Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A full season for Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights, the greatest show ever (and that's only slight hyperbole), has gotten a much-deserved pickup for a full season, despite its ratings qualifying it as one of the lowest-rated dramas not on The CW or cable. The show struggles in a tough time slot (it's on opposite Dancing with the Stars and NCIS), and its blend of football, teen soap and family drama seems carefully calibrated to appeal only to TV critics and those who love them.

That brings the list of full-season pickups for new shows to this:

Brothers & Sisters
Men in Trees
Ugly Betty


The CW:
The Game

Friday Night Lights
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

In that list, there's exactly one genuine hit (Heroes) and two pretty big hits (Ugly Betty and Jericho, two shows that ended up being self-starters). You also have three shows that have held up well in big time slots (Shark, The Game and Brothers & Sisters) and one show that became a mid-level performer completely unexpectedly (Men in Trees, which gets the call to the big leagues on Nov. 30 when it follows Grey's Anatomy for the first time). Finally, you have Studio 60 and Friday Night Lights, two shows that have cult audiences, critical buzz and little else (though Studio 60 is losing what little buzz it started out with).

The networks have been unusually patient this year, not yanking the serials instantly, even when their ratings have been poor. ABC stuck with Six Degrees for far longer than seemed absolutely necessary (perhaps to placate J.J. Abrams?), then gave the middling What About Brian? a full-season order (somewhat for the same reason, but also because the show performs well with 18-34-year-old women for some reason). It's also stuck with The Nine, a far better show that has far more promise, but seems destined to follow Invasion into a one-season-and-out pattern. Hopefully, ABC will give it a full season to tell its story, as the characters are interesting, if not quite as good as those on Friday Night Lights. Only CBS showed an itchy trigger finger, pulling Smith after three episodes, but that show was a non-starter. Fox has canceled most of its fall slate, but that's largely because all of its shows were pretty awful. The same goes for The CW, which canceled the plodding Runaway.

What am I still waiting for full-season pickups on? I think 30 Rock has gotten funnier and funnier, but from the way its ratings are sinking, it's clear America doesn't agree with me. I hope it carves out a spot for itself after Scrubs on Thursdays and gets a full year (or something close to it), if only to get to see Alec Baldwin's performance once a week. I still hope that The Nine gets that back nine, though I'm far less optimistic in that case. And, finally, I'm holding out hope that Veronica Mars gets a full third season, even if season four seems like a distant dream at this point in time.

But, really, I've had a pretty good fall. I haven't lost anything I deeply cared about, and the one show I unconditionally love just got its full season order.

And, hey, a fifth season for The Wire was announced before the season had really gotten started. Woo!

Finally, if you're thinking of trying out 3 Lbs. on CBS tonight, don't bother. The full details at House Next Door in the morning.

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