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101 Ways to Kill a TV Show: The Nine Way

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Right now, Channel Nine is currently in the middle of a full frontal military assault.

It’s called Operation Big Bang.

It involves bombarding viewers with as many Big Bang Theory episodes as possible.

And why? You may ask, surely too much of a good thing is, well, too much… But that isn’t the same way programming execs think.

Especially ones at Channel Nine.

You see, Nine are a desperate network. A network desperate to reclaim their number one title off Seven. They don’t have a massive stable of popular shows like Seven do. Seven have their Border Security type shows, which always pull decent ratings, they have a dominant news element- Today Tonight and Sunrise almost always beat their Channel Nine counterparts nationally; they have a hit Australian drama in Packed to the Rafters, and a promising show in Winners and Losers, they also have solid year-round staple shows such as Better Homes and Gardens.

In comparison, Nine has Underbelly, and the closest things it has to a staple show are 60 Minutes (which is usually trounced whenever a show like Dancing With the Star or MasterChef is up against it) and Australia’s Funniest Home Videos (which is given a good run for its money in Melbourne when it is up against Before the Game).

Yes, Nine is struggling, still. So, you might say, who could blame it for scheduling excessive amounts of hit shows? I’m certainly not, but if they want to extract any sort of longevity out of their popular shows, they need to adopt a different method.

And its not as of they haven’t had the chance to learn from their mistakes;

Year of the Ramsay

Back before MasterChef became popular in Australia, there was one AngryChef that took Australia by storm. His name was Gordon Ramsay. In 2008, after Nine had been scheduling episodes of his “Kitchen Nightmares” UK series without much fanfare, it noticed that it was receiving a bit of attention. Before long, it was receiving pretty good ratings, and also had half of Australian radio talk about it.
Nine, sniffing some ratings blood in the water, went in for the kill, and before long had scheduled three hour long Ramsay episodes a week. And luckily for Nine, there was plenty of Ramsay in the tank (he was, by that time, very successful in the UK). Every week from then on, viewers received, from Tuesday to Thursday, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word. Of the three, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares remained the most popular. At one stage, he was even interviewed on 60 Minutes.

However, after many weeks of F-bombs, abusive rants and a bit of trouble with ACMA (which may or may not have been related) viewers grew tired of the foul language… Or just Ramsay’s whole “act”, and began switching off.

Eventually, Ramsay was removed from the schedule altogether (though there is the occasional Nightmare on Tuesday nights, possibly in the hope that Ramsay-fever ignites again?).

And as all shows like this follow a pattern, the death knell finally sounded after Gordon Ramsay appeared on A Current Affair in 2009 and was interviewed by Tracey Grimshaw. He subsequently likened her to a pig at a cooking demonstration. He then received a barrage of criticism, which only served to expose him as a bully (for the few who hadn’t realised it yet).

Two and a Half Thousand Men

Channel Nine had acquired Two and a Half Men many years ago, however it was not until 2009 that it started airing episodes by the dozen- well, ten episodes a week. This included the Monday-Friday 7PM slot, where it really gave Home and Away a scare after its 2008 dominance; new episodes in various timeslots; “Adults Only” episodes and repeats aplenty on GO!. However in the latter half of 2010, ratings began to wane, for no particular reason. Well, no reason apparent to Nine execs. It was simply because viewers were sick of it.

Then came 2011. The year of Charlie Sheen, for all the wrong reasons. Without wanting to go into all of the detail (You can go to any other site right now and read about it – ANY other site).

It may have been a combination of Nine’s oversaturation with the world covering Sheen’s “antics” mercilessly that led to it’s demise, but it was a long time coming.

The prophecy once again was fulfilled, with the death knell being Sheen getting the chop from the sitcom.

Nine bizarrely attempted to revive the flagging show’s ratings by advertising the show by playing up how insane Sheen apparently is. They have recently advertised a new episode as being possibly Sheen’s last ever episode (it was the last one filmed before the meltdown and insults thrown at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre). They were signs of a desperate network, on the brink of losing a former powerhouse.

And the proof that it is dead (or close to it) is no more evident than the fact that its position in the primetime-heading 7PM slot has been stripped from it, to be replaced by The Big Bang Theory.

Top Gear-mania

Top Gear used to be cool. It used to be a little show on SBS that only a few people seemed to know about (even though it was attracting upwards of 600k viewers regularly).

Which was why Nine was so bloody happy with themselves after yanking Top Gear off SBS in 2010, that they decided to play it to death.

And why wouldn’t they, with early figures for Top Gear attracting very healthy figures. However, they started plugging holes all over the schedule with repeat after repeat- initially to great success. At its peak, Nine was airing 1 episode on Sunday on GO!, 1 episode on Tuesday on Nine, 1 on Thursday on GO! and another on Fridays on Nine.

But now, in 2011, somewhat amusingly, now that they finally have been able to show new episodes, absolutely no one has been interested (no one in TV terms = around 600k).

The death knell hasn’t sounded as yet, but it’s coming.

Basically, the lesson is, Nine, don’t make the same mistake with The Big Bang Theory, a show which still has the respect of viewers.

However, Operation BB is already well underway, so brace yourselves.

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Shows on Australian TV: Seven – X Factor gets a 2nd chance

Private Practice (US 4th Season *renewed for a 5th*, AU 4th Season)

My Kitchen Rules (Currently in SECOND SEASON) Renewed for a third on 02/03/2011.

The X Factor (ONE SEASON has aired) – Mediocre ratings for its first season, but it has still been renewed for a 2nd season (or third if you include the season that aired on Ten) on 14/03/2011. This year will presumably feature a more prominent youth focus.

Packed to the Rafters (Currently in FOURTH SEASON)

It has been ratings its socks off- well, as much as a show does these days. Here are its ratings from Week 5 onwards.

Monday: 1,461,000 (1st in Time slot, 1st for the night)

Home and Away (Currently in TWENTY-FOURTH SEASON)

Better Homes and Gardens (Currently in FOURTEENTH SEASON – SEVENTH in new format with Joanna Griggs in Friday 7:30pm slot)

Deal or No Deal – (Currently in NINTH SEASON)

Border Security – (Currently in SEVENTH SEASON)

Sunday Night- (Currently in THIRD SEASON) – It is a real asset for Seven, and if it can maintain good ratings, boosts its news credibility- even though it has been criticised in recent times.

Castle

Cougar Town – Seven (US 2nd season – hiatus -, AU 2nd season)

Desperate Housewives – Seven (US 7th season, AU 7th season)

Grey’s Anatomy – Seven (US 7th season, AU 7th season)

Kath and Kim (FOUR SEASONS have aired) – Technically waiting for the Gina Riley and Jane Turner to decide whether they want to do any more series, yet with constant rumours and no new projects on the horizon, I believe at least a “Final Season” is inevitable.

The Matty Johns Show (Currently in SECOND SEASON)

Minute to Win It (SECOND SEASON yet to air)

Dancing with the Stars (ELEVENTH SEASON yet to air) – There’s only so much life in this show, and is the last remnant of the singing/dancing competition obsession of the 2000s.

Australia’s Got Talent (FOURTH SEASON yet to air) – Just a matter of waiting until the “talent” pool dries up, à la Australian Idol 2009.

The Amazing Race Australia (FIRST SEASON yet to air) – If it can generate enough buzz, Seven will have a juggernaut on its hands.

Brothers and Sisters

Thank God You’re Here (FOUR SEASONS have aired)- Unlikely that Working Dog would film a fifth season, as there are not many more avenues to explore in creative terms.

Iron Chef Australia (ONE SEASON has aired) – Average ratings coupled with a different tone and pace might make Seven think twice about renewing it. It also operated around a central gimmick of being based on the original Iron Chef- something that Masterchef purposely steered away from- and for good reason.

Winners and Losers (FIRST SEASON yet to air) – I know that you shouldn’t judge a show’s prospects before you know the figures it will pull, but I just don’t have a good feeling about this. It’s a big ask from Seven to make Australia fall in love with another group of people (in addition to the Rafters, of course), and while they couldn’t adopt the same tone, their decision to opt for a more quirky and humorous tone doesn’t bode well. Australians don’t tend to go for quirky over real emotion too readily, as was demonstrated with Offspring’s first few episodes. It also isn’t based around cops or doctors, and there almost certainly won’t be any gratuitous nudity, so it will be really swimming against the tide.

(Nearly) CANCELLED

City Homicide* (Currently in FOURTH SEASON, a miniseries to come)

*No official word on cancellation, but unless the miniseries rates spectacularly, and Winners and Losers is a dismal failure, it is as good as cancelled.