Failure is not an option, except …

What to do when a skein doesn't click with auds

For all the bluster that a network generates in telling anyone who’ll listen about how all its shows are great, history dictates most will fail.

So when a show begins slowly and continues to lose viewers, what’s a network to do? What’s step one in the crisis-control manual, in trying to resuscitate a series the network truly believes in?

First, says NBC scheduler Mitch Metcalf, don’t panic.

“You have to exercise restraint, be resistant of changes and let things grow,” he explains. “Sometimes the best move is not to make a move at all.”

Adds the Eye’s Kelly Kahl: “If a show doesn’t get sampling, if it’s losing from its lead-in, then you have to look at other factors. You have to call an audible.”

Metcalf says it’s important to look ahead, to see where the storyline is headed. If the upcoming episodes are markedly improved from what’s already aired, then staying the course may be the best option.

On the other hand: “If a show is struggling on a highly competitive night that the network has historically won, there’s more pressure to move it to a new night,” he says. “This job is a balancing act. We’ll never get to a point where we can exercise total patience.”

Fox, unlike the other nets, might not feel the pressure of producing multiple fall hits, knowing that stalwarts “24” and “American Idol” start up in midseason. That’s not stopping it, however, from stepping on the gas come August.

“We’re obsessed with making the fall better,” says Fox’s scheduling guru, Preston Beckman. “If we can get our act together in the fall, knowing what we have in January, we can have a phenomenal year.”

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