Fox has a long and storied history of bizarre cancellations.
They're not really bizarre. There was an outside chance that one of those three dramas might be renewed if Fox was displeased with the quality of their drama pilots (and that likely would have been Lie To Me since Fox actually produces it and it's slightly closer to the syndication threshold) but as far as ratings are concerned, none of the three seemed likely to be renewed. Were they NBC shows, they all probably would have made the 2011-2012 schedule cut (Chuck somehow being renewed yet again proves my point). Fox has a jam-packed fall (with X Factor taking up several time slots and the premiere of Spielberg's Terra Nova) and then American Idol isn't exactly wilting without Simon Cowell on the judging panel so that'll be back next January -- Fox just doesn't have the space to keep under-performing shows around.
That said, were I running the network, I probably would have ordered one of them to a shortened 13 episode season (of the bunch, I think Human Target is the strongest show - at least season 1 was - but Lie to Me is procedural enough to work as filler) to run in case any series bomb out of the gate (see: Lonestar) and if nothing flops any of the three would be strong enough to perform well during the summer.
Well, I don't think any of these shows were very good in the first place. Fox shows are typically artistically hamstrung from the beginning with shaky premises and poor production quality. Add in the often bizarre scheduling decisions, bumping scripted TV all around the week or even the calendar year to make room for reality and sports and Fox shows really don't have much of a chance.
TV audiences need time. The BEST shows often take years to develop an audience and hit their stride. Each network takes big risks on what shows deserve to be picked up. They analyze the performance data. They try to understand the audience. They compare revenue with costs. And they take a leap of faith on the quality of the show. If it's a great show, it will get a few seasons to prove itself.
Then there's FOX. The only gambles they like to take are with new shows that are just a stupid and cheesy as the shows they replace. Then the shows get jerked around and not even DVR's can keep up. And the audience doesn't grow. Not a surprise.
FOX Bubble Bloodbath: 'Human Target,' 'Breaking In,' 'Lie to Me' canceled BY DANIEL FIENBERG - 'Traffic Light' and 'Chicago Code' also bite the dust WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2011 12:50 AM
It was a bad day to be on the bubble for FOX.
In the space of a couple hours on Tuesday (May 10) evening, news broke that FOX was canceling every single one of its in-limbo dramas and comedies.
HitFix was first to tell you that FOX wasn't moving forward with a second season of "The Chicago Code," making it creator Shawn Ryan's second one-season-wonder in the past year after FX's late, lamented "Terriers."
But that wasn't all.
Conventional wisdom had FOX choosing between "The Chicago Code," "Human Target" and "Lie to Me" for one or two slots on next year's schedule.
Wrong. After 25 episodes (over two seasons) and 48 episodes (over three weirdly scheduled seasons), FOX has pulled the plug on both "Human Target" and "Lie to Me." As a sad note, Shawn Ryan spent a season as showrunner on "Lie to Me," making it a double-downer evening for the "Shield" mastermind.
In the midst of this carnage, "Fringe" fans should remain astounded that their little cult drama -- which draws few viewers and worse demo numbers than "Chicago Code," "Human Target" or "Lie to Me" -- was already ordered for a full fourth season.
Would FOX show more mercy to its bubble comedies?
As reported by Deadline.com (and everybody else), FOX has also cancelled "Traffic Light" and "Breaking In."
The "Traffic Light" cancellation wasn't much of a surprise. In its most recent airing, the relationship comedy drew under 3 million viewers and did a 1.2 demo rating. While NBC renewed "Community" with numbers only slightly better than that, FOX isn't NBC (and "Traffic Light" isn't "Community").
"Breaking In" wasn't a sure-thing for a renewal, but its latest episode drew more than 7 million viewers and did a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49, helped a wee bit by "American Idol."
The comedy becomes star Christian Slater's third straight TV series (on three different networks) to be cancelled without completing a full first season. In fact, "Breaking In" will end up airing fewer episodes than either "My Own Worst Enemy" or "The Forgotten."
Check out the updated fates of all of your favorite 2011 TV Shows on the Bubble.
Okay, if your point is that Fox often dooms shows with it's never ending game of time slot hopscotch, I completely agree. All I was saying was, in the grand scheme of things, none of these shows (two of which were lucky to receive renewals the previous May) had the ratings this season to justify additional seasons (meaning, in my mind, they don't exactly qualify as bizarre cancellations). And, if we're honest, Fringe didn't deserve renewals this or last season given the ratings but FOX also announced it was ordering another series from JJ Abrams (Alcatraz) so that may have played a part of it, too.
As for what led to the crappy ratings...
Lie to Me moved on to the third showrunner in three seasons and was brought back much sooner than originally scheduled when Lonestar was DOA.
FOX unnecessarily involved themselves in the creative process for Human Target adding characters that served little to no purpose and only managed to hurt the successful elements of the show during it's first season. It followed that by premiering it just before Thanksgiving (not exactly prime television watching time) and then never committed to a consistent night / time the rest of the season.
I thought and still believe it was a mistake to go with Glee instead of Chicago Code for the post-Super Bowl slot. I know why FOX went the way it did (you can sell ad space at a much higher rate for a proven hit than you can a new product and so more ad dollars means happy executives) but Glee never ended up getting a ratings boost from it and Chicago Code had a disappointing premiere and never really found it's legs after that.
I also am not sure it'd be true to say that FOX television development stands out in the "shaky premise" and "poor production quality" department anymore. I think all of network television suffers from that at the moment (I swear Duck Hunt had better looking graphics/special fx than ABC's V ). Other than Greg Garcia's Raising Hope, there really wasn't anything close to a hit that came from ABC, FOX or NBC this season. CBS is a little different as their creative philosophy appears to be "if the show works, make five of 'em."
I guess I'm really biased by all the horror stories I've heard from friends who have worked on Fox shows (or for Fox TV directly). Perhaps things have changed recently. I don't know.
On a similar note, I think another problem with network TV is that they stubbornly stick with the 20-24 episode season format. The cable network shows have learned that 12 episode (roughly) seasons and quality ideas/writing/acting can go a really long way.
An abandoned factory along Lake Michigan. The frozen waterway is now home to a corpse. Police officers roam about in the crisp night, frantically investigating the scene of the crime.
DET. MARGINALIZED PARTNER approaches the car carrying his new, recently relocated partner, DET. BJORN GOOLAGONG.
PARTNER An officer found the body frozen in that waterway about two hours ago. Just trying to fill you and the audience in on the details of this "wholly original" storyline.
GOOLAGONG Kind of a cold night for a swim. Wouldn't you say, guy?
PARTNER Sure, I guess that isn't bad for your first night on the job. I imagine your overbearing one- liners will improve once you've had time to settle in.
PARTNER So far haven't turned up any witnesses and no 911 calls. Not unusual really for this part of town at this part of the year at this primetime time slot.
GOOLAGONG All alone out here on a night more frigid than my five ex-wives? Makes you wonder what sort of mistake by the Great Lake this guy was making.
PARTNER Nice way to establish that all the audience should expect from a former A-list film star is just a David Caruso carbon copy.
GOOLAGONG But, it should work since Americans eat this **** up. Hardcore.
Officer Replaceable who has been lurking over the frozen body pulls a wallet out of the dead man's pants. He turns toward GOOLAGONG and PARTNER and hands the wallet off providing a key piece of information that will end on a ridiculous punchline followed by the opening credits.
PARTNER The victim's name is Charles vander Puffenwiffer. Age 42. There is also a key card for a suite at the Elegant-Sounding Hotel. It's a Wisconsin driver's license. Must have been here on business.
GOOLAGONG Well you know what they say: easy come, easy Muskegoin'.
ROGER DALTRY YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!
OPENING CREDITS featuring a song by The Who not currently used by any of the other CSI installments