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The Status of Geek TV Shows of the Fall 2007 Season – Evaluating My Predictions

I feel bad for Hollywood TV executives. And not just because they have to deal with those uppity writer types who not only want to work, but get paid for it, too. And not just because it’s tough to drive a Ferrari anywhere that has hills, because you can scuff up the undercarriage.

No, I mean I feel bad for those execs because news hasn’t trickled down to Southern California that a genuine, grade-A prodigy lives among us. A genius who can accurately predict–based on subjective interpretation of fairly limited data–the chances for success of geek television shows.

A man whose powers of prognostication are matched by his looks, charm, patriotism, and chutzpa. A man who recycles, conserves, and washes after he flushes. A true man among men.

Ok, so it’s me. I’m a frigging genius when it comes to figuring out whether a new geek TV show is going to thrive. And the rest of that stuff is more-or-less true, too. I totally recycle old CDs as coasters all the time.

My technique for assessing a geek TV show involves measuring the show against the Formula for Great Geek TV (patent pending), and then making a educated guess based on my years of experience. If you question my credentials, perhaps you should know that I’m in a pilot program in which I’ll be consuming the next season of Lost intravenously. And I hate needles! I’m that immersed in geek TV.

Three months ago, before the kick-off of the Fall TV season, I made my predictions about how the new geek TV shows would fare. Now that all of the produced episodes have been aired and the networks are making their renewal decisions, let’s see how I performed.

(Here’s a preview: Even better than Britney Spears and her little sister in a white-trash, baby-making contest.)

CHUCK (NBC)

What I Said:

I saw a packed audience of cheering geeks give the pilot episode a standing ovation at Comic-Con. It meets the criteria of the Formula. ‘Nuff said. I give this show the odds of President Bush getting a free dinner at a convention for Christian fundamentalists. Pretty good.

The Verdict:

Ding ding ding! Even though the show didn’t consistently maintain the quality of the pilot episode throughout the season, it still managed to remain a frivolous bit of fun every week. And I’ll tell you something else… co-star Yvonne Stahovski didn’t get any less hot in each episode.

NBC thinks the show’s chances are “pretty good,” too, because the network has picked up Chuck for a full season.

BIONIC WOMAN (NBC)

What I Said:

The writing in the pilot episode is more stale than that piece of toast I dropped between my stove and counter a couple of weeks ago. And what a dour frigging experience. Not a hint of a sense of humor. Unless this show really changes things up (which could be a distinct possibility, now that it’s switched showrunners), I’ll be glad when NBC yanks it from the schedule after several episodes.

The Verdict:

The viewers already know what the network will admit any day now. This one’s a stinker. In spite of heavy promotion, it debuted to underwhelming numbers, and has lost over half of its audience since then. If not for the writer’s strike (and the subsequent lack of viable mid-season replacements), NBC likely would have canceled it by now. Instead, the network is going to try to get its money’s worth and let the thirteen ordered episodes air.

I guess I should be thankful that it wasn’t replaced with repeats of Fear Factor. I’d rather look at the British bionic chick than at Joe Rogan, any day. Between two people with nothing useful to say, I’ll take the pretty one.

JOURNEYMAN (NBC)

What I Said:

Hey, I remember this show when it was fun, hopeful, and called Quantum Leap. Or Voyagers!

Let me spell it out for you: a guy bouncing helplessly through time and righting wrongs is not a novel concept, and this incarnation of the story brings nothing new to the table. The previews really couldn’t do a better job of driving home the point that there are no richly-developed characters or compelling storylines, and it has exactly the opposite of a sense of fun. I get stressed just watching the promos.

Geeks won’t tune in, and neither will “regular” folk; I’m giving this one the chances of Britney staying clean long enough to get through her next court-mandated drug test.

The Verdict:

Na na na na… na na na na… hey hey hey… good-b-y-y-y-y-y-e!

The show developed a group of fans, but you wouldn’t know it from the awful, awful ratings. NBC decided to pass on picking this show up for an entire season, effectively canceling it. Which is sort of like starving a lame horse instead of putting it out of its misery, but, hey… it’s a tough business, this TV thing.

REAPER (CW)

What I Said:

I’ve seen a few commercials. That’s it. Here’s what I’ve determined: It’s on the CW. That’s not a positive indicator for the quality of the writing. It’s got a clever premise. Some dude’s parents sell his soul to the Devil, and the Devil makes him recapture errant souls. The show is intended to be both fun, and funny. Whether it reaches either of those goals is unclear.

Geeks might watch it if there’s nothing else on, but no one will feel particularly passionate about it. I mean, it’s a CW show, people!

The Verdict:

Ok, so I was only mostly right on this one. The pilot episode of Reaper was one of the most pleasant surprises of the Fall season for me. The writing’s not bad at all… at best, the show is funny and charming, and at worst, it’s amusing and charming.

For better or worse, I nailed the fact that–in spite of Reaper‘s extreme watchability (TM) and distinctive voice and premise–no one seems to feel particularly passionate about this series. And the ratings have been, eh… not good. For now, Reaper lives on to appear again in 2008, but there’s “no decision” on its longer-term future.

MOONLIGHT (CBS)

What I Said:

Its a show about a vampire detective who helps people in distress. Novel concept? Survey says… please see Angel. And Forever Knight. Oh, but this vampire is different! There’s a new spin! ‘Cause, see, he’s, like, really fast and can walk around in daylight. Yawn.

What else does the show have going for it? It’s on Friday night. Eek! On CBS. Ack! It’s already lost a showrunner thanks to “health issues.” Blargh! They’ll need Bill frigging Shakespeare to save this one. I already detect a faint odor of desperation around this whole project. It won’t speak to geeks or to larger audiences.

The Verdict:

So I abused Moonlight pretty intently in my prediction. My only mistake was not abusing the show enough. But I had no idea of just how very bad this show would turn out to be. I think “soulless,” “boring,” and “vapid” fairly well describe the situation.

By some freak happenstance, Moonlight has built a respectable-sized audience, and Les Moonves (President and CEO of CBS) has recently made noises about renewing the show for another season.

By way of explanation, I can only point to the same logic that has led CBS to continuing to allow Ghost Whisperer and thirteen knock-offs of CSI to pollute the airwaves.

PUSHING DAISIES (ABC)

What I Said:

The critics love it, which–as we all know–amounts to what Bush has done to find bin Ladin: not much. (Thank you, folks! I’m here all week!)

Plenty of geeks will probably love it, too. Based on the pilot episode that I saw, it hits the sweet spot for quirky, well-developed characters, heart, a distinctive sense of humor, a sense of whimsy, strong storytelling (thank you, Barry Levinson, for your guidance), and a novel fantasy concept (guy resurrects the dead for sixty seconds to help in solving murders).

“Quirky” is this show’s middle name. Pushing Quirky Daisies. Unfortunately, I think it very well might suffer the same faint as the prematurely-canceled Wonderfalls, another too-quirky-for-its-own-good show. In fact, I still haven’t decided if it’s going to earn Season Pass status on my TiVo. Not a good sign. I foresee a small, passionate core following that won’t be able to carry this show to a second season.

The Verdict:

I admit it… Pushing Daisies has been growing on me. I enjoy it in spite of the quirkscicle it shoves down my throat every week.

It’s earned decent (though not breakout) ratings, and a recent Golden Globe nod. What it doesn’t have is word on whether or not it’ll make it to a second season.

Verdict? Undetermined. But it seems that those quirky bastards are going to make me look bad.

NEW AMSTERDAM (Fox)

What I Said:

A while back, I read Forever, a book about an immortal dude chronicling the evolution of New York from its founding to the present day. The book was boring as hell, but I learned a lot about the history of New York.

Now, I’m a geek, so I don’t mind a little book learnin’, but I need to be entertained, for the love of Pete Rasputin! New Amsterdam‘s concept certainly isn’t novel enough to attract a large geek audience–geeks already know a mysterious, scruffy, immortal dude living in New York, and they met him in a little movie called Highlander–so it’ll have to be the storytelling and characterization that saves the show.

On the one hand, the show’s pedigree–creators Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire, 21) and Christian Taylor (Showboy, Six Feet Under)–bodes well. On the other hand, Fox has moved the series to midseason. Not a good sign.

I’m giving this one the same chances as an old man’s face in Dick Cheney’s gunsights. Of course, Fox lets detritus like Bones cling to life, so what do I know? Geeks will give it a lukewarm reception, but it might scrape along to season two.

The Verdict:

In October, after seven episodes had been filmed, Fox halted production on New Amsterdam, with no plans to resume. Sounds like a fancy way of saying the series was canceled, doesn’t it? In the gunsights, indeed. Yay for me.

But that was before the desperate times of the writers’ strike. Now New Amsterdam is set to premiere on February 22.

Your Thoughts?

What say you? Any series that you were sad to see go (or stay)?

8 comments… add one
  • Karen December 21, 2007, 6:57 am

    GWS do you consider Eureka on SciFi a Geek Show? Because my husband forced me to watch a couple of episodes and got hooked. I’ve noticed SciFi has a tendency to 1)run shows until they are so desperate they will resurrect dead characters or 2)Cancel stuff that is so great it makes you want to write fan letters. I’m really hoping it’ll be back. Pretty much the only other thing I watch is Dr.G Medical Examiner, which I think is great, and the occasional twisted and disgusting medical show, which my husband retreats to the garage to ‘do stuff’ till it’s over. So, what do you think about Eureka?

  • Great White Snark December 21, 2007, 10:21 am

    Karen, I never got into Eureka, although it is definitely a geek show. I’ve heard it’s pretty good, but my TV plate is obviously already pretty full and I tend to be skeptical of any series that’s introduced on SciFi…

  • Cindi December 21, 2007, 5:51 pm

    You’re spot-on regarding Bionic Woman. It’s like Alias, but without the sense of fun (or the wigs). Of course, it’s also the only show on this list I’ve actually seen.

    And I think it’s “bin Laden.” (Always the editor.) Just don’t want him getting snippy with you.

  • Sam Beckett's Ghost December 24, 2007, 12:18 am

    Boo! Journeyman has actually gotten very good! The past three episodes have been amazing, and the writers are adding some depth to the back story to make the characters more interesting.

    Ziggy says there’s a 14.5% chance an online petition to bring the show back started by yours truly works.

  • Paul December 27, 2007, 11:07 am

    I am a religious listener of the Ron and Fez show (XM 202) and Ron is a huge Journyman fan… so I’m going to have to give it a chance when it hits DVD. Ron hasn’t let me down yet.

    I had no Bionic Woman interest and considering the way the Battlestar Galactica started tanking due to misdirection on the part of the creators, I’m not surprised that the same is happening with that show.

  • Great White Snark December 27, 2007, 12:31 pm

    It’s too bad Journeyman couldn’t have found its footing, sooner… after the joy that Kevin McKidd brought me as Lucius Vorenus in Rome, I want his career to take off…

  • John T. Folden January 9, 2008, 2:14 am

    For the record, New Amsterdam has now been moved to March 10th with two preview showings on March 4th and 6th, behind American Idol.

  • Great White Snark January 9, 2008, 2:17 am

    Duly noted. Thanks, John. For what it’s worth, I’m going to give it a chance. Exactly one chance.

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