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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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Ben Eltons wants sitcom, pony, Jupiter, etc.: An education in Australian TV

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Ben Elton has already been floating ideas for an “all-Aussie sitcom” in the Herald Sun, even before the first episode of his “live sketch comedy show” goes to air.

Talk about getting ahead of yourself… or counting your chickens before they’re hatched… or something. Either way, Elton isn’t quite well-versed in the way of Australian TV yet. Here’s a quick rundown.

If you want to have any chance of pitching a show, you need to become an established success, a proven ratings winner. You can do this one of two ways; the Shaun Micallef approach.

Pretty much the only person on commercial TV at the moment who could pitch a sitcom would be Shaun Micallef. However, this has been after years of hard work on smaller projects, such as Newstopia, Welcher and Welcher, the Micallef P(r)ogram(me), etc. You even have to endure slight ratings failures such as Micallef Tonight. However, he can lay claim to having something called “integrity”. Now, he has shown that he can produce a show that rates in Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation. He is now the most powerful man on TV.

Him and Charlie Sheen.

Unfortunately.

Yes, this is the other approach you can take. But hey, that’s Australian TV, you’ve got to accept the good with the bad and the bad and the bad.

I am almost certain that if CBS wanted to send some sort of vague message by canning Charlie Sheen/Two and a Half Men that he could fly to Australia and produce a miniseries in which Sheen just lies on the ground, a là Hasslehoff’s hamburger-eating stylings. Just Call it “One Man”.

If you add in another line like “One Man: It’s Like Underbelly”, and feature strobe-like flashing of breasts, it’s already got another million viewers before you can say “Matthew Newton”. Oh, and don’t forget celebrity guests, or “friends”, as Shane Warne likes to call them. For that matter, Shane Warne would be the perfect guest.

He would almost certainly give them their first exclusive by showing some choice videos off his mobile that he has filmed with Elizabeth Hurley.

So, if he wants to go talking up the next big sitcom, I suggest first making sure his current show Live From Planet Earth is a hit.

And just one thing, I’d suggest not to start posing with schoolgirls (or actors dressed as them). Sometimes context is important.