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Fall TV Freshman Class of 2007: Top Surprises and Underdogs

November 27, 2007 9:11 PM

Pushing DaisiesBiggest Surprise (tie): CBS' “Moonlight” and ABC's “Samantha Who?"

At the critics tour this summer, only “Viva Laughlin” was presumed a bigger dog than “Moonlight.”

Early in the season, when it became clear “Moonlight” had some passionate fans—but not yet clear it had enough—CBS executives joked they were worried that “Jericho”-inspired viewers would mail them garlic if they canceled the show. With “Moonlight” consistently winning the 9 p.m.. hour and its ratings improving steadily, they’re not worried anymore.

As for “Samantha Who?” the show was a second-string contender in ABC’s fall arsenal whose performance has surprised everybody. If you think high ratings are automatic for any show following a big hit like “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC has some post-“Grey’s Anatomy” real estate to sell you.

Sharpest Buzzdrop: The CW's “Aliens in America”

Generally critics continue to pimp a show whose premiere they enjoyed, even if it struggles in the ratings. Not so here. The “Aliens” pilot received positive reviews and then dropped off the map. With an average rating of about 0.8, it seems even those paid to watch TV shows aren’t watching this one.

Best Proof Critics Aren’t Smarter Than the Rest of Us: ABC's “Pushing Daisies”

In recent years critics have struggled to convince viewers to appreciate “Arrested Development,” “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights.” The critical consensus going into the fall was that “Pushing Daisies” was a clever, unique and literate drama and so, naturally, only critics would appreciate the show. Guess what? Viewers got it.

Biggest Underdog: CBS’ “Cane”

No, not “Gossip Girl” or “Reaper” or some other show that has received publicity disproportionate to its audience. “Cane” is a true underdog: low-rated with anemic press, yet not nearly as bad as you think. The show’s sleepy subplots are ready-made for TiVo fast-forwarding, but with every episode, the main storyline has shoved protagonist Alex Vega further into a dark hole that seems impossible to escape.

Biggest Strike Beneficiary (tie): CBS' “Cane,” The CW's “Reaper,” ABC's “Big Shots” and Fox's “K-Ville”

All fell below their network’s respective red lines for their time periods, then kept going.

Biggest Mess: NBC's “Bionic Woman”

The tragedy of “Bionic Woman” was that NBC had the right idea. Throughout the summer, insiders wondered if NBC’s saturation bombing of ads for its retooling of the modestly performing 1970s version would help draw an audience. Then the premiere garnered the biggest number of the fall (at the time) and beat “Private Practice”—clearly viewers were ready and willing to watch a “Bionic” remake. But NBC wasn’t ready and willing to deliver a polished product. The ratings have dropped sharply with nearly every episode amid behind-the-scenes retooling.

Strangest Evolution: CBS' “Kid Nation”

An unprecedented amount of pre-air controversy. A soft premiere rating. Subsequent viewership drops and, later, some gains. “Nation” seemingly started with one audience (car-wreck reality gawkers) and ended up with another (kids and their parents). Fans say the show keeps getting better.

Most Foregone Conclusion (tie): CBS' “Viva Laughlin,” The CW's “Life Is Wild” and Fox's “Nashville”

Viewers watch ads for lame-sounding new series and read supportive comments made by network executives in the press and wonder how these people find their car keys in the morning. Truth is, most programmers privately have a clear sense of their show’s flaws long before the public catches on. In the case of this trio, just about everybody at their respective networks knew they weren’t going to work, yet aired them anyway. Some credit here to Fox, which may have plowed ahead with “Nashville,” but also yanked weak-buzzed “New Amsterdam” off the fall schedule in August despite a lack of scripted fall programming.

1:40 p.m.: Updated "Bionic Woman" paragraph

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Comments (14)

Richard Card:

To this list I would add that CHUCK has had the most improvement. Monday's episode was the best yet!

Mystery:

"Back to You?"

Camera Operator Jones:

Since when was the 1970's Bionic Woman a flop?
I recall it as very popular, in that time of a three-network TV game. Made Lindsay Wagner a star.

Jace:

I'd second the comment about "Chuck," which--after a strong start and then a string of lukewarm episodes--has emerged a strong creative player with several installments that have built upon the ones that came before. Funny, slick, and action-packed.

Isabel:

Am ecstatic to hear that Moonlight beat the odds because it is a great show. Now, if only CBS would commit to a full season, strike or no strike.

David:

If NBC and the producers of the Bionic Woman want better ratings, they could always start recycling scripts from the 1970s series--and modifying the scripts to make them current.

During the last writers strike in the late-1980s, a remake of Mission Impossible was planning the recycle scripts before that strike was settled.

If the writers strike continues, recycling scripts is one option that is available to the producers of the Bionic Woman, that would not be an option to most--if any-- other action seriescurrently on the air.

yh:

Way to go Moonlight. Come on CBS give us a full season...and more Mick/Beth goodness.

Molly:

Hooray for Moonlight. It's really become a wonderful show, please give us a full season cbs!

Beth:

Moonlight is an excellent show!!

I'm looking forward to the remaining episodes and hope that CBS will give us the full season.

Alex, Sophia and the cast are a hit...keep'em coming for the next seven seasons and beyond.

Come on CBS. Don't let us fans down.

malissa:

Yeah that excellent news for my fav show (MOONLIGHT).

Renee:

CBS Moonlight Rocks!Please pick up this show.

colleen:

I am thrilled that Moonlight is getting all this positive feedback. Besides its new breakout star Alex O'loughlin. I love that CBS is brave enough to move into this type of genre. While I love CSI and all other cop drama. I am sick of spins off and what something new a freshing. This show is a mature version of this type of genre and I find it addicting week after week with the shows getting better and better. I hope CBS will pick it up for a full season and give this the go ahead as a hit for their network. For me it is. It actually got me watching all three shows on Friday night. Way to go and I hope it continues.

colleen:

I am thrilled that Moonlight is getting all this positive feedback. Besides its new breakout star Alex O'loughlin. I love that CBS is brave enough to move into this type of genre. While I love CSI and all other cop drama. I am sick of spins off and what something new a freshing. This show is a mature version of this type of genre and I find it addicting week after week with the shows getting better and better. I hope CBS will pick it up for a full season and give this the go ahead as a hit for their network. For me it is. It actually got me watching all three shows on Friday night. Way to go and I hope it continues.

Joneen Blado:

I love the CBS show, "Cane" so much that I am having withdrawal symptoms now that it is not on any more. Hopefullyl, CBS will see fit to renew this show and not leave us all hanging like they did this summer with their show, Pirate Master!!!

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