Scorecard: Fast-tracked shows

So we’re an average of 4 – 6 weeks into “fasttracking / direct from the US / streaming direct” depending on which network spin you listen to.

And how are they faring?

There are about twelve major dramas and comedies on our screens on quick turnaround (discounting chat shows). As a relatively new exercise in Australian programming there have been some tough-love lessons for networks. Viva Laughlin would never have aired and fallen over if Nine was programming the old-fashioned way. Damages fumbled through too many encores. Californication has attracted right-wing protests. Bionic Woman isn’t getting the word-of-mouth it might have enjoyed.

After all is said and done what’s the lay of the land?

TV Tonight has assessed the batch based on the turnaround time between US – Australian airing, the critical reception, local audience ratings, reviewed how sensibly the networks have programmed shows and stuck by the audience, and thrown in a “wow” factor – whether the show has its own intangible buzz.

Each show has been scored out of 25 points.

HOUSE (TEN)
Screening turnaround: 4
Critical reception: 4
Audience ratings: 5
Network commitment: 5
Wow factor: 4
TOTAL: 22
Dr Cranky only misses top marks because he’s without his sidekicks and TEN waited 3 weeks before launching it.

CALIFORNICATION (TEN)
Screening turnaround: 4
Critical reception: 4
Audience ratings: 3
Network commitment: 4
Wow factor: 5
TOTAL: 20
TEN has stuck by this candid, sometimes shocking, drama amid a wall of criticism, only occasionally dropping the ball. A drama about apathy and the disintegration of the American family.

MY NAME IS EARL: (Seven)
Screening turnaround: 4
Critical reception: 3
Audience ratings: 5
Network commitment: 4
Wow factor: 3
TOTAL: 19
Consistently funny with a loyal following in a generous timeslot. But we actually started with the tail end of the last series.

LIFE (TEN)
Screening turnaround: 5
Critical reception: 4
Audience ratings: 2
Network commitment: 5
Wow factor: 2
TOTAL: 18
Good reviews for Damian Lewis haven’t yet locked in local audiences yet. But Wednesday nights have been a nightmare for hot competition.

BIONIC WOMAN (Seven)
Screening turnaround: 5
Critical reception: 3
Audience ratings: 3
Network commitment: 5
Wow factor: 2
TOTAL: 18
Everyone came to the party, but they have been disappointed by cliché dialogue and soapie storylines. Losing ground fast and potentially a missed opportunity.

HEROES (Seven)
Screening turnaround: 5
Critical reception: 3
Audience ratings: 2
Network commitment: 5
Wow factor: 3
TOTAL: 18
Season 2 is slow-going with lots of unresolved and elongated plots. The series equivalent of a superhero changing outfits in the phone-booth.

K-VILLE (Fox8)
Screening turnaround: 5
Critical reception: 3
Audience ratings: 1
Network commitment: 5
Wow factor: 2
TOTAL: 16
If it wasn’t for the fact that this cop show was set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans it would be just another cop show. Foxtel dabbles with fasttracking while everyone waits for Gossip Girl.

PRISON BREAK (Seven)
Screening turnaround: 4
Critical reception: 3
Audience ratings: 2
Network commitment: 3
Wow factor: 3
TOTAL: 15
The show that re-packages itself every season is struggling in Season 3. Off air this week while Seven plays catch-up.

SUPERNATURAL (TEN)
Screening turnaround: 3
Critical reception: 2
Audience ratings: 3
Network commitment: 5
Wow factor: 2
TOTAL: 15
Teeny spook show that plays it safe and sexy. Hard to pick the difference from the last season.

DAMAGES (Nine)
Screening turnaround: 2
Critical reception: 5
Audience ratings: 1
Network commitment: 2
Wow factor: 4
TOTAL: 14
The reviews have been stunning but Nine shot itself in the foot with too many encore episodes and twice-weekly premieres which only confused the audience. To do so on a complex, multi-layered thriller was a major blunder. Even the US audience has shown it’s hard enough to stay focussed without added scheduling tricks.

WITHOUT A TRACE (Nine)
Screening turnaround: 4
Critical reception: 2
Audience ratings: 2
Network commitment: 3
Wow factor: 2
TOTAL: 13
Anthony LaPaglia comes to Nine’s rescue as it bumps Damages. Otherwise it wouldn’t be here yet.

VIVA LAUGHLIN (Nine)
Screening turnaround: 5
Critical reception: 1
Audience ratings: 1
Network commitment: 2
Wow factor: 0
TOTAL: 8
Nine could have protected itself from the media flak over this if it hadn’t been aired direct to screen. It has learned the hard way there can be a downside to being so quick off the mark.

14 Comments:

  1. Damn, I just realised that the fools at 7 didn’t Fasttrack DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES new season … they are up to Ep 5 in the US … well, I’ve sorted that this weekend already …
    Would have been a better idea than Bionic Woman!!! Though I must say the BW is better with that new hot guy in it!
    Jack!

  2. Will be interesting to hear peoples reactions to the breaks in the shows. A lot of people will be confused and complaining. I for one won’t mind too much. The fans of Prison Break are in for an extended hiatus with it not returning until mid April which seems like a pretty big break to me.

  3. The US schedule may take a few weeks off (although it has changed since last year e.g. Heroes Origins), but it isn’t as long as the few months ratings break here.

    US networks are slowly realizing that the reasons for these hiatuses are no longer valid and over time will be ditching them. Of course that mentality won’t been seen on our networks for another few decades or so 🙁

    The traditional “TV” method for broadcast & distribution is dead; the networks (especially Aus ones) just don’t know it.

    James

  4. A couple of people here commented on the concern about how once the ratings period ends, that the networks will put the Fast Tracked shows into cotton wool until Feb, how about the fact that they also have breaks(can be fairly lengthy ones too)in the US, and that at some point Heroes, House etc will be on breaks – it is not as if they show the full season all in 1 wack.
    We will have to wait and see what happens when breaks start to happen for certain shows.

  5. David, what I found interesting about the younger-sister character was that she didn’t appear in the pilot (which was leaked online some time ago). In the pilot, that same role was filled by the character of a deaf woman about the same age as Jamie. I presume the Marlee Matlin-like speech difficulties either didn’t test well with audiences or was problematic for the network. Or maybe they just wanted a “hot” younger character to appeal to “the kids” 🙂

    NBC appointing a new show runner (did Morgan *really* “quit”? We may never know!) sounds worryingly like what happened with Commander In Chief. And we all know how that one turned out…

    Ah well, at least Bionic Woman is writer-strike-proof. They can just use old Alias scripts 😉

  6. David, I love your reviews, you are very wise, and see through all the networks tricks, ticks and trips, when is one of these networks going to employ you as the head of programming? And save us all from the pain!

  7. yeah iv been owried about the same issue jmoo2 brought up…wat’s gona happen once november ends? these shows wont screen during summer, but since this strike seems like dragging ut, we porb wont be affected too much this year…

    i love the idea of fast-tracking shows, but u need to do it right….Seven were so stupid in how they broke up MNIE into 2 episodes…they stuff around with that show

    Bionic had potential but it’s losing massivly against Private Practice in the US….Heroes is so awesome,i wish more watched it….totally hits the right nerves with the 18-39’s…Prison Break hasnt been helped with little advertisment & such a weak lead-in…House will do well no matter what, & Life is kinda boring anyway…same concept every week (hunting down who framed him)

    hopefully Seven fast-track 24 in January…screen it right after the Australian Open…that’ll gain some viewers!

  8. The AU networks might be “fast-tracking” now but they’ll get left behind when our ratings period ends but the US continues.

    Great site btw; great Aussie companion to TV Squad.

    James

  9. Some valid points.

    Bionic Woman has also stupidly introduced the younger sister storyline which feels woefully Party of Five to me.

    But the show has also had trouble with its creatives, with Glen Morgan (X Files) also quitting over creative differences. NBC appointed a new show runner last week.

    Despite Seven’s crowing, it’s losing viewers every week in the US.

  10. You’re bieng way to kind to Seven with My Name Is Earl.

    They held back last year’s season finale to this year for absolutely no explicable reason (everyone I know just downloaded it).

    Then they headed into the new season by splitting a double-length episode in two (no, it was not meant to be shown as two parts, hence the writing credits for both parts at the start of the first episode Seven showed, and hence the 18-minute run time of the first episode).

    Then they took it off air for a week for sport rubbish of some kind.

    The result now is that while the episode that aired on Seven last Sunday was episode 3, in the US they’d already seen episode 6.

    And I now have to “illegally” download episode 3 anyway, as Seven started showing it a remarkable *13 minutes* late after letting K&K massively overrun. The result? My PVR caught barely half the episode. And they wonder why downloading is popular…

    As for Bionic Woman, it’s not just the soapie aspect that’s doing the show in. There are two main reasons for it:

    1. It’s all been done before. And I mean ALL of it’s been done before. In the one show. That show was called “Alias”, and “Bionic Woman” might as well be a photocopy of its first season.

    2. It’s a generic show crafted around a purchased franchise name, as has freely been admitted by the show’s “creator”. And it shows. There is absolutely ZERO emotional connection to the main character, and without it there’s really no point. Last week our heroine was told that due to a design fault she’d die in five years (as if the show will last that long!) My reaction, while watching, was to yawn.

  11. The ones worth watching are
    1. Supernatural
    2. Heroes
    3. House
    4. Prison Break
    5. Bionic Woman
    Supernatural is by far the best – its funny, entertaining and the new story arcs and characters are fantastic.
    Bela and Ruby are very interesting. Dean just gets funnier every episodes.

    Shows they should fast track or at least TRY to catch up to…
    1. SMALLVILLE
    2. Veronica Mars
    3. One Tree Hill
    4. Gossip Girl
    5. Hidden Palms (hahah… joke)

  12. Rather than “fast-tracking” all their long-running shows with ESTABLISHED fan bases, the major networks have stupidly thrown all the new shows at us; most of which have been either hit or miss (Bionic Woman and Life barely managing over 1 million viewers, although they would have to be the most successful “new” shows ratings-wise).

    TEN could EASILY remedy their Tuesday night repeat line-up by giving us up-to-date episodes of The Simpsons, NCIS and Numb3rs. TEN currently has enough Simpsons/NCIS/Numb3rs episodes to air until the end of the ratings season, with enough hold-overs to play in early 2008. The hold-overs from late 2007-early 2008 will provide TEN with enough unaired episodes to play on a consistent basis whilst they gradually catch up to the US.

  13. Well that is confusing!!

    The only ones I rate as worth fast tracking are HEROES and PRISON BREAK. The only other ones that I will watch but am not so excited about are BIONIC WOMAN and VIVA LAUGHLIN. The rest are a waste of satelite time to me!

    The other three that I am downloading now are BROTHERS & SISTERS, SMALLVILLE and STARGATE ATLANTIS.

    That’s a better way to measure it … “What would you download if it was not fast tracked?”

    Jack!

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