Many more network shows walk the plank

NBC's "Chuck" has managed to survive for another season. This season's finale airs tonight.

By Tom Comi

This is that time of year when TV fans wait with bated breath to find out if their favorite network shows will be coming back next season, and followers of the NBC program Chuck have to be thankful that it has once again escaped death more times than its title character.

With the way shows have been canceled by all four broadcast networks over the past week, Chuck fans have to be thrilled. Despite poor ratings, the spy drama with the small but loyal following somehow managed to once again land on its feet in a television landscape that has no mercy for the weak. Perhaps a lot can be said for grass-roots campaigns, because Chuck followers appear to have a some strange pull in Hollywood.

“The passion of the Chuck fans has been heard again,” co-creator Josh Schwartz said via Twitter. “We are all truly lucky to have the greatest fan base on TV. Thank you.”

Not all shows have been as fortunate, and the list is too long to mention. Just after Fox announced it was butchering its current lineup, ABC, NBC and CBS came forward with the news that many of its dramas and sitcoms were being put down as well. And as is the case every year, a plethora of new soon-to-be-canceled programming was announced to fill the void.

The impossible part of being a TV viewer in today’s climate is committing to shows that have a slim-to-none chance of surviving. The margin for error is so small in today’s 300-channel universe that viewers are rarely rewarded for getting behind new shows. I admittedly fell into that trap with the CBS legal drama The Defenders and the ABC comedy Mr. Sunshine, both of which were given their death notices over the past few days.

I certainly get the decision by ABC to yank Mr. Sunshine, which never found its groove despite being headlined by TV veterans Matthew Perry and Allison Janney. The show failed miserably in its attempts to be funny, and there simply isn’t enough time these days for a show to be overhauled. Oddly enough, Seinfeld — which really struggled out of the gate when it premiered on NBC in 1990 — never would have been renewed if it was launched today.

That said, it really does trouble me to see The Defenders go of the air. I really thought Jim Belushi and Jerry McConnell were forming a great chemistry on air, and the legal cases they took on in Las Vegas were unique and interesting. I’m not sure what could have been done to make the show better or more popular, but count me as one of the fans who wishes this decision could be taken to a higher court at CBS.

So to my fellow Chuck viewers out there, be sure to enjoy to watch tonight’s season finale (NBC, 8pm ET) with great appreciation and with the knowledge that at least 13 more episodes are on the horizon. Nowadays, nothing can be taken for granted.


Credit: Mike Ansell/NBC