Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Did ABC Cancel The Last Resort?

If you keep track of such things, many of you may have heard that the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) has cancelled the show The Last Resort. Now I have to confess that I never watched the show, as it was opposite 30 Rock on NBC. That having been said, I know that it received almost universally sterling reviews from critics and everyone I know who watched it simply raved about it. I thought that perhaps I would be able to catch it in reruns. Sadly, it seems that I was wrong. I also must say that I think ABC has made a mistake in cancelling The Last Resort so soon.

Now on the surface ABC may appear to have been wise in cancelling The Last Resort. The show did not do well in the Nielsen ratings. While the series debuted with 9.31 million viewers, its ratings soon dropped. Its episode that aired this week was only watched by 5.68 million viewers. Worse yet, it was not doing well in the 18-49 demographic that advertisers want so badly. It had only a ratings share of 1.2/4 in the key 18-49 demographic. Except possibly for a show on The CW, these ratings would seem to be bad by any measure.

While ratings for The Last Resort were hardly good, I have to point out that the show might not have been doing quite as badly as ABC thought. Let's face it, the show was opposite the ratings behemoth Big Bang Theory, which has been averaging a phenomenal 18.99 million viewers this season. What is more, it does spectacularly well in the demographic of 18 to 49 year olds. This week The Big Bang Theory received an incredible 10.6/17 ratings share in the 18 to 49 demographic. If The Big Bang Theory wasn't bad enough, it also has to compete with the results show of The X-Factor. While it does not receive the phenomenal ratings of The Big Bang Theory, it does do particularly well. This week it had 7.3 million viewers and a ratings share of 4.5/7 in the 18 to 49 demographic. Given its competition, then, The Last Resort was probably lucky to get the ratings that it did. Indeed, it did beat out both 30 Rock and Up All Night on NBC in both over all viewers and the key demographic. Indeed, I very seriously doubt anything ABC could put in its place would do as well. And from last season's Charlie's Angels reboot, we know some things could do worse.

Even if ABC took into account the fact that The Last Resort was against competition that no show is likely to surmount, one could still maintain they were justified in cancelling the show. Again, I am no so sure that is true. The Last Resort was very well received with critics and viewers alike. At the aggregated review site Metacritic, The Last Resort received an incredible 74 out 100 positive reviews from critics. It also did well with viewers on the Metacritic site, who gave it a rating of 8 out of 10. Most shows at Metacritic are lucky to receive a score of  anywhere from 50 to 60 from the aggregated reviews of critics and a rating of 5 or 6 from viewers at Metacrtiic. Users rated The Last Resort  very high at IMDB as well. There it has been rated 8 out of 10 (about four out of five stars).  The Last Resort was then one of those shows that was both critically acclaimed and well loved by those who saw it. I would think that would give ABC very just cause for keeping it.

Indeed, I have to point out that historically shows that have received largely positive reviews and good buzz from viewers often prove to be hits, no matter how low rated they were in their early runs. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. did so extremely badly upon its debut on NBC in the 1964-1965 season, that as of December 1964 it was not even on NBC's tentative schedule for the 1965-1966 season.  After NBC moved it from Tuesday night to Monday night, its ratings began to steadily rise until by May it was one of the surprise hits of the 1964-1965 season. All in the Family is another example of an acclaimed show with an inauspicious debut. When it debuted as a mid-season replacement on Tuesday night in 1971 its ratings were not particularly spectacular. With its second (and first full season) it was moved to Saturday night, where it became the #1 show, a position it maintained for five seasons.

Beyond the fact that critically acclaimed show with good buzz from viewers sometimes become hits, there is the fact that The Last Resort could have become a prestige show for ABC. Critically acclaimed shows with good buzz from viewers are often nominated and even win a good number of awards. Of course, this brings positive attention to the network airing the show. And it is not as if ABC has a preponderance of "prestige shows" airing this season. Modern Family, which won a ton of awards (everything from Emmy Awards to Writer's Guild Awards) is about the only prestige show they have. The Last Resort could then have increased the number of awards for which ABC was nominated, if not won, and thus bring positive attention to the network.

Rather than cancel The Last Resort, I truly think ABC would have been better off moving it to another time slot. It is notable that of my two examples from above, both All in the Family and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. did not become ratings successes until they were moved to different time slots. And it is not as if ABC did not have an available time slot. The same time that the network cancelled The Last Resort, they cancelled 666 Park Avenue. They could have simply moved The Last Resort to 9:00 PM Sunday night where 666 Park Avenue formerly aired. Indeed, this would have the added benefit of removing it from competition with The Big Bang Theory. While it is highly unlikely The Last Resort would beat Sunday Night Football on NBC, it could compete with The Mentalist on CBS. Indeed, given The Mentalist tends to be a show with a slightly older audience, I don't see how it could fail to attract more of the desired 18 to 49 demographic. And once Sunday Night Football ends in December, it could actually see a boost in the ratings.

Regardless, I think ABC has made a mistake in cancelling The Last Resort. Given its competition on CBS and Fox, I don't see how ABC could have thought it was going to do incredibly well in the ratings. And given it has received largely positive reviews from critics and is highly regarded by those viewers who have seen it, The Last Resort could have risen in the ratings. This could have especially been a possibility had it been moved to a less competitive time slot. Sadly, it seems ABC did not want to give it that chance.


Unknown said...

New drmatic series with a TON of potential? Check.

Original storyline that invites viewers to THINK? Check.

Above average acting that should only get better? Check.

Of course they're killing Last Resort. How else can they replace it with another cop-drama clone, or some IQ draining "reality" crap?

Unknown said...

So sorry it was is a great show!