2008: TV’s New Obscurities

Due to the three month strike by the Writers Guild of America, 2008 was an interesting year for network television. The strike began on November 5th, 2007 when the 2007-2008 television season was only six weeks old. It wasn’t concluded until February 12th, 2008. Its aftereffects are still being felt. The networks saw many of their new and returning fall shows cut short by the strike but mid-season programming still rolled out on schedule, although new shows had only a limited number of episodes to offer.

Were the networks forced to keep low-rated mid-season replacements on their air longer than they would have due to the strike? That’s questionable. But the vast majority of scripted mid-season shows were allowed to finish out their runs. Only a handful were pulled with episodes remained unaired. The same cannot be said for new shows premiering in September of 2008 as the 2008-2009 television season got underway.

I’ve put together the following list of programs that debuted during 2008 that can legitimately be considered “new” obscurities in that they lasted, at best, for only thirteen episodes. One caveat: several of this shows have been or will be released on DVD despite having only six or seven episodes to offer. Excluded from the list are reality and game shows.

Mid-Season 2008

Cashmere Mafia (ABC) – 7 Episodes
Premiered Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Unlike NBC’s Lipstick Jungle, a similar drama, Cashmere Mafia wasn’t renewed for the 2008-2009 season. It was, however, released on DVD.

Welcome to the Captain (CBS) – 5 Episodes
Premiered Monday, February 4th, 2008

A sitcom set in a hotel that came and went in five weeks with barely any notice.

Quarterlife (NBC) – 1 Episode
Premiered Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Originally an Internet series, Quarterlife joins the small list of shows cancelled after a single broadcast. That alone makes it somewhat noteworthy.

Unhitched (FOX) – 6 Episodes
Premiered Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Six episodes of this sitcom aired in only five weeks; two were burned off on March 23rd.

New Amsterdam (FOX) – 8 Episodes
Premiered Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

This unusual drama — about a detective who happens to be four hundred years old and immortal — never caught on.

Canterbury’s Law (FOX) – 6 Episodes
Premiered Monday, March 10th, 2008

A law drama starring Julianna Margulies, Canterbury’s Law spent three weeks on Mondays and three weeks being burned off on Fridays. It will be released on DVD in February.

The Return of Jezebel James (FOX) – 3 Episodes (plus 3 Unaired)
Premiered Friday, March 14th, 2008

Banished to Fridays from the start, FOX cancelled this sitcom — from the creator of Gilmore Girls — after only two weeks and three episodes (two episodes were shown back-to-back on March 14th). An additional three episodes were later made available online.

Miss Guided (ABC) – 7 Episodes
Premiered Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

After a Tuesday try-out, this sitcom moved to Thursday where two episodes were burned off each night for three weeks.

Summer 2008

Swingtown (CBS) – 13 Episodes
Premiered Thursday, June 5th, 2008

My personal favorite of all the shows on this list, Swingtown courted some controversy before it premiered but was unable to sustain an audience. It was later released on DVD.

Fear Itself (NBC) – 8 Episodes (plus 5 Unaired)
Premiered Thursday, June 5th, 2008

This horror anthology couldn’t scare up an audience (apologies for the pun) and after being placed on hiatus for the Summer Olympics never returned.

Fall 2008

Do Not Disturb (FOX) – 3 Episodes (plus 3 Unaired)
Premiered Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Holds the distinction of being the first new show of the 2008-2009 season to be canned.

The Ex List (CBS) – 4 Episodes (plus 9 Unaired)
Premiered Friday, October 3rd, 2008

A major misstep on the part of CBS, this drama not only lost a large portion of its lead-in (Ghost Whisperer) it also hurt the ratings for the show that followed it (NUMB3RS).

Valentine (The CW) – 4 Episodes (plus 4 Unaired)
Premiered Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Easy Money (The CW) – 4 Episodes (plus 4 Unaired)
Premiered Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Both of these dramas were part of The CW’s ill-fated attempt to outsource its Sunday schedule.

My Own Worst Enemy (NBC) – 9 Episodes
Premiered Monday, October 13th, 2008

NBC had high hopes for this drama starring Christian Slater but it crashed and burned. At least the network aired all nine episodes.

Crusoe (NBC) – 13 Episodes
Premiered Friday, October 17th, 2008

This lavish take on Daniel Defoe’s classic tale is still on NBC’s schedule, albeit being burned off on Saturdays rather than Fridays. It returns on January 10th with the first of its four remaining episodes.

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7 Replies to “2008: TV’s New Obscurities”

  1. All 13 episodes of “FEAR ITSELF” aired in Canada, where it originated. Expect the same results for another Canadian series NBC recently began this summer, “THE LISTENER”.
    Raquel Welch was featured in “WELCOME TO THE CAPTAIN”, if anyone’s interested. Now she’s appearing in Foster Grant sunglasses commercials {again, after her first magazine ad for them over 40 years ago}.

  2. I actually liked Fear Itself, or at least the episodes I saw. I think all the episodes may also have aired on cable channel Chiller, which I do not get.

  3. I didn’t say I DIDN’T like “FEAR ITSELF”, ‘RGJ’- in fact, most of the episodes were quite entertaining and offbeat (as well as unsettling). But NBC didn’t own it, and, like most TV networks, they give short shrift these days to anything that’s not “controlled” by them. That’s why the rest of its American telecasts ended up on the “Chiller” channel. In fact, you watch how fast “MERLIN” appears and DISAPPEARS from NBC’s schedule within the next few weeks!

    ABC didn’t really care about “PUSHING DAISIES”, either, no matter how many TV critics and its small core of loyal fans objected to the network “giving up” on the series, because THEY DIDN’T OWN IT, whether it was a “hit” or not. Current financial reasoning dictates that, if the network can’t make any money off of the episodes through syndication, cable, and home video (as in, say. “DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES” and “LOST”), it’s “not worth saving” to them. And that’s why network television is in the terrible state it is now. Ah, if only one could see W2XBS’ 1940-’41 schedules again…

  4. I believe ownership was the reason behind NBC dropping Medium as well. Some branch or arm of CBS produces the show. The same goes for Scrubs, I think.

  5. EXACTLY! Another reason is, of course, due to the fact that Jay Leno is going to fill NBC’s across-the-board 10pm(et) time period this fall, and the network [finanically, of course] will protect its owned or “controlled” series more than “independently” produced ones, giving their “in-house” shows the best time slots available between 8 and 10pm. So, NBC’s “kiss-off” on “MEDIUM” is CBS’ gain; they DO own the program (and co-produce it with Glenn Gordon Caron {Picturemaker} and Kelsey Grammer {Grammnet}), and they simply wanted a better “flow” on Friday nights between “GHOST WHISPERER” and “NUMB3RS” this fall {whoever authorized “THE EX-LIST” is beyond me!}….therefore, a perfect solution!
    Same deal with “SCRUBS”- ABC’s situation comedy development has been largely unsuccessful during the past, oh, three years or so, and THEY own (and co-produce) “SCRUBS”. So, they decided to give the series “one more chance” on their network [the better to increase “inventory” for the series’ DVD “box sets” as well]…and, after a false start early this year, wonder of wonders, their pairing it with “BETTER OFF TED” seemed to work! So, it’s coming back in the fall, with a slightly different cast. But, again, it’s mostly due to their “financial interest” in the program…

  6. One has to wonder how far a network will go with regard to retaining a poorly performing owned/co-owned/co-produced series rather than risk picking up a new show. Frankly, I was stunned when FOX announced it was sticking with Dollhouse. But it is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and apparently someone at the network has faith in it. I wonder, though, if keeping Dollhouse means some great drama pilot was shunted aside.

    On the other hand, NBC renewed Chuck despite not having any involvement in its production. So we aren’t quite at the point where the networks ignore anything they don’t have a hand in.

    As an aside, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs and hope it doesn’t falter in its new format (apparently medical school with Drs. Cox and Turk) when it returns this season. Think Frasier, not AfterMASH or Joey.

  7. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the five unaired episodes of NBC’s Fear Itself will stream for free online at FEARnet beginning September 2nd. Or maybe September 7th. The article includes both dates. Apparently, FEARnet is available online, through cable On-Demand and via mobile phones.

    I watched and for the most part enjoyed the eight episodes of Fear Itself that NBC aired. I may try to watch a few of these unaired ones as well. In any event, it’s always good news when unaired episodes become available.

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