2009: TV’s New Obscurities

I nearly forgot about putting together a list of “new” obscurities broadcast during 2009. I first did this last year, writing about scripted programs (meaning no reality or game shows) that ran for 13 episodes or less. That’s what I’ve done again here. It’s an interesting assortment of dramas and sitcoms, two of which were animated, that includes mid-season replacements, summer fare and several new programs for the 2009-2010 season. For some of these shows, obscurity in the United States doesn’t mean obscurity elsewhere. NBC’s Merlin, which was canceled after one season, has already had a second season shown in the United Kingdom.

Other potential new obscurities from the current 2009-2010 television season include NBC’s Trauma, which was sort of canceled and then sort of renewed (the network has ordered three additional episodes past the initial 13), ABC’s the forgotten, which is unlikely to return next season, and another NBC drama, Mercy, which has been given a full season order but will probably not be renewed. Two other ABC dramas, V and FlashForward, will no doubt finish out their seasons but depending on the ratings when they return in March may not come back next season, despite a lot of hype. As for NBC’s The Jay Leno Show, given the current controversy (the so-called “talk wars”) I don’t think it can or ever will be an obscurity.

Mid-Season 2009

Kings (NBC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered March 15th, 2009

Reportedly a very costly series, this drama bowed with a two-hour premiere that performed poorly for NBC. The network stuck with the show for a few weeks, then shifted it to Saturdays where, after one episode, it was pulled. The rest of the episodes were burned off during the summer. The series was released on DVD in September of 2009.

In the Motherhood (ABC) – 5 Episodes, 2 Unaired
Premiered March 26th, 2009

This sitcom was a spin-off of a web series based on stories taken from real women. The television version lasted for five weeks before ABC canned it, leaving two episodes unaired.

Cupid (ABC) – 7 Episodes
Premiered March 31st, 2009

The first incarnation of this series, starring Paula Marshall as a psychologist and Jeremy Piven as man who believes he’s Cupid, ran for 15 episodes on CBS during the 1998-1999 season. ABC’s remake, starring Sarah Paulson and Bobby Cannavale, lasted just seven episodes. Neither version has been released on DVD.

Surviving Suburbia (ABC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered April 6th, 2009

This sitcom, produced in 2008 for The CW, eventually made its debut on ABC to fairly high ratings. After four episodes were broadcast, however, the network shifted it to Fridays where it attracted few viewers.

The Unusuals (ABC) – 10 Episodes
Premiered April 8th, 2009

Ratings for this comedy/drama were middling at best but ABC stuck with it through for all ten episodes.

Southland (NBC) – 7 Episodes, 6 Unaired
Premiered April 9th, 2009

NBC aired seven episodes of this series and ordered another 13 for a second season. Shortly before it was to debut in October of 2009, however, the network suddenly canceled it, leaving six episodes completed. Cable channel TNT picked up the rights to all 13 episodes and has started airing them from the very beginning. An uncensored version of the first season (curses are bleeped out for broadcast) will be released on DVD later this month.

Harper’s Island (CBS) – 13 Episodes
Premiered April 9th, 2009

Perhaps my favorite of all the new obscurities listed here, this horror show — in which characters are horrifically killed off week after week — was an interesting experiment in that it was planned from the beginning to only last for thirteen episodes. Had it been successful, the format could have been replicated in other locations (perhaps on a cruise ship rather than an island). But after premiering to relatively high ratings, CBS shifted the series from Wednesdays to Saturdays after just three episodes. The final two episodes aired back-to-back in July. A DVD set was released in September of 2009.

Sit Down, Shut Up (FOX) – 4 Episodes, 9 Unaired
Premiered April 19th, 2009

I’m not quite sure whether or not to consider all 13 episodes of this animated sitcom as having been aired by FOX. Technically, the network did show them all and actually continues to air repeats. But after four episodes were broadcast on Sunday evenings, the network pulled the show in May of 2009. In September, FOX started airing new episodes at midnight on Saturdays, outside of prime time. So they were shown, but not in prime time, making this show a bit of an oddity.

Mental (FOX) – 13 Episodes
Premiered May 26th, 2009

This drama was produced by Fox Telecolombia and filmed in Colombia. FOX aired the first five episodes on Tuesdays before moving the series to Fridays, where the remaining episodes were burned off. The last two episodes aired back-to-back on August 14th. A DVD set was released in September of 2009.

The Goode Family (ABC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered May 27th, 2009

Another animated sitcom, this series was first seen on Wednesdays before shifting to Fridays, where almost nobody watched it. All 13 episodes were aired, however, and repeats begin airing on cable channel Comedy Central earlier this month. If they do well, new episodes may be ordered.

Summer 2009

The Listener (NBC) – 7 Episodes, 6 Unaired
Premiered June 4th, 2009

Produced in Canada, NBC only aired seven episodes before pulling this drama, about a telepathic paramedic, although the remaining six were made available online. The entire season was broadcast in Canada and, apparently, a second season will be produced. If so, it remains to be seen if it will be aired in the United States. Doubtful.

Merlin (NBC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered June 21st, 2009

This BBC drama premiered in the United Kingdom in September of 2008, almost a year before it debuted on NBC. Although ratings here in the United States were disappointing, a second season has already been seen across the pond and a third will be produced.

The Philanthropist (NBC) – 8 Episodes
Premiered June 24th, 2009

Eight episodes were broadcast, ratings were abysmal and a DVD set was released earlier this month.

Defying Gravity (ABC) – 8 Episodes, 5 Unaired
Premiered August 2nd, 2009

A co-production between a slew of companies, almost no one tuned into the two-hour premiere of this science-fiction drama on ABC. As the weeks progressed ratings shrank even more and the network ultimately decided not to air the final five episodes. They have been shown in other countries, including Canada, and all 13 episodes will be released on DVD next week.

Fall 2009

TBL: The Beautiful Life (The CW) – 2 Episodes, 3 Unaired
Premiered September 16th, 2009

The first cancellation of the 2009-2010 season, The CW canned this drama after just two episodes. The three unaired episodes later debuted on YouTube, however, for the few fans of the show to enjoy.

Eastwick (ABC) – 11 Episodes, 2 Unaired
Premiered September 23rd, 2009

This was the third attempt to bring John Updike’s 1984 novel, The Witches of Eastwick (which was turned into a movie in 1987), to television. Unsold pilots were produced in 1990 and and 2002 for NBC and FOX, respectively. NBC’s version was aired in 1992 while FOX’s pilot has never been aired. For some reason, ABC decided to air the 12th episode after the 10th, leaving the 11th and 13th episodes unaired. A DVD release seems likely.

Brothers (FOX) – 13 Episodes
Premiered September 25th, 2009

FOX premiered this sitcom on Fridays before shifting it to Sundays. Despite terrible ratings, the network aired all thirteen episodes were aired. Although a formal cancellation hasn’t taken place as far as I know, it seems highly unlikely that it will be renewed.

Hank (ABC) – 5 Episodes, 5 Unaired
Premiered September 30th, 2009

This is the second failed sitcom for Kelsey Grammer, following Back to You, which ran for 14 episodes on FOX during the 2007-2008 season (three others were never aired). Hank only lasted for five episodes before ABC gave up on it. Another five were never shown.

Three Rivers (CBS) – 8 Episodes, 5 Unaired
Premiered October 4th, 2009

A late season entry, this medical drama focused on transplantation. Eight episodes were aired over the course of two months to mediocre ratings before CBS pulled the plug. Five episodes were left unaired.


13 Comments

  • Cee Jay says:

    There are a few shows on this list that I really enjoyed, along with the reasons why I feel they didn’t make it:

    Three Rivers because it was on Sunday after football and usually started 15 to 30 minutes late

    FastForward because like 24 it had to be watched from episode one or it wouldn’t make sense

    Trauma was good but viewers probably didn’t want an updated version of Emergency from the 1970’s

    the forgotten was excellent but CBS has better lead ins at 8pm and 9pm (NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles)

    Mercy was descent but people thought NBC was trying to bring back ER.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    A few personal observations about the above list:
    {you might want to “unplug” your phone and/or barricade yourself in the room you’re viewing this on, as this may be a long one..}

    Disney/ABC owns the rights to “CUPID”, and THEY believe it’s not worth releasing on DVD- and that goes for both versions.

    “SOUTHLAND”, on the other hand, is NOT owned or produced by NBC/Universal, and was considered “expendible” when the network’s schedule began to “implode” as a direct result of “THE JAY LENO SHOW” at 10pm(et) appearing every weeknight. NBC wanted their own “in-house” series to have the best exposure before Leno…and “SOUTHLAND” just didn’t qualify {its violence and “bleeped” language didn’t endear it to pre-10pm time periods, either}. Time-Warner, on the other hand, knew they had to salvage something out of the series in order to justify its investment (it’s produced by Warner Bros. Television)…and figured their TNT cable channel was the best “showcase” for it- so they’re scheduling all the episodes produced so far. Who knows? If the ratings hold up, another season might happen…

    There might have been private complaints to CBS about the violence and gore depicted on “HARPER’S ISLAND” (perhaps some subtle pressure that if they “didn’t do something about it”, possible legal action might have occured- and the network is known for being nervous about ANY objections to “controversial” programming {i.e. “The Reagans”})- so they “neutralized” the situation by moving it to Saturdays, widely known as one of the worst viewing nights on network TV these days, and quietly allowed it to “run its course”.

    Fox realized that “SIT DOWN, SHUT UP” (an animated version of a live-action Australian sitcom) had no business appearing in prime-time; if they thought they were getting an animated equivalent of “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT”, which Mitchell Hurwitz was also responsible for, they were sadly mistaken. This is why it currently airs on Saturdays {Sunday mornings} at 12:00am(et), instead of scheduling “TALKSHOW WITH SPIKE FERESTEN” where it belongs [WHERE THE HELL IS HE???]. Fox co-owns the show, and wants to “protect its investment” (look for it on DVD, soon), even with a full cycle of repeats. I guess the show “looks better” when it’s on, late at night…

    Again, ABC didn’t own or produce “THE GOODE FAMILY”- and they had a track record over the past decade of scheduling “edgy” prime-time animated shows and not sticking with them {i.e. “CLERKS”}. “GOODE” actually belongs on a cable channel like Comedy Central…wanna bet you WILL be seeing a new season, sometime next year?

    “THE LISTENER”- this was one of a number of pet project of former NBC program executive Ben Silverman (who production company, Reveille, also co-produces “THE OFFICE” and “THE BIGGEST LOSER” {ugh!} for the network), who believed importing shows from Canada and elsewhere would help defray costs and give NBC an “advantage” in “program inventory”. Well, it didn’t. Another of his Canadian-imported summer series, “FEAR ITSELF” (2008), also had all of its 13 episodes telecast in Canada…just not here!

    Even though I never saw a single episode, I’m happy to hear that “MERLIN” continues to be produced, and that, hopefully, some enterprising cable network or syndicator will schedule the new episodes that NBC “threw away”. There’s supposed to be more imagination in prime-time network drama than the same gruel/sausage of “doctors, lawyers and cops”. Since the networks are producing the majority of their own scheduled shows these days, they’re afraid of experimentation and “anything new”.

    Again, Warner Bros., NOT Disney/ABC, produced “EASTWICK”…and the latter would rather see “their” “UGLY BETTY” follow their “Comedy Wednesday” lineup. Whether this works remains to be seen…

    Would you believe, in Clarence Clemons’ just-published autobiography “Big Man”, co-written with Don Reo, a blurb on the inner dust jacket identifies Reo as the producer of the “hit Fox comedy, ‘BROTHERS'”? “HIT”??? They deliberately burned it off after most of their Sunday afternoon football games, or Sundays at 7pm. Friday nights was a TERRIBLE time to schedule that series {I believe Fox bought it as part of a “package deal” with another season of “‘TIL DEATH”; both are produced by SONY Pictures Television}. Reo was quoted on some website that he’s hopeful he can take it to another network. I hope so; the show has promise. Again, rule of thumb is, if a network doesn’t own or co-produce a show- -and it flops- it’s usually the first to get the heave-ho.

    Same with “HANK”. Oh well, at least Kelsey has some comfort that the series he’s co-producing with Glenn Gordon Caron and CBS, “MEDIUM”, is more successful, so he’s not going to starve, or anything like that…

    “THREE RIVERS” is cancelled…yet, CBS is buying yet ANOTHER “formula” hospital drama, from Jerry Bruckheimer {ENOUGH ALREADY WITH YOUR SHOWS, I’M SICK AND TIRED OF SEEING YOUR NAME EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK!!!}, “MIAMI MEDICAL”, which temporarily replaces “NUMB3RS” in April? What can the Aaron Spelling of the new millenium offer that we haven’t seen before???

    {and ‘Cee Jay’, CBS deliberately lets its Sunday afternoon NFL football games spill over into prime-time so that viewers supposedly won’t change the channel by the time “60 MINUTES” follows the end of the game, thus ensuring they’ll stick around for the entire evening, whether the start of the schedule is delayed anywhere from five minutes to a full hour. That’s how the network has had a ratings advantage over the years…this season, however, it doesn’t seem to be working. That’s why, when “THE GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS” appear on NBC tomorrow night [January 17th], CBS will make sure their afternoon NFL game continues until shortly AFTER 8pm(et), when “60 MINUTES” appears, supposedly “blunting” the beginning of the “GLOBES” ceremonies.

    -30-

  • pBOB says:

    instead of scheduling “TALKSHOW WITH SPIKE FERESTEN” where it belongs [WHERE THE HELL IS HE???]

    FOX cancelled his show and MADTV and replaced them with The Wanda Sykes show.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    That’s odd, ‘pBob’- I haven’t heard anything about Spike NOT returning to Fox…and just WHAT are they going to replace repeats of “SIT DOWN, SHUT UP” with when they’re through? Eh, I could be wrong…

  • DuMont says:

    A couple of points to add.

    The first incarnation of ‘Cupid’ aired only 14 of 15 episodes produced, and they were aired on ABC not CBS. So, together with the 7 episodes from 2009, there is now a full season of 22 ‘Cupid’ episodes that could be packaged together on a DVD, which I hope happens as I am a huge admirer of the work of Mr. Rob Thomas.

    At FOX’s May upfront, they indicated that the Saturday midnight timeslot would become a timeslot for ‘Animation Domination’ episodes following the new ‘The Wanda Sykes Show’. The first episodes skedded into this slot, beginning in the summer, were unaired episodes of ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’. The animated comedy has apparently done well enough to completely air all the unaired episodes, and now FOX is encoring the entire 13-episode order.

    ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’ is not the only series to receive a late-night burnoff. In the summer of 2007, NBC played the remaining 8 unaired episodes of ‘Kidnapped’ in Sunday late night, following their Sunday latenight encores of ‘Dateline’ and ‘Meet the Press’.

    I seem to remember back in the old days before the latenight talkshows with Mr. Pat Sajak and Mr. David Letterman, CBS used to use ‘The CBS Late Movie’ to air unaired content from primetime. That is where they aired the final three unaired ‘Wiseguy’ episodes ended up, as well as movies that were considered too adult or mature in content for primetime. CBS also used their latengiht to broadcast brand new episodes of import series, a few of which got primetime launches or previews.

    Given FOX’s success with ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’ in the Saturday midnight Animation Domination wheel, I wonder if one of the broadcasters might not open up a latenight slot for encores…perhaps FOX might pair up an encore hour out of a rejigged ‘Conan O’Brien Show’, if they pick it up…or ABC might expand their latenight offering with comedy or dramedy repeats out of ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ (the dramedy repeats always produce abysmal numbers in primetime for ABC, but would be satisfactory in latenight).

  • pBOB says:

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spike_Feresten

    It ran for three seasons, making it the longest-running late night television show in the history of the Fox network. From January 17, 2009, to February 21, 2009, the show had a six-week test run of hour-long episodes airing an hour earlier than usual; this came in the wake of the cancellation of MADtv.

    In May 2009, FOX cancelled his talk show.

    When in doubt check Wikipedia!!

    Thanks, (P)arty Bob

  • RGJ says:

    pBob, for future reference I currently have things set up to hold any comments with a link until I can approve them in order to try to deal with spam. That is why your first comment did not show up right away.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Thanks, ‘pBob’. *sigh*

    I live in New York/New Jersey/Tri-State area, ‘DuMont’. “KIDNAPPED” was never seen locally on WNBC-TV’s late Sunday night schedule in 2007, because they didn’t carry it. You were lucky to have access to it, because Channel 4 doesn’t bother with the network’s repeats of “DATELINE” and “MEET THE PRESS” at 1:05 and 2:05am(et), either; they have their own local and syndicated programming [including repeats of “MONK”] to fill the time with…

    Yes, before 1993, CBS used to schedule repeats of crime dramas- and original Canadian-produced crime dramas- under the umbrella title “Crimetime After Primetime”…

    Right now, ABC usually schedules “WORLD NEWS NOW” from 2 to 3:30am(et), repeating the first hour from 3:30 to 4:30, when “AMERICA THIS MORNING” begins. Not all affiliates carry it; WABC-TV in New York carries repeats of “OPRAH”, “WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE” and the 11pm “EYEWITNESS NEWS” from 1:08 to 3:07am(nyt), then joins “WORLD NEWS NOW”, “Already In Progress”. The network is pretty set about what they schedule after “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”, and the same goes for Fox…unless they sign somebody like Conan O’Brien for late night on weekdays, they generally leave the post-10pm time periods to their affiliates. ABC usually has a “hands off” attitude to post-11:30pm weekend schedules as well…

  • There is a lot of great Cupid fanfiction up at fanfictiondotnet Replace dot with . and add the w’s. I don’t know if they allow web addresses here. Rob Thomas needs to do Cupid as a book. It is quite frankly too intelligent for Television. That does not mean the same people who loved it on TV won’t be the ones reading it. They will. But it will pick up more fans as a book than it did as a TV show. If he does that, making it the book Claire was writing on the show interspaced with protest comments by Cupid himself at Claire thinking him crazy plus possibly comments by his Olympian family who would be watching all this from above, all of them commenting from different viewpoints on the Human condition he would have a best seller on his hands! There are supposedly only 5 degrees of separation. So if anyone can reach Rob Thomas with this idea, please tell him!

  • RGJ says:

    I remember reading about Kidnapped being burned off late at night but I don’t know if my local affiliate aired it.

  • RGJ says:

    Syfy has announced it will air the second season of Merlin beginning April 2nd. So the episodes will air in the United States, just not on NBC or any other broadcast network.

  • alan says:

    One of your obscurities starts its 5th season on CTV in Canada on Monday! 26-5-14 It will be the 53rd episode. Expect there to be 13 like in the past so 65 total at the end of the year.

Leave a Reply to Robert Cancel reply