In yet another sign of the TV apocalypse: NBC benched "Boomtown," its critically acclaimed, Peabody-winning drama only three weeks into its sophomore season. Which is disturbing not just because "Boomtown" is a fantastic show -- more sophisticated than any "Law & Order," or all of them put together, for that matter -- but also because the show had actually started building an audience.
Of course, that was last year, when the show was on Sunday. Moved to Fridays this fall, with almost no publicity to tell viewers where to find it, the show struggled for two weeks, then got yanked into the prime-time netherworld known as on hiatus.
Which means "Boomtown" isn't officially canceled. It still might come back. But "Emeril" (the sitcom, not the Food Network franchise) was never officially canceled, either. And when was the last time you saw that?
What I'm watching, and why: Well, "Boomtown" was going to be on this list. But see above and join me in shaking my fist in the general direction of Burbank, Calif.: A pox upon your house, Jeff Zucker! And your pool house, too!
San Francisco Chronicle - 10/13/03
Sometimes a show dies long before it's canceled
Among the important things in the TV business, this ranks pretty close to the top: how to know when you're dead.
Now you might think that being canceled is a sure indicator of that. But producers, and they don't even have to be savvy producers, know long before the announcement is made that they are, in fact, dead.
For example, here's a show that has not been canceled yet -- "Boomtown" on NBC. This is one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television. It has won a Peabody Award, been nominated for a Humanitas Award, was named one of the 10 most outstanding shows of the year by the American Film Institute, and the Television Critics Association gave it Outstanding Achievement in Drama and Outstanding New Program awards -- against stellar competition.
All of that will look impressive on the headstone. "Boomtown" is dead.
Now, the producers of "Boomtown" are smart people. They really are. That's why they made a smart show. Last week NBC pulled "Boomtown" off of Friday nights and put it on hiatus, replacing it with reruns of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in the 10 p.m. slot. Two things here -- even schoolchildren know that hiatus means you're doomed. And being replaced by a rerun of a show from another night? Not good.
But "Boomtown" barely survived its freshman season. It came back this year,
in large part, because it was so critically acclaimed. But NBC didn't have much faith in it and barely promoted it. The network also tinkered with the format -- less "Rashomon" and hello new cast member Vanessa Williams. When your show is pulled in the third week, you were on a very short leash. What the producers of "Boomtown" know for certain: The show is dead.
Knowing you're dead doesn't always sink in readily -- not because of denial so much, but because of the mercurial nature of television. The uncertainty of the business gives false hope. Everyone is waiting for that special "bump" -- a highly touted cameo, a crossover episode with a more popular show, a post- Super Bowl slot, perhaps, or maybe the death of your time-slot competitor, however unlikely that may be (just likely enough to have an example coming up later).
There are some pretty reliable factors that indicate you are, or soon will be, dead. Among them:
-- Your show is moved around the schedule. Always bad. But in some strange way, this often gives a show hope, because the producers believe the network loves it so much and believes in it, that the very act of searching for a safe haven indicates love. And yet -- no. The shell game indicates the network doesn't want to lose all the money invested in the series and these moves are desperate measures. It also gives them a beautiful out: "We tried everything, but we couldn't find an audience on any night." Never mind that viewers couldn't find the show because it was bounced around so much. Only rookies and sad optimists believe in the shell game.
-- You are killing your new night. "Boomtown" was way down, helping NBC's revamped Friday night lineup decrease by 40 percent compared with the same night last year.
-- It becomes apparent to you that the network believes the shows around you are worth saving, but you are not. "Miss Match," which kicked off Fridays and could, were you to whine about it enough, be faulted for killing the "flow, " was pulled out of harm's way against "Joan of Arcadia" and moved to 9 p.m. NBC then brought a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" rerun over from Bravo for a temporary run.
-- When cable reruns are deemed more worthy than your original episodes.
-- You are on a night with lower expectations -- Monday, Friday, Saturday --
and you still, for lack of a better descriptive word, suck.
-- You are bleeding viewers. Honestly, this is the foremost indicator of your life span. If you're not moving the Nielsen needle, you are in big, ugly trouble.
Green Bay News-Chronicle - 10/16/03
NBC last year promoted "Boomtown" as a breakthrough drama, showing an incident from multiple points of view. The show drew only fair audiences but won a Peabody Award and critical applause. This year, NBC decided to "simplify" the show and moved it. Ratings promptly went down and the show was yanked after two whole weeks. They could replace it with the inside of a TV executive's head - an hour of a blank screen.
|Arizona Republic - 10/16/03
'Boomtown' enters grave of TV greats
Here's a fine kick in the teeth to anyone who loves TV: One great show you won't be watching Friday night - and probably won't ever see again - is Boomtown.
It won a Peabody Award for its first season. It won two Television Critics Association awards (about which more later). It appeared twice this season. Then it disappeared.
NBC hasn't officially canceled the show, which used complicated storytelling and complicated characters to tell the always-complicated tales of crimes in Los Angeles - even the ones that on the surface seemed simple, and play out that way on lesser shows.
But the network, in a maddening move, has yanked Boomtown from the schedule. That makes tuning in to see it on Friday night and finding the recently moved Miss Match in its place akin to coming home and finding another family eating dinner at your kitchen table. A pleasant-enough family, true, but hardly what you're expecting.
It's the usual story: Not enough people watched, not even with Vanessa Williams joining the cast this season. NBC, which never seemed to put much faith in the show, moved it from Sundays to Fridays. Viewers didn't make the trip. And no matter how great the show, no network's going to stick with a ratings liability.
When Boomtown started last season, it used Rashomon-like techniques (a film the show's creators say they've never seen), telling the story of a single crime each week from several points of view - the cops investigating it, the deputy district attorney working it, even the reporter covering it.
They relaxed that method as the season wore on, but thanks to good writing and a great cast - particularly Neal McDonough as a tortured deputy DA and Donnie Wahlberg as a detective whose no-nonsense approach to his job failed to mask his shattered family life - the show remained one of the best dramas on TV.
The best drama, actually, if you listen to TV critics. Personal note: I was lucky enough to give Boomtown the award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama at this summer's critics' awards ceremony (it also won for Outstanding New Program). It was a treat to shake the hands of creators Graham Yost and Jon Avnet. It was better still when Wahlberg, seeing my outstretched hand, laughed and said, "I'm gonna need a hug." And gave me one. Cool.
There's an asteroid-hitting-your-car chance NBC will bring Boomtown back, since, again, it's not officially axed. Don't count on it, although a glimmer of hope is better than none at all.
But every season, TV critics get their hearts broken, falling for great shows doomed to failure: Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Sigh. Looks like you can add Boomtown to the list.
TV GAL - Zap2it.com
I'm not speaking to NBC. We're in a fight. We're going to try couple's counseling, but I don't think it will help.
How could they put "Boomtown" on hiatus after only two weeks? The network mocks me with its cavalier and cruel scheduling decisions. Most viewers had not even figured out the show was on Friday nights and then it's gone in an instant. Reruns of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" will air in its place. Yet "Whoopi" and "Coupling" are still on the air. Where's the justice in that? Last week I was so mad that I watched the CBS Thursday night lineup and taped NBC. It's the first time I've ever done that. That will show them.
Who knows what other shows the fickle network (who do they think they are, ABC?) will cancel before its time. Not that I'm letting you off the hook either. I know who hasn't been watching "Boomtown," and I've made my list and I've checked it twice. I will be contacting you all individually via the TV Gal hotline.
Contra Costa Times - 10/09/03
"Boomtown" doesn't qualify for the Cancellation Pool because it isn't a new show, but sadly this outstanding crime series looks like a goner. Just two weeks into the show's sophomore season, NBC has yanked "Boomtown" off the schedule and banished it to hiatus hell.
NBC made the move in an effort to repair its Friday-night lineup, which is getting hammered. "Boomtown," for now at least, will be replaced by reruns of "Law & Order: SVU." The network also is flip-flopping the lagging "Miss Match" and "Dateline" starting Friday night.
"Boomtown" has been lauded by critics since its debut last fall, but it has yet to hit Nielsen pay dirt. While its placement on hiatus is not an official death sentence, its future looks bleak.
Chalk it up as another big blow to quality television.
Just as "Boomtown" disappears from our screens, word comes from MTV that the cable network has ordered a second season of "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica," the loopy reality series that documents the marriage of pop singers Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson.
So let's get this straight: No more "Boomtown," but much, much more of the vacuous Simpson, a big time tube boob who has quickly earned a lofty perch in the Dumb Blonde Hall of Shame.
Where, oh where, is the justice in that?
USA Today - 10/10/03
Sadly, you won't find Boomtown on NBC tonight, because the network, which never gave the show any more than grudging support, has put it on hiatus. What a shame NBC won't just hiatus it over to another network — one that might appreciate having a Peabody Prize-winning drama. Hey, it worked for JAG.
Sign on San Diego - 10/10/03
Friday night tanks for NBC; 'Boomtown' takes the first hit
Here I was, getting all primed to write a column lamenting that "Boomtown" isn't what it once was, when word arrived that it no longer is at all.
At least not for a while.
NBC has yanked the second-year cop show, which apparently pulled in more awards than viewers, from its Friday-night lineup, starting tonight. Which means that "Boomtown" wins the dubious honor of being the season's first network series to shuffle off to hiatusland. And it's not even a first-year show.
The move is part of a complete revamping of the Friday schedule, which so far in this young season has proved disastrous for NBC.
For "Boomtown," the move means another, and possibly the final, fatal wound in what has become a long, slow death of many cuts.
NBC dominated Friday night for the last few seasons with its lineup of "Providence," "Dateline" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." But "Providence" is gone, and "L&O" was moved to Tuesdays.
This fall, NBC's Friday nights began with the new "Miss Match," with Alicia Silverstone as a divorce lawyer with a penchant for matching up her lovelorn friends. Then came "Dateline" and "Boomtown," the moody Los Angeles cop show with its own brand of storytelling.
As originally conceived, each episode of "Boomtown" told its story from the perspective of one character, then another and another, a "Rashomon"-like device that gave it a distinctive, fascinating style.
Airing Sundays in its first season, "Boomtown" not only won a Peabody (TV's most prestigious award, the Emmys notwithstanding), but also grabbed the TV Critics Association awards as TV's best drama and best new show.
From the industry's Emmy voters, however, it didn't even get a nomination.
Ratings were marginal, and NBC pre-empted the series for several weeks to make room for "Kingpin," the flop miniseries about a Mexican drug lord. Then the network took a long, nerve-racking time deciding whether it would renew "Boomtown." Once it did, there were intimations that the second season of "Boomtown" would be something less than the first.
It would continue along the same storytelling detour that had begun in the first season, creator Graham Yost said in July, de-emphasizing that back-and-forth format in favor of telling "a straightforward story, because otherwise you lose the tension. ...We're going to use that a little more judiciously. We're not going to do it just arbitrarily."
The suspicion loomed that "Boomtown" was being stripped of some of its unique appeal, and being retooled to be more like every other cop show on TV.
Then, on Sept. 26, came the first episode of the new season. Reporter Andrea Little (Nina Garbiras) was gone. But Rebecca DeMornay showed up, as a psycho killer safecracker. There were explosions aplenty, car chases, shootings just for the heck of it.
Vanessa Williams (she used to be Vanessa L. Williams, but she's dropped the middle initial) was added to the cast, chasing DeMornay through the sewers of Los Angeles. In her high heels. Suddenly, "Boomtown" was less "Boomtown" and more "2 Fast 2 Furious."
NBC's Friday ratings tanked. From its accustomed No. 1 spot on Fridays, it dropped to No. 3. "Miss Match" proved no match against CBS's spiritual surprise hit "Joan of Arcadia." "Boomtown" came in third at 10 p.m., trailing "The Handler" on CBS and "20/20" on ABC.
Even more damning, more than 1.4 million of the 8.3 million viewers who watched "Dateline" last week at 9 p.m. abandoned NBC when the season's second episode of "Boomtown" started at 10.
So NBC's lineup tonight will begin with a rerun of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," with "Miss Match" moved to 9 p.m. – the better to steer clear of "Joan of Arcadia" – and a rerun of "L&O: SVU" at 10.
Fans who did watch that second "Boomtown" saw an episode that took the series back toward its original self, and introduced Stacy Keach as David McNorris' (Neal McDonough) father, but it may have been too late.
This season's "Boomtown" was not the "Boomtown" fans of the original signed on for.
And viewers who had already decided they didn't like the original weren't likely to be converted by the overhaul.
NBC's suspension of the series last season didn't help. Neither did the network's dawdling over the decision to renew, nor the endless tinkering.
Having begun with a series of acknowledged, recognized excellence, all NBC had to do was nothing at all. Just leave it alone. Give the show a vote of confidence, let it run, give viewers time to find it.
But that course proved too difficult to master.
The word, according to the trade papers, is that "Boomtown" will be gone for three weeks. Then it may return in another time slot.
Don't hold your breath.