The news began trickling in days ahead of the networks’ official New York announcements of their 2013-2014 schedule. Which existing shows would be renewed, which could get canned, and what new series would take their place?
First, we learned that “Community,” the low-rated comedy with the loyal following (AA regulars: Danny Pudi and Ken Jeong) — which had not been on NBC’s fall schedule two years in a row and kept getting bumped and bumped and bumped until it finally returned during the 2012-2013 season in February — would be back again.
Shockingly, “Go On,” starring Matthew Perry as a sports disc jockey who has to join a support group to deal with lingering grief over the death of his wife in a car accident, was canceled.
When reporters had spoken of NBC’s surprising success in the fall of ’12, they noted the shows that were fueling its comeback, in order of popularity: “Sunday Night Football,” “The Voice,” “Revolution,” and “Go On.” But it turned out the latter series (which included two AA regulars in John Cho and Suzy Nakamura) only did well because it followed “The Voice.” Without the singing competition as its lead-in, ratings fell as low as 1.0 in the 18-49 age group (if you get as low as 1.5, you’re on dangerous ground).
Which goes to show the old “Friends” actor can’t star in a successful show to save his life (this is his third failure). I’ll miss “Go On.” It had a lot of heart, was pretty funny, and often moving.
Among new programs for the peacock is a remake of “Ironside’ with Blair Underwood in the wheelchair and Kenneth Choi (“Captain America,” “Red Dawn”) apparently as an assistant/colleague; and “Night Shift,” which centers around Army doctors, will feature two AAs: Ken Leung (Miles Straum from “Lost”) and Jeananne Goossen (“The Following,” “Emily Owens MD,” “Alcatraz”).
Over on Fox, John Cho has already found a new job as a regular on “Sleepy Hollow.” Brenda Song (“The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” “The Social Network”) will be seen on “Dads.” “Gang Related,” a mid-season replacement (meaning it’ll debut when one of the new series fails), features Sung Kang (“The Fast and the Furious,” “Bullet to the Head”) as one of the police officers.
Then came the great news that “The Neighbors,” a comedy I’ve championed in this column all season, was among a slate of shows ABC renewed. A few days later came the bad news: It was moving from Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. to the same slot on Friday — the day all series go to die.
If a show starts on the second-least-viewed night of the week (Saturdays are so bad, networks don’t air new comedy or drama episodes unless they’re trying to burn them off like NBC’s “Smash”), it can develop a comfortable following. “Grimm,” for instance, has done well enough there that NBC recently placed it on the more competitive Tuesday night to see if it could attract a stronger audience there. But if a series is moved to Friday, it’s a sign of weakening confidence. “Neighbors” will go up against “Dateline,” “Undercover Boss,” “Junior Master Chef,” and “The Carrie Diaries.”
“Dancing With the Stars” (Carrie Ann Inaba, Cheryl Burke) — which once beat the then- #1 show “American Idol” — has been constantly losing millions of viewers to the point where next fall ABC will no longer run a two-hour performance program followed by a results show the following night. It’ll just air a two-hour performance/results show once a week.
Surprisingly, “Suburgatory” (Rex Lee) is being pushed to mid-season. The low-rated mid-season replacement “Red Widow” (Suleka Mathew) won’t be coming back. Neither will “Body of Proof” (Geoffery Arend).
The alphabet network’s brightest new hope is “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” an off-shoot of the “Avengers” movie that will feature Ming-Na (“Eureka,” “Stargate Universe”). “Trophy Wife” includes Albert Tsui.
With NBC struggling after the fall, I assumed it would hold on even to some semi-weak performers, but it let a lot of freshmen series go (e.g., the aforementioned “Go On”) in the hope that they had better offerings waiting in the wings. CBS, on the other hand, won its first 18-49 victory in 21 years and could afford to be more cut-throat. I began to wonder, would it move “Hawaii Five-O” out of its Monday 10 p.m. slot? After all, ABC’s “Castle” and NBC’s new “Revolution” regularly beat it in the 18-49 demographic. Well, the Eye did just that, banishing “Five-O” to … Fridays at 9 p.m.!
I had to laugh. I had repeatedly warned the network it was squandering an opportunity to establish a show that had the potential to run almost as long as the original 1968-1980 series because it was treating it like any other “mainland” show with more white and black guest stars than Asian Pacific Islanders.
In December 2011, when I had a meeting just to discuss how to improve it, I pointed out that “Five-O” regularly lost to “Castle.” An executive angrily told me I was wrong (uh, I wasn’t). Last November at the annual CBS meeting, I told a higher exec that she had to worry about NBC’s “Revolution.” She told me when they added the ratings for the first seven days after a show airs, they’d do fine. I had my doubts. Indeed, when those numbers were added, “Five-O” still came in third.
Fox’s “24” remained third in its Monday time slot for a few years but managed to stay put. McGarrett and his team were not so lucky. Does this mean the show’s budget will be cut to conform with lower ratings expectations and advertiser revenue?
It’ll go up against “Grimm,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Shark Tank,” and “America’s Next Top Model.”
Taking “Five-O’s” place will be the 15-episode “Hostages” (Sandrine Holt), followed in January by “Intelligence” starring Josh Holloway (Sawyer on “Lost”) and including Will Yun Lee (“Hawaii Five-0,” “Total Recall”).
Kal Penn (the “Harold and Kumar” movies, “House MD”) will be one of four men who’ve recently ended their relationships in the comedy “We Are Men.”
“Rules Of Engagement” (Adhir Kalyan), which did surprisingly well after being bumped all over the map (even threatened with being moved to Saturdays), was finally canceled.
Over on the CW, “Nikita” (Maggie Q) will be back as a mid-season replacement show and for only six final episodes.
Keep Your Day Job Department: For months, we knew that Jessica Sanchez, last season’s “American Idol” runner-up, was going to appear in multiple episodes of “Glee.” She took acting lessons and all that. In the end, she appeared in the final couple of episodes and only sang. Not one line of dialogue. Hmm. Maybe she can’t act?
Here We Go Again Department: If you’ve yet to see the new movie “Star Trek Into Darkness,” you might want to skip this section so you won’t hear any spoilers. As rumored, Benedict Cumberbatch, a pasty-skinned Brit, whose initial character name is John Harrison, is later revealed to be Khan Noonien Singh. That’s right, the same villain played by Ricardo Montalban in the ’60s television series and in the film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
True, Montalban was Mexican, but at least he was a person of color. Some online critics suggested director J.J. Abrams could’ve used a real Asian Indian like Naveen Andrews, whom he cast as Sayid in “Lost.” Even former “Star Trek: Voyager” star Garrett Wang tweeted that Cumberbatch’s casting was a mistake.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time “Star Trek” gave a character with an Asian name to a white actor. In my favorite movie featuring the original television cast — 1991’s “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” — Klingon General Chang was played by Christopher Plummer.
Now Hold On! Department: Any show that debuts after the official September to May season ends is considered filler, something the network didn’t believe in enough to schedule earlier in the year. A few months ago, Fox CEO Kevin Reilly told reporters he wasn’t going to put on mid-season replacement “The Goodwin Games” anytime soon because his comedies weren’t doing well, and TGG was a comedy. So its eight-episode run didn’t debut until Monday night. And I like it.
It’s about a wacky father (Beau Bridges) who dies but not before leaving a series of videotaped messages for his estranged three kids offering his $23 million estate to just one of them who wins a series of intricate games. The executor of the estate is played by Melissa Tang (“A Good Day to Die Hard”).
Coming Attractions: This weekend, two movies of interest to AAs hit theaters: “Fast and Furious 6” featuring Sung Kang and directed by Justin Lin, and “The Hangover 3” with Ken Jeong (hopefully he won’t go au naturel for the third straight time).
’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.