply didn’t think there was an audience for a mostly unconventional-looking cast. But ABC Family is a network whose identity is still unclear — because of the name, everyone thinks it’s for “family” shows, but the executives go back and forth on whether they actually are and what age viewers they want — and so what they’re looking for remains unclear. Anyway, I don’t think the show made it up here, but Shout! Factory is planning a DVD of the first and only season, so by all means check it out.

– Mitch Hurwitz continues to squander the goodwill he gained from Arrested Development, perhaps less from the quality of the shows he’s done since then — Running Wilde isn’t good, but it’s not the worst show of the year or anything — than his constant, absurd references to an Arrested Development movie that is clearly not going to happen. Today he basically says that a movie will happen once he has a successful series up and running, leading the reporter to interpret it as a sort of “watch Running Wilde if you want an Arrested Development movie” ultimatum. But the likelihood of a movie at this point may actually be less than the likelihood of Running Wilde making it for another season. At some point it becomes clear that unless there’s a major push for it on the part of the studio, a cult TV flop is not going to become a Major Motion Picture (not after Serenity proved that TV failure translates into box-office feature failure). That’s not such a bad thing, but the constant references to it in every story on Hurwitz are getting very tiring.

– Like most people, I will judge David E. Kelley’s proposed Wonder Woman remake primarily on whether he abandons the new “re-imagined” Wonder Woman costume in favour of something like the original. It doesn’t have to be impractically skimpy like Carter’s; but that Red/White/Blue pattern is not only iconic, it’s perfect for colour television — surely Mad Men has taught us how effective an old-school use of bold colours can be.

– Amy Chozick of the Wall Street Journal has an article on one of my favourite topics: what a show does for its second episode after it spent a fortune on a feature-quality, network-impressing pilot. The problem is a familiar one: the pilot costs much more than the second episode can, yet to hold the viewers who tuned in for the pilot, the second episode has to look as good and have as much action as the first. (Or at least it’s got to seem like it does.) It’s a problem that applies most to shows with serialized story lines, where the second episode produced must be the second episode aired; with comedies and completely episodic dramas, the network or the producers have the option of picking the most effective episode to run second. (This of course has its own problems, especially now when critics and online observers might point to episodes being shown out of order as a bad sign for a show.) But for a show like No Ordinary Family or even Hawaii 5-0, they’ve got to get it right in week two and they only get one chance.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.