Saturday, April 01, 2006

Something I really, really HATE about TV

Twinkly music.

When you've got a show (usually an hourlong) and you want to indicate that something ZANY and LIGHTHEARTED is happening, you often turn to twinkly music. The three shows that are the biggest offenders are The O.C., Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. I used to like the first two, and I still really like Grey's.

But I don't like the music.

I sort of find the music insulting as a viewer. It's as though the shows are worried I won't get that something FUNNY is happening unless they play bouncy, oddly twee music to get me on that wavelength. But I'm smart, dammit. I KNOW when something is funny.

This is particularly grating on Grey's, where it doesn't really feel like the music belongs in the show's milieu. It's set in a HOSPITAL for goodness sakes. I've been to hospitals. They do not engender bouncy music!

There are LOTS of quirky shows that use music well. Gilmore Girls has its trademark "la la" girl. Northern Exposure had that great, great blend of styles of music from all over. Freaks and Geeks never needed the bounce.

So lose the chirpy strings, producers. Let us laugh on our own.


Friday, March 31, 2006

Script review: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

How it came into my possession, you shall never know.

To the person I got it from, thanks.

If you want it. . .do I look like a law breaker?

Anyway. . .

Aaron Sorkin has been missed since he left the TV universe after The West Wing's fourth season. Sports Night is one of those great shows that didn't last long enough. The West Wing was incredible for two years, pretty good for another and middling for yet another. But it was still better under Sorkin's purview than it has been ever since.

And that's why Sorkin's return with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (which was once Studio 7) has been so anticipated. That's why he's attracted one of the best casts in TV history. That's why he was able to get such a great deal from NBC, who committed to 13 episodes with nothing more than the pilot script.

Reportedly, Sorkin has wanted to do a "behind-the-scenes at a sketch comedy show" series for some time. Rumors of the idea have been kicking around since at LEAST when Sorkin left The West Wing (or was fired, take your pick). And so, when the actual announcement came down last fall, it seemed like it had been a long time coming.

But it's clear that even though Sorkin had the idea long ago, the idea really took hold of his imagination in the past few years. There are references to drug problems (which Sorkin has had) and a character who appears to be based on his ex-girlfriend Kristen Chenoweth. The central characters of Matt and Danny appear to fulfill both sides of the Sorkin male dichotomy (and call back to Casey and Dan on Sports Night, though their traits are shuffled a bit). And there are plenty of supporting characters who could be spun off into fun and wacky storylines or ignored completely. Sorkin loves huge casts full of talented actors, and he's assembled one here (Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford and Amanda Peet are the leads. . .and the supporting cast is just as solid).

What's to like here? A lot. It's unmistakeably a Sorkin script. The characters speak in torrents of words. They have opinions and points-of-view. The world is highly romanticized, the sort of one where just the right people can change everything. No one can write Sorkin-style dialogue. To be sure, it can turn twee and unbelievable, but when he's on, he delivers every time. This is the sort of stuff that proves that some of the best American playwrights are actually working in television, adapting the constraints of a DIFFERENT medium into well-made drama.

And it's funny. The quips and banter that Sorkin is known for fly off of every page of this script. With this script and this cast, this is going to be a show that's fun to watch. All in all, I'm looking forward to this. I want to see it brought to life. It's sure to be one of my favorite pilots next year.

I say all of this as precursor. Because I think there are some problems.

For starters, there's no "authority" character to give the show weight here. Well, there is one, but he's gone rather quickly (ideally, he'll be a recurring character). Sports Night had Isaac, and The West Wing had the president. When either character was missing in action, you could feel it palpably. The shows were missing their centers, and Sorkin knew how to make that pay off dramatically (the moment when Isaac comes back after a stroke at the end of the first season finale of Sports Night remains one of my favorite TV moments ever). Here, the show is missing its center, and it feels rudderless. Again, Sorkin knows how to make this dramatically interesting (the feeling of indirection is entirely appropriate), but it's hard to see how Sorkin is going to make the characters he intends to be central figures into those central figures.

Sorkin also has a lot to say. He's been away for a few years, and by gum, he's going to let us know what he thinks about the current situation in America. As I said above, the torrent of words is stunning and fun to read, but it also feels. . .unrestrained. Sorkin's at his best when he's pulling in the reins just a bit, and this feels like a great mind set loose on the page. It's all over the place.

Finally, the whole thing sort of reads like fan fiction. It reads like Aaron Sorkin imagining what it would be like if he were to run Saturday Night Live. It's passionate, incredibly well-written fan fiction, but it has that sense of "OMG! WOULDN'T IT BE COOL IF THIS HAPPENED?!"

And the man can't write a comedy sketch. He writes around this remarkably well, but the idea he has for the great sketch that will save the show at the center of the show. . .isn't that great. I'm pretty sure every sketch comedy has done variations on it, as have many, many, many sitcoms. It's not as revolutionary as he thinks it is.

But those are quibbles. This is going to be a very, very good show. And there's a great one lurking inside of it. I have every confidence that Sorkin and the cast he's assembled (and the incomparable Thomas Schlamme, one of the best TV directors working) will find what works and doesn't work in this series and have it humming along in no time.

But will anyone be watching?

Behind-the-scenes show-biz shows and movies haven't done tremendously well in the past. Sure there are a few exceptions, but by and large, the public doesn't seem to care how its entertainment is assembled. It cares about CELEBRITIES, but it doesn't care about the nuts 'n bolts of a TV show so much. The West Wing broke through because it felt like it MATTERED. Sorkin took government esoterica and conducted a civics lesson every week. Is there ANY way he can do something like that with a sketch comedy show? Actually, I'm sure he can, but I'm not sure the subject matter is going to draw people in.

Mercifully, Sorkin keeps the talk of ratings points and such to a minimum. The technical stuff is done in such a fly-by-night way that I don't think it's going to matter to people. They're going to want to hitch on for the ride.

I know I will.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Super TV preview: NBC

So here we are. The end of the line.

That said, NBC is a hard network to call. It SEEMS like they should be easy to predict, but they've always had a rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic sort of mentality, preferring to keep nights that weren't really working together and hope for magic. They made a smart move in reestablishing themselves as the comedy go-to people on Thursdays (and I think that will really pay off when CBS and Fox beat each other to death). But their fall schedule last year was one of the worst I've seen. It had My Name Is Earl, to be sure, but it did too little to save a network that still sort of believes it's number one, as opposed to number four.

NBC, of course, dominated the 90s, but once Jeff Zucker came on board, it slowly deflated as he tried to wring every last bit of cash out of existing hits without developing any NEW hits. Quality shows like Newsradio and Scrubs were left to languish on nights where they weren't working instead of being built into bigger hits on Thursday nights (though by the time Scrubs came around, it was probably too late to save NBC).

Is it fair to blame Zucker completely for the network's failures? Not really. But it also sort of is. He came up with the idea to extend the run of Friends at least two seasons too long. He also greenlit a lot of atrocious sitcoms at a time when NBC had the best sitcom development people in the business. And he broke up the fabled Thursday night comedy lineup in favor of overexposing The Apprentice. Under his watch, the network also let football slip away in favor of securing the Olympics through the next few decades. To be fair, the Olympics are often a draw, but football can often precede a network's rise or fall (except for ABC, which has never had a deal outside of the Monday night game). CBS fell when it ditched football in the 90s, then rose again when football came back. Fox's real rise really began when it landed the NFC games. Football delivers you an incredibly large captive audience that can be funneled over to other nights of the week.

NBC is also fond of overexposure. See: The Apprentice. Now that it has a solid hit in Deal or No Deal, it's proceeding to play it on as many nights as possible, just inviting the audience to "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" it.

But NBC is also so far down that it can take some real chances. ABC was in a similar position in 2001, and it planted the seeds that led to its 2004 breakthrough with Alias and a handful of other shows. NBC has a number of great projects in development, and it has already picked up three truly promising shows: Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip, the new show from The West Wing's Aaron Sorkin; Kidnapped, a 24-style thriller with a killer cast; and The Black Donnellys, from Crash's Paul Haggis (who, before he made crappy movies, created the stunning TV series EZ Streets). It's also got Heroes, which could end up being its Alias: a critically acclaimed hit in a milieu not often seen on TV that draws in young people and families.

And it has football back.

So let's see what NBC will most likely do.

First, look at NBC's truly awful fall 2005 schedule. Then, look at the pilots for next year.


With football:
7 p.m. EST/PST: Football Night in America (new series)
8 p.m.: Sunday Night Football (new series)

Without football:
7 p.m. EST/PST: Friday Night Lights
8 p.m.: Heroes (new series)
9 p.m.: Law & Order: Criminal Intent
10 p.m.: Crossing Jordan

Putting football on Sundays was a smart move for the NFL. The Desperate Housewives crowd isn't going to gravitate to it, and The Sopranos won't be on for the duration of the season. I don't think primetime football can ever be as huge as Monday Night Football was in its heyday, but this is a good idea. Another good idea is putting Friday Night Lights on after the season. It's a show about high school football, and it should be a good transition. To be fair, it could be not appropriate for that hour, but I don't think that will dissuade NBC from placing it there (they could also flip it with Heroes). Heroes, about superheroes, would be a natural choice for a 22-episode run straight through (like 24), and should be a solid player with families. L&O: CI and Jordan are both on the bubble, but they do well enough to warrant one last season on both counts.


8 p.m.: Deal or No Deal
9 p.m.: The Apprentice
10 p.m.: Medium

The Apprentice is long in the tooth. Medium is being dragged down by The Apprentice. And NBC is going to overexpose Deal or No Deal. But this is the only night that remotely works for them right now, so it's going to stay intact until it collapses (probably sometime around February). Even if ABC moves Grey's Anatomy there.


8 p.m.: Dateline NBC (new night, time slot)
9 p.m.: The Black Donnellys (new series)
10 p.m. Law and Order: SVU

I actually toyed with canceling Dateline, but that series will never die. So it ends up here, on a night when NBC treads a little more water. Donnellys will probably prove to be too dark and/or complex for network TV, but that should lead nicely into SVU, which likes to get its kink on. At least the network isn't just giving up with this schedule.


8 p.m.: Deal or No Deal
9 p.m.: Law and Order
10 p.m.: Kidnapped (new series)

There's Deal or No Deal again! Law and Order is drowning opposite Lost and Idol, but it makes so much money in cable reruns that I doubt NBC cares anymore. It, too, has been overexposed, but it still has a solid fanbase, so it's probably okay for another few years. NBC is intent on putting a serialized series at 10 to capture Lost fans. Kidnapped could just be that show. Look for NBC to debut it in late August to capitalize on serial fans needing a fix.


8 p.m.: The Office (new time slot)
8:30 p.m.: Scrubs (new night, time slot)
9 p.m.: My Name Is Earl
9:30 p.m.: Andy Barker, P.I. (new series)
10 p.m.: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (new series)

Here's a night where NBC will take some risks. Will & Grace, the last vestige of NBC's 90s dominance (well, besides ER) is leaving the air this year. Four Kings and Joey both flopped. But The Office is slowly turning into a show with a lot of buzz. Like Friends back in the early 90s, I think NBC will try to turn it into a hit on its own in the 8 p.m. slot. Scrubs is probably good for one more season, and it would work well on a night of single-camera shows. Earl is holding its own at 9. Andy Barker, P.I. is a show about an accountant who assumes the role of a P.I. from Conan O'Brian's production company (starring Andy Richter). And Sorkin's Studio show should be a good fit with a night of comedy.


8 p.m.: Deal or No Deal
9 p.m.: Las Vegas
10 p.m.: ER (new night)

Deal or No Deal is doing fine for itself here. Las Vegas has also made inroads on a tough night to program. And ER is contractually obligated to come back but fading fast. Its final season will quietly play out here before going to cable reruns forever.

The biggest thing about this schedule is that NBC gets to look stable, which is something it has long pursued. At some point, it's going to have to go crazy and cancel a bunch of stuff, but I think it's more likely to do that at midseason.

Here are some other shows I could see being picked up (NBC's development is really strong this year, second only to ABC's). Notice how many are comedies.

100 Things to Do Before I Die
20 Good Years
Alpha Mom
Community Service
Lipstick Jungle
Untitled Tina Fey Project

That's it for the super TV preview. I may try to do a wrap-up, but I don't know what I would say.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Super TV preview: Fox

Ladies and gentlemen, if I might present Fox, the network with two personalities. There's the "We're the biggest network around!" January-May super-conglomerate. And there's the "We'll do anything for a 7 share!" June-December puny scamp that struggles to find ways to work around baseball.

The two Foxes share exactly one stable hit (House). The biggest network around has 24 in addition to American Idol. The puny scamp has the Sunday night comedy block (which isn't what it once was ratings-wise). It also has The O.C., a show Fox was never able to capitalize on like it probably could have (another year post-Idol might have done it some good). And it's got Prison Break, which will continue its weird scheduling next year (saving me from having to figure out what Fox will put on Mondays pre-Idol).

Fox is legitimately the only network that veers from first to fourth place. There's no in between. To have a monster fall, it has to hope that teams people want to watch get into the World Series. When it was the Red Sox on their way to their first title in decades, people watched. When it was the under-mythologized White Sox, they didn't. Fox's best hope is a Cubs/Yankees match-up, and from the looks of the Cubbies' lineup, that ain't going to happen.

One thing you could say for Fox back in the day is that they would take chances. They put The Simpsons on the air. They bet on conservatives getting mad over Married With Children and scored their first hit through the controversy. They stuck with The X-Files and Arrested Development, turning one into a hit and never connecting with the other.

Nine times out of ten, the most intriguing pilots were Fox pilots. They failed with some of them (Herman's Head was better in theory than execution). They could never find audiences for others (Firefly remains sorely missed, but people weren't calling out for a sci-fi Western). But they turned some of them into big hits (24). And even their pilots that were more conventional blended genres (House blended the procedural with the medical drama) or offered up fun twists on stale formulas (Malcolm in the Middle and the family sitcom).

But something curious has been happening recently. While networks like ABC have adopted the Fox formula of taking big risks to their own products, Fox has fallen back onto procedurals and the like. Last fall, their best pilot was Prison Break, a 24 retread that had an interesting premise with less interesting execution. Then they had a wave of crime procedurals and sitcoms that felt like second drafts of more original shows.

And their pilot development isn't much better this year. If you look at their pilots, you see a mess of shows that seem "been-there, done-that" in their loglines. Even Beyond, the most original show there (it's about a space race after an asteroid hits the Earth) and Drive (about a cross-country race) seem to be cashing in on the Lost-alike trend of last year a little too late.

I think I know what the problem is: Fox is thinking of itself as a network that operates from a position of stability. But it's only that for half of the year. When American Idol is on, this network can do little to no wrong. Thursdays and Fridays are problems, but every other night scores well enough to keep it right on CBS' tail. The problem is that when American Idol starts to decline (and it's hard to see it topping the HUGE ratings it has booked this year), it could pull the rest of the lineup down with it. Fox wants to play like CBS when it REALLY should be playing like ABC and taking chances.

But I doubt they'll listen to me.

Fox's fall schedule was not exactly the measure of clarity. They tried leading off a night with Arrested Development, killing that show ultimately. They were going to make huge, risky moves at midseason. And they're probably glad they left House where it is. It's not really the sort of show you can move. Grey's Anatomy is the sort of show you can move. There's a solid, passionate fan base there. House, however, inspires passion, but I don't see a huge cult forming around it.

Anyway. . .

Let's take a look at next year's schedule and see if we can't figure out what the network might do pre- and post-Idol.


7 p.m. EST/PST: Football overflow/cartoon reruns
7:30 p.m.: King of the Hill (starting in January, most likely)
8 p.m.: The Simpsons
8:30 p.m.: The Winner (new series)
9 p.m.: Family Guy
9:30 p.m.: American Dad

The War at Home was one of the worst reviewed pilots of last year. It's only gotten worse. Though its ratings aren't bad (the similarities between the Simpsons and Family Guy audiences are so large that people will sit through anything in between them), it's not the heir to Married with Children Fox hoped it was. Enter The Winner, which has a script that is, I kid you not, EVEN WORSE than The War at Home. Still, the actors in the show are all talented, and Fox has to pay a cash penalty if they don't order the show. Its also from Seth McFarlane's production team, so its crude humor should mesh well with Family Guy and the abysmal American Dad (though I try to hate it so, Family Guy makes me laugh too often to get an outright pan). King of the Hill and Simpsons were recently picked up for new seasons, and I don't think they're going anywhere.


8 p.m.: Parenteen (new series)
9 p.m.: Prison Break

8 p.m.: Parenteen/Prison Break
9 p.m.: 24

Who better to save reality TV than Ashton Kutcher? Fox has thrown weird reality shows before their action series in the past, and they never end up the worse for the wear. Hence, Parenteen, which involves Kutcher helping parents and teens GET ALONG. Prison Break is writing a cliffhanger after 13 episodes into its structure again next season. Prison Break is also going to leave the prison and change its name (presumably to Prison Break: Escape or Prison Break: Manhunt) in one of the riskiest creative moves a series has undertaken yet. Sure, Lost opened the hatch and found a conspiracy and Battlestar Galactica landed on a planet, but this move changes the central underpinnings of the show. 24's sixth season is assured, and the only question is when the show will kill off Jack Bauer or launch a spinoff.


8 p.m.: American Crime (new series)
9 p.m.: House

8 p.m.: Beyond (new series)
9 p.m.: House

Fox tried a procedural before House last year in Bones. It held its own in a competitive time slot and later moved to Wednesdays to quietly become a minor hit. It's not the earth-shaker that House was, but it worked well enough that Fox will probably try again. American Crime is a lawyer show. Those sorts of shows aren't really in vogue right now, but neither were medical dramas when House came around. American Crime has a stellar cast, and I can't help but think that it might do okay for itself. Obviously, American Idol isn't on Tuesdays in this scenario. You'll see why in a second. Beyond seems to be the most family friendly of Fox's pilots, and the network is reportedly high on it. It also comes from some of the producers of House. Since families are used to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays on Fox, why not lure them in once Idol has debuted again?



8 p.m.: Bones
9 p.m.: Til Death (new series)
9:30 p.m.: The Worst Week ofMy Life (new series)


8 p.m.: American Idol (new night)
9 p.m.: Bones (new time slot)

If either of those new comedies is a mega-hit, Fox can shuffle them over to Thursdays or Sundays. I'm not predicting much, though. Til Death stars Brad Garrett, so it gets the lead-off spot. Worst Week is a promising series that blends 24-style pacing with wedding hijinks. Fox is intrigued enough by it to order additional scripts, so it will get a tryout somewhere. Theoretically, trying out comedies opposite Lost and Criminal Minds is a good idea. And then at midseason, we come to the big deal. If Fox could stretch AI over three nights, it would. It performed well enough on Thursdays to make them salivate. Both Survivor AND CSI are losing viewers (slightly in both cases), and Fox would be happy to facilitate that decay so IT can take over as the big cheese on Thursdays. I don't think ALL of the pieces are in place to make this happen, but I think Fox is going to try. There have been signs it might happen since last year, and this is the last year it would really be an option. Bones gets bounced around AGAIN.


8 p.m.: The O.C. (new time slot)
9 p.m.: The Wedding Album (new series)

8 p.m.: The O.C.
9 p.m.: American Idol results show (new night)
9:30 p.m.: Julie Reno: Bounty Hunter (new series)

Let's be clear. The Wedding Album is a sacrificial lamb. It's a show that Fox will throw there to have something on in that time slot that's not static. Should it take off, Fox will be grateful. But if it doesn't, they'll be expecting that. And they'll probably plug in Nanny 911! (their all-purpose slot filler). The O.C. really SHOULDN'T get a fourth season, but the show would enter syndication at the end of one, so Fox will slog out another low-rated season (really, aside from keeping the quality high, the show should have never left Wednesdays). American Idol begins its assault on CBS here, while Julie Reno has a great cast and great writers.


8 p.m.: The War at Home (new night, time-slot)
8:30 p.m.: Bash (new series)
9 p.m.: Drive (new series)

Fox needs to lead off the night with something. Since the odds of Bernie Mac coming back for yet another last-second season seem unlikely (what with the show in syndication and all), I think they'll go for broke with the young male audience that MIGHT be at home, not having dates. The War at Home and Bash look likely to compliment each other (Bash is about regular people getting celebrity-style roasts), and Drive is an action series from solid producer Tim Minear.


8 p.m.: Cops
8:30 p.m.: Cops
9 p.m.: America's Most Wanted

Fox is the only network scheduling original programming on this night. It works well enough for them that it probably won't change any time soon.

As always, a list of shows I could just as easily see them picking up or throwing in midseason.

The 12th Man
13 Graves
The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend
Southern Comfort

Vanished was one I had pegged early on, but it seems too similar to NBC's already-picked-up Kidnapped to me to break through.

Honestly, Fox was the hardest network to do, so I'm sorry for how late this was. NBC is up next, and they're a network that could pretty much do ANYthing!


Monday, March 27, 2006

Save Our Shows!

If you're a fan of a show that's got pretty middling ratings, this would be the week to start watching it, writing people letters, telling all of your friends to watch, etc.

A list of shows on the bubble is not hard to come by. A list of QUALITY shows on the bubble is what I aim to provide here.

For my money, there are three shows on the bubble that TV should not lose. They are:

Sons & Daughters
Veronica Mars

You may not agree with me. So go write your own post/letters. Thank you.

Everwood remains one of the finest family dramas in TV history. (Admittedly, the competition isn't exactly stiff. There's "The Waltons" and. . .) It returns TONIGHT on The WB for a special two hour engagement at 8 p.m. EST/PST, 7 p.m. CST/MST. Starting next week, it settles in to its regular time slot, which is 9 p.m. EST/PST, 8 p.m. CST/MST. It will have all new episodes through the end of the season.

The show's ratings are pretty good, all things considered (The WB moved it opposite CSI, hoping to kill it, but it managed to hang on to much of its audience). But since the show's network is merging with another one, that means a lot of shows are going to be left out in the cold. While I would put chances of an Everwood renewal at about 50/50, you should watch and write letters just in case.

If you want to write a letter, here are the addresses:

Les Moonves
President CBS
7800 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, California
U.S.A., 90036
Phone: (213) 852-2345

Dawn Ostrow
President, UPN-TV
11800 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (310) 575-7000

(Moonves will be overseeing the new network, though he won't be as hands-on as he is with CBS. Ostrow is the new network's president.)

Sons & Daughters debuted well enough to think it might get a second season. Then, it went up against American Idol and plummeted in the ratings. Summarily, ABC has stopped promoting it as heavily as they used to be. As such, this week is really its last chance. If it can't pick up its ratings, it almost certainly will be canceled. If it can, it has a fighting chance. The show airs on ABC this Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST/PST, 8 p.m. CST/MST. Please give it a chance.

I know some of you don't like this show as much as me (and I'll admit that it has had some off moments, but every show in its first season has those). Still, it's worth keeping around because it's something different and it seems like the sort of show that would take off in a second season (creatively and otherwise) like The Office did.

If you like the show, please write to:

Sons & Daughters
ABC Audience Relations
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551

That address, by the way, is from Fred Goss' excellent blog. He's the show's creator and executive producer. He also plays Cameron, writes many of the episodes and directs most of them. So it's an interesting read.

Veronica Mars is actually in pretty good shape of being renewed ( says it has a 96% chance), but the ratings have been abysmal for the last few weeks as it has gone up against American Idol AND Lost AND Criminal Minds, which are all solid hits (American Idol is just kicking the crap out of everything this year). This week and next week, Veronica airs at 9 p.m. EST/PST, 8 p.m. CST/MST on UPN on Wednesday.

However, on April 11, the show moves to 9 p.m. EST/PST, 8 p.m. CST/MST on UPN on TUESDAY. This is partially to test how it would do with Gilmore Girls as a (pseudo) leadin, but also to give it a little breathing room (even IF that timeslot is perhaps even WORSE). If you like mystery shows, give Veronica a chance.

If you want to write a letter, the address is the same as it was for Everwood above.

Now, the harsh truth. Most of you reading this blog are NOT Nielsen families. That means that no matter what you watch, it will have no bearing (unless you have a DVR, though the networks don't really care about those ratings, as most of us skip commercials). The Nielsens are calculated through an outdated sampling technique that worked much better in the age of only three networks and PBS. However, installing ratings boxes in EVERYone's TV would be a little too Big Brother-y, so we keep doing this. If you're going to ask me, "How would I KNOW if I were a Nielsen family?" you would KNOW. They would tell you.

But you CAN write letters. Letter-writing campaigns have saved MANY a show (most famously, Cagney and Lacey, which went on to become a top 10 hit). Networks can measure ACTUAL passion from letter-writing campaigns.

So if you enjoy one of these shows (or any other show on the bubble), go to your desk and write an old-fashioned letter. Include some information about yourself (your age and gender especially) and send that letter out (it's probably a good idea to put an ATTN: Save Veronica Mars or ATTN: Save Sons & Daughters on the outside too). Usually, e-mails and phone calls are counseled against. It takes actual effort to write a letter (or type a letter), and you have to buy a stamp.

See? Those letter-writing skills your mom made you learn are good for something after all!