FOX needs to expand primetime hours

By Tom Comi

"Human Target" is among a number of recently canceled FOX series

Nothing is a given these days with the broadcast networks in terms of launching new television shows, but FOX’s knee-jerk reaction to yanking programs off the air has made it darn-near impossible for viewers to give its new dramas and sitcoms a fighting chance.

This week FOX will announce that it is canceling Human Target, Lie to Me, The Chicago Code, Breaking In and Traffic Light. And while I am not defending any of these programs or the fact their ratings were far from stellar, it does beg the question as to why fans should bother to invest in new shows that will most likely never make it past the first month.

A perfect example is the critically acclaimed drama Lone Star, which FOX pulled last fall after only two episodes. Granted, the ratings were horrible, but a show with such complex characters and plots surely deserved more than two weeks to gain some traction, didn’t it?

FOX tends to thrive on the “out with the new, in with the new” mentality of programming, which is why it will replace the aforementioned programs with the likes of I Hate My Teenage Daughter, The New Girl, Finder and Alcatraz.

Unfortunately, if history is any kind of indicator, most of them will be gone before they get a fair chance to gain an audience. And as a TV viewer, it’s only fair to ask yourself why you should devote your time and emotions to a show that most likely won’t be around for a season at best.

In FOX’s defense, it is not the only network that has to deal with struggling shows or turnover. However, it is at the disadvantage of only having two hours of primetime programming every night due to its affiliates taking the coveted 10pm ET slot for their local newscasts. Factor in hours of programming dedicated to reality shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and the forthcoming The X-Factor, and there is precious time left for dramas and sitcoms.

This dilemma means FOX does not have the luxury of allowing shows to either gain an audience or stay on the air with poor ratings as a network like NBC can do with the drama Chuck (which is reportedly getting yet another stay of execution despite average numbers).

Trust me, it’s not like it’s breaking news to the folks at FOX that their competitors have an advantage in primetime, but at what point do the network suits and affiliates realize something has to give? The affiliates obviously make a lot of money with their local newscasts, but doesn’t it stand to reason that they could do even better an hour later if more people are vested in their programming?

Until FOX figures out how to expand its nightly viewing to three hours like NBC, CBS and ABC, it will always be nothing more than a turnstile of shows that struggle to garner loyalty.


© 2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Michael Lavine/FOX