Television: Viva la Fall Schedule!

Once upon a yesterday, the fall schedule was something special. Mid-season replacements were unheard of and shows never went on “hiatus”, so all the new shows debuted on the fall schedule and viewers could be relatively certain that any show premiering in September and October would last at least one season.

In today’s television world, shows like Manimal and Hard Time on Planet Earth would likely have been cancelled after two episodes—with A Different World and Three’s A Crowd appearing in their timeslots—rather than running until spring. Likewise, The Facts of Life might have gone on hiatus in April and returned in July with “Season 2.5”. In the meantime, fans hungry for the ongoing adventures of Mrs. Garrett, Blair, Tootie, Natalie and Jo (who may or may not have been a cylon) would have had to suffer through reruns of One Day at a Time. Oh, the humanity.

When the fall schedule was announced in 2005, I picked several new shows and watched them faithfully. Four of the five shows had science-fiction or supernatural themes and the fifth was a half-hour sitcom. One by one the hour-long sci-fi/supernatural shows were cancelled: first Threshold and Night Stalker fell off the schedule, each after only a handful of episodes had aired. Surface lasted an “entire” (if short) season, but NBC has reportedly not renewed the show despite a letter-writing campaign among fans. Similarly, ABC’s Invasion lasted a full season but has not been renewed. Of the five shows I latched onto last year, only My Name is Earl has returned on the 2006 fall schedule.

This year, I’m taking a more conservative approach to the fall season. That may be due to a less-than-spectacular offering by the networks (ABC, for example, has nothing in their lineup that interests me), but I’m probably just trying to avoid the inevitable letdown that occurs when shows I enjoy are canceled.

Whatever the reason, I’m only going to watch one show from the new fall schedule: Heroes on NBC, which tells the story of people throughout the world who suddenly develop superpowers. Anyone who’s read more than two posts in this blog knows that I’m a sucker for superheroes, so it should come as no surprise that I’m going to pass on the post-nuclear drama Jericho (CBS) and whatever brilliant, imaginative new show Fox is planning to cancel by mid-November and go with the network that pulled the rug out from beneath Surface.

If that doesn’t work out… well, I suppose I could go outside for a while.