“To be or not to be – that is the question” – which keeps Shakespeare’s Hamlet on stage wavering for a good four to five hours depending on the production. Deciding on whether or not to cancel a television show is usually more cut and dry, but occasionally other factors can determine a show’s survival.
In my “Watch or Not” for ABC I mentioned that Body of Proof was an example about how a show can be made better with a little time and nurturing. Sometimes though, even those things can’t save a show. Especially when the show doesn’t make any significant changes. The show that immediately comes to mind – Smash over on NBC. Recently NBC decided to move the rest of Smash season two over to Saturday nights. Unless there’s some kind of major Saturday night viewership that shows up along with a fan-based campaign which sweeps the social media world, there will be no Smash season 3.
What the heck happened to Smash? In it’s first season it did start out with big ratings, but those quickly declined. Honestly, last season I couldn’t believe it had gotten renewed. Then I considered the big cast names, and the producer, and it’s renewal made more sense. Like I said, the choice to cancel a show isn’t always simple. With the level of talent involved, there really should have been a way to make Smash work.
Like ABC’s Body of Proof, Smash came back mid season, giving it plenty of time to retool the show. Only thing – they didn’t particularly change anything. I get the feeling what was wrong with the show was never pinpointed. Smash has really awesome musical numbers. It’s what happens when there isn’t singing and dancing that’s that problem. The script, and at times the acting, plays like a Broadway musical – not a good thing on a TV screen. The other musical show on TV – Fox’s Glee – has worked because, the stories they tell feel like television and not like theater. Furthermore, everyone has had the high school teen experience, which gives the audience a way to relate. Smash is so tied up in the trials and tribulations of the New York theater scene that there really isn’t a connection for the average viewer. Certainly there were moments that felt real and universal, but for the most part the love of the Broadway world overshadowed the fact that this was supposed to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers.
As a concept, it’s fun to watch the singing and dancing of a musical. It works on stage and on film. Both are viewed in one sitting. Nor is it impossible to tackle serious issues in a musical form. However, music does tend to shorten the telling of the story. Take the play Angels in America – one of the longest plays ever. It’s is a seven hour show. When they turned it in into an opera, it went down to two and a half. According to Wikipedia, the Victor Hugo book Les Miserables is one thousand four hundred and eighty-eight pages in paperback. The musical is a mere three hours. Now, consider Smash. After three episodes, viewers were basically done – 3 hours worth of musical. Had they made Smash feel more like television and less like something actually on the Great White Way, it might have have made it. However, at this point, I think it’s time for it’s final bow.
The second show that’s been on cancellation watch is Deception. Tonight is actually its season finale, and then NBC will likely be assessing whether to bring it back or not. Now, I had watched the premiere of this and had been surprised at how good it actually was. However, I’d also noted that it still didn’t seem quite sure of it’s footing. It was obvious that when first conceived it was supposed to be NBC’s answer to Revenge, but by air-time had moved away from that concept. (See my review of the premiere if you want more details on that.)
The question I had after watching the premiere was if it continue to move away from the more soap-opera-like feel, and turn into a serious crime drama. The answer to that has been yes. Deception is a serious and complex series, any evidence of it’s campy beginnings are definitely gone. So why is it doing so poorly in the ratings?
The short answer is scheduling. Deception came in to fill the slot of Revolution. Now Revolution is an action/sci-fi/romance mash-up that manages to hit a little something for everyone. However, judging by its ratings it’s a fair guess to say that it skewed towards that favorite demo of men 18-49. My reasoning is that the ratings that were the most affected were those of Hawaii 5-0 whereas the more female-skewing Castle ratings were barely touched. Deception isn’t a procedural crime drama, so it’s not particularly heavy on gore or action sequences. It’s a character driven show, with intrigue, power plays, secrets etc – not the kind of show that would hold the audience that was watching Revolution which is filled with literal fighting. As for the Castle audience, they’re pretty loyal – regardless of what else is on. Besides that, the Revolution audience had already started drifting back to Hawaii 5-0 so whatever came in would need to something really amped up. That’s just not Deception.
Why do I think Deception is worth saving? One, it’s developed into a complex really good show. In that sense, it reminds me of ABC’s Scandal in that Scandal didn’t reveal the number of story layers it had right off the bat. But good shows get cancelled all the time due to lack of audience. (NBC’s Awake immediately comes to mind.) The different with Deception is that I’ve noticed a new on-line twitter presence of people interested in the show. Networks are slowly coming to realize the importance of the on-line buzz, and there has definitely been an increase in Deception chatter over this hiatus – in particular from people who watch Scandal. To me it’s a sign that the show was never really sampled before, and that it’s time-slot is a problem. A quick look at various fan-sites comments shows a consistent sense of the show’s quality having improved after the airing of the February 25 episode – which happens to be the first week of this three week hiatus. Both Hawaii 5-0 and Castle were repeats that night, giving the show a chance for a second look.
Last year, I thought Smash wasn’t a well-written show, and that viewpoint was echoed by many, many reviewers. While it started out well, the reviews quickly started to tank. The season two reviews and viewership has borne out it’s season one criticism, despite it’s Golden Globe nomination. (The drama was nominated as a comedy/musical which really just says it all.) This year, Deception is a show that has had it’s positive reviews go up instead of down. I think NBC would do well to think about renewing a show that people are starting to like – as opposed to renewing shows people would prefer to go away.
So, in terms of watch or not? Smash is a not – don’t waste your time. With Deception, I’d say it’s a watch. Tonight is its finale. I’d suggest you DVR it and go catch up on NBC.com or Hulu.com. If you like it, let NBC know! Hopefully NBC will renew it, but if they don’t, it’s still a good 12 episode series.
Let me know if you think these shows should stay or go – and stay tuned for thoughts on what’s up over on FOX!
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