If you haven't already heard, I am sorry to be the one to break it to you. Enlightened will not be coming back for a third season. After much soulful, gut wrenching debate, the series has been canceled. Excuse me? Enlightened. You know -- that dark, edgy series about a dysfunctional yet quirky and likable character. It was on HBO for two seasons. It was critically acclaimed. According to The Wrap, the second season premiere attracted 43 percent more viewers than the series debut -- that's at least 300,000 viewers! At this rate, they might have made it to a whole million viewers by season five.
Now, I should probably apologize for my sarcasm. I do not subscribe to schadenfreude and do not take pleasure in anyone's misfortune. Certainly, the creative and production team behind the series has been sent into varying levels of crisis mode as they scramble to find their next regular job. The series star, Laura Dern, is a wonderful actress whose performances bring an element of heart to whatever role she plays. So, let me go on record as saying it's most likely not her fault that the series didn't find a big enough audience to justify the production costs or schedule placement. Chances are, it's not even the fault of the writers, producers, directors, co-stars or any other participant in the project. Indeed, I am willing to suggest that the fault lies with an obsolete trend that needs to be pronounced dead and buried without tribute.
Enough with the edge, Hollywood! The audience is tired of dysfunction and the numbers prove it. In the same week that Enlightened attracted 300,000 viewers, Blue Bloods -- the lowest rated show on Nielsen's Top 10 chart -- attracted 10.7 million viewers. The remaining nine shows included NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles, Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, 60 Minutes, Person of Interest and THREE different versions of American Idol. What do all of the Top 10 shows have in common? With the exception of 60 Minutes, the other nine series are about functional relationships between "families" of friends or professional colleagues.
Maybe it's time for Hollywood to take a field trip across America. Visit the parks and the coffee shops in the amalgam of little cities and towns which make up the Flyovers that most of us fled to come here. People are trying really hard to feel good. After a long, hard day, the audience wants to relax and enjoy themselves -- to escape for a few hours watching programs that don't remind them of the crap they deal with in their everyday grind. So shows that resemble the dreary aspects of their own lives are not going to win the heart of America.
If nothing else, every development executive in the industry should hold their next power lunch at The Beverly Center. Walk around and look in the stores. There is color everywhere -- clothes, shoes, accessories, luggage, make up, furniture, electronics, dishes and cookware -- bright, vibrant color. Everybody wants to be happy! So, as the industry slides into that time of year where new and returning series get green-lit, I'd suggest the networks consider making that green-light a very bright green. Happy will win the day, while the dark, edgy series will continue to attract a small, nihilistic following. As for the television critics who are acclaiming these dark, edgy shows? Get some sun. Take your vitamins. Adopt a puppy. Just lighten up!
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