By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
A show can be a hit, but if its viewers are over 49, chances are it’ll get the axe
A television show can get ratings and still be a failure. That’s what viewers of Harry’s Law discovered, to their chagrin, when the series was cancelled by NBC even though it was the network’s most popular scripted show. The drama, which earned an Emmy nomination for star Kathy Bates, had an average of eight million viewers per episode, compared to four million for the network’s flagship show The Ofﬁce, and fewer than that for renewed shows like 30 Rock and Parenthood. But most of Harry’s Law’s viewers were over the age of 50, and in modern TV, advertisers only pay high prices for viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. “It’s just harder to monetize that older audience,” NBC president Robert Greenblatt bluntly explained after cancelling the show. “Any rational person would argue a hit show with an older audience is better than no hits at all,” says Rick Ellis, founder of the news site All Your TV. “But broadcast television executives are not always known for their rational behaviour.”
Young adult viewers have been TV’s target demographic for decades, because they’re thought to have less brand loyalty and more disposable income. That didn’t make as much difference back when television shows reached a broader audience: if a show was a hit with old people, like The Golden Girls, it usually “brought in enough younger viewers to be viable,” explains Brian Lowry, chief TV critic for Variety. But today, Ellis says, the young audience is “fragmenting and moving to cable,” so different generations are often watching completely different shows. “The problem with the broadcast networks chasing the younger demo is that most of the time they aren’t reaching them,” Ellis adds.
That means there are an increased number of shows only older people watch, and advertisers don’t consider those shows to be hits. Jesse Stone, Tom Selleck’s series of TV detective movies, brought in a large audience of almost 13 million people—but only 10 per cent of those people were under 50, and the series was cancelled. So was CSI: Miami, which remained very popular with total viewers but looked mediocre in the 18-to-49 age group, or the “key demo” as show business trades call it. The need to attract young people also affects the casting of shows that stay on the air: shows like NCIS surround older stars with mostly young casts, and the recent revival of Dallas gives most of the screen time to a new cast of young, pretty people.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 3:56 PM - 0 Comments
As the bubble bursts on daytime soap operas, the tide is turning on the nighttime versions
Daytime soap operas are dying, but they’re also being resurrected—at night. While daytime drama fans have been devastated by a series of high-profile cancellations, prime-time soaps, the ones that run once a week and deal with good-looking rich families exacting revenge on one another, are stronger than they’ve been in decades. On June 13, the U.S. and Canada will see a revival of the most popular prime-time soap of them all, Dallas. The ABC network, which recently cancelled the long-running One Life to Live and All My Children, is full of shows like the aptly named Revenge (in the Hamptons) and has announced a fall schedule that includes new shows Nashville (revenge in the music business) and 666 Park Avenue, described as the story of a posh building full of “wealth, sex, love, power, even revenge.”
People who grew up in the ’80s experienced an era when prime time was almost as soapy as daytime: thanks to Dallas, Dynasty and many spinoffs and imitators, most of the top dramas were soap operas. But the form lost steam when the public got tired of rich-people problems and storylines, like the season of Dallas that turned out to be a dream. Since then, except for shows aimed at teenagers (the revival of Beverly Hills 90210), plus the spoof soap Desperate Housewives, networks have avoided them and gone for shows where the characters try to help people instead of constantly plotting retribution.
Now the tide may be turning. With daytime soaps difficult to sustain for economic reasons—namely, not enough people watching during the day—prime-time storytelling has become a more sensible option. Christine Fix, editor-in-chief for Soaps.com, says viewers feel “nostalgic about prime-time TV in the 1980s and ’90s,” and that they “seem to be begging to see more of that now that we’ve lost so many daytime soap operas.” The continued popularity of telenovelas in Latin America, not to mention Coronation Street in the U.K., may have shown networks that people still watch this kind of programming in the evenings. Last year, La Reina Del Sur, a story of a young Mexican woman who fled to Spain where she becomes a major drug trafficker, was the most popular show in the history of the Spanish-language network Telemundo, and a U.S. studio has the rights to make an English-language adaptation.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, December 8, 2008 at 1:00 AM - 3 Comments
‘Dallas,’ at 30, is now a classic, all because of a villain who never stops being interesting
“The entire event was HORRIBLY orchestrated with many, many, many failed promises,” wrote a commenter at the official message board for Dallas, the hit prime-time soap opera that celebrated its 30th anniversary with a cast reunion gathering on Nov. 8. Another commenter raged against the promoters who organized the event, noting that he and his wife had paid $5,000 to travel from Australia to Texas, only to get no food, no drinks, and no opportunity to meet the cast. A promised fireworks show didn’t happen until almost everyone had gone home. The original Dallas got 14 years’ worth of storylines out of the attempts of evil oil baron J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) to screw over his goody-two-shoes brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and sozzled wife, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), and so it’s only fitting that the reunion—a barbecue at Southfork Ranch, an estate on the outskirts of the real Dallas—also involved broken promises and threats of revenge. That’s the kind of melodrama that makes a show hold up. Most hour-long drama shows have their day and are then forgotten, a victim of changing tastes and styles; even recent hits like NYPD Blue have bombed on DVD and reruns, and most older dramas are forgotten by all except their hard-core fans. But Dallas is as much a part of popular culture now as it was in the late ’70s and early ’80s.