It's the start of a New Year. So naturally people are making their New Year's resolutions.
Personally, I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. But that doesn't stop me from inflicting resolutions on other people. What if TV networks had New Year's resolutions? I suspect it would look a little like this:
When you're on top of the ratings, it's tough to argue that you need to change anything. Sure we like to make fun of CBS for having awful comedies like Two and a Half Men (despite its massive ratings). And yes we like to remind CBS that they tend to lean towards the older crowd. But hey, they're #1!
But in 2012, the one thing CBS has to work on is trying to get their dramas to stick. CSI and Criminal Minds are getting older, and their new dramas are hit or miss in the ratings. Yes, NCIS gets monster ratings, but a network can't rely on Mark Harmon's scowl. CBS needs to try to produce dramas that step out of the "procedural" box. It's been their bread and butter for years, but if they want to attract the younger demographic, they need to get out of their comfort zone.
Another thing, their reality series need shaking up. Survivor especially needs something to reignite interest.
Despite a rocky 2011, FOX is still in pretty good shape in the ratings.
Why rocky, you ask? The epic dino-drama (that must have cost FOX three testicles and an arm) Terra Nova underperformed. In fact, it's not even sure if it'll get a 2nd season. Speaking of disappointing debuts, the Simon Cowell lead The X Factor didn't come close to the 20 million viewers predicted. Finally, ratings for Glee have been hitting a series low.
But it's not all bad for FOX. New Girl is the hottest new comedy this season. Bones is still performing well in its Thursday night slot, and House is still hanging in there.
Going into 2012, FOX needs to not put all their eggs in one basket. The Terra Nova/X Factor experiment did not pay off. Now the network still has American Idol on tap, and the premiere of the Kiefer Sutherland drama Touch. Also debuting this winter is Alcatraz and The Finder (a.k.a. Bones spinoff).
The network might lose a couple dramas this year, including Fringe and House (still in negotiations). If FOX wants to stay on good shape, they need to find great intriguing dramas to fill these spots. And be patient, FOX. You have been guilty of premature-cancellation far too often.
Finally, stop with the terrible sitcoms. I Hate My Teenage Daughter made us all hate life itself.
ABC is doing two things right. They have built a strong comedy line up on their Wednesday nights, and they have built their brand with the soapy-leaning dramas.
But despite their success, they have stumbled with what they're good at. Sure, they have The Middle, Suburgatory, and Modern Family, but they also have/had the awful Man Up and Work It. For every Grey's Anatomy there's a Pan Am that crashes and burns.
What does ABC need to do in the New Year? Consistency. I would suggest first of all turning all three hours on Wednesday night into a comedy block. Splitting their comedies to Tuesday and Wednesday has not worked. It would be a ballsy move that would most likely pay off.
As for their dramas, they need to stick with what they're good at. The success of Revenge was great news for the network, and they can build on that. ABC also needs to stop looking for the next LOST, but at the same time try to gain some of that male audience back with dramas geared towards us more (ala less-soapy).
Poor NBC. They've really had a rough few years haven't they? Granted, most of it is self-inflicted and totally deserved. So how can NBC get out of the ratings basement?
Honestly, I would suggest for them to completely blow up their schedule. Yes, that includes their Thursday night not-so-Must-See-anymore comedy line up. What have they got to lose? Maybe great comedies like Community and Parks and Recreation wouldn't be creamed in the ratings if it wasn't facing the Goliath that is The Big Bang Theory on CBS. Maybe veteran dramas like Law & Order: SVU wouldn't be on the bubble if they had a proper lead-in. Maybe new shows like Prime Suspect would have had a shot if it wasn't put in a timeslot known as a show-killer.
NBC can only survive like this for so long. Something has to give. They do have some good news, though. The Voice and the highly anticipated Smash are set to premiere soon. But that's certainly not enough to save NBC.
NBC can learn from ABC, who was in a similar position a few years back.
The CW is technically one of the 5 "broadcast networks," but it lives on its own set of rules. The network's survival and success relies mostly on one specific demographic: females 18-49.
So how's that working for them? Well... not great. Every year, ratings have been going lower and lower. Granted that's the case for most networks, but when your ratings are low to start with, it becomes a problem.
How bad are things? Last season's breakout hit for the network Nikita is now highly likely not to return next season.
What's the solution? The network did take the right step when they ordered Nikita last season. It was a series off-brand, but it could relate to female viewers with the strong female-lead, and had enough action for the male viewers.
The CW has to tweak their brand. Gender targeted networks are a huge risk, just ask Spike TV. Spike TV changed their brand years ago to "TV for Men." Now they have scaled back on their image and include programming that is more female-friendly. Heck, even Playboy TV has become more "couple friendly" with the addition of reality-series for adults.
The CW needs to get rid of the stigma that all their shows are "chick shows." (This isn't fair since Supernatural and Nikita go against that). Diversity is key here.
The USA Network:
I'm Canadian, so I don't get The USA Network. But I do know that they are the #1 rated cable network on TV.
Now if you asked me "Adam, what's Burn Notice about?" Or White Collar? Or Covert Affairs? Suits? I would pause, and say something like "Pretty white people... characters welcome?"
With the exception of WWE Monday Night RAW, pretty much most of their shows follow the same mold, am I right? Bad-ass, attractive characters doing bad-ass stuff... And it's welcome!
Or maybe I'm just sour I don't get The USA Network in Canada. We don't welcome characters, apparently.
*Note: I am aware that many USA Network originals do air in Canada on other networks, please do not point that out*
Weeds, Dexter, Californication, what do they have in common? Say it with me... "Passed their prime!"
Showtime has a knack for producing some great dramas and (non) comedies. But the one thing they are guilty of is not letting them die in their prime. Seriously, do we need TWO more seasons of Dexter after the awful season we just witnessed? Putting an end date to a series isn't a bad thing.
It makes me nervous for Homeland, which premiered as the best series of the new season. What does Season 8 of Homeland look like? I'm weeping already.
Learn to cut the cord, Showtime.
Game of Thrones Season 2! Woooooo!
Sorry, got excited there for a minute. But winter IS coming, and I know I'm not the only one pumped for the return of the HBO epic drama.
It's tough to find fault in HBO. They constantly produce intriguing, original programming. And sure they have missteps at times, but at least they went for it.
My few suggestions for HBO are to treat all their comedies like they were Entourage. The lack of promotion for any of their comedies is an injustice. And it cost the life of Bored to Death, Hung, and How to Make It in America.
Speaking of lack of promotion, Treme is returning for a 3rd season. If you're reading this and you said to yourself "Treme still on?" Or "What's Treme?", thank you for proving my point.
Finally, HBO, please set an end date for True Blood. Yes, I'm aware it has a lot of fans. I'm one of them. But even the loyalist fan can admit that shit has gone a tad ridiculous. No one wants to imagine what a Season 8 would look like.
FX probably had the best 2011 of all the cable networks. It got some Emmy love, and mass critical acclaim. And of course record ratings.
My advice? Continue being your crazy edgy self. Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Louie, Wilfred.... it's all so good.
And please give Kurt Sutter a hug. I think he might need it.
And the network that tarnished its image the most in 2011 is... AMC!
The network must be counting down the days until Mad Men and Breaking Bad return. We all are counting.
AMC has lost all good graces it had with critics this past year. From The Killing debacle, to the slower-than-slow Season 2 of The Walking Dead. Critics were even lukewarm for their new drama Hell on Wheels (which was renewed for Season 2).
In 2012, the network dives into the reality-series game. It's cheaper programming to produce, but for a network that has hurt its reputation so much this past year, will it be worth it?
AMC needs to stop coasting on the successes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Remember, one of them is sadly ending this season. The network needs to prove to us that they weren't flukes. Can AMC repair its image in 2012?
That's all from me. What about you? Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Do you have any New Year's Resolutions to add? Weigh in!
Follow Adam Wright on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TVDoneWright