Politics, timing and regime changes take their toll
Remember the CW’s “Gossip Girl” spinoff? Or Fox’s great reality hope “Our Little Genius”?
How about the live-action “Star Wars” TV series, NBC’s “The Office” spinoff or HBO’s Lily Tomlin series “12 Miles of Bad Road”?
Countless column inches were devoted to those (and other high-profile) projects in recent years. Yet TV viewers shouldn’t expect to see those shows anytime soon.
Only a tiny fraction of projects in development actually get on the air. But some projects garner enough buzz that a pickup appears inevitable — until it’s not.
And then there are the shows that earn a pickup or even land a timeslot — only to lose that spot due to extenuating circumstances.
A promising project can go from hot to not for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes a network regime-change strips projects of their momentum. Other times, a pitch yields a lousy script or a decent script turns into a disappointing final cut.
These days, with so much more competition out there, the networks are looking to make some noise by going big and producing more event-style TV. That means more high-concept ideas, major remakes and franchise extensions. But these megaprojects come with mega-risk: High-concept scripted and reality shows have an even tougher time living up to the hype. An idea that sounds compelling on paper can be difficult to execute.
Examples include ABC’s mid-2000s reality show “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” which never saw the light of day after critics questioned whether the show ran afoul of fair-housing laws. Around the same time, CBS gave up hope of ever producing “The Real Beverly Hillbillies” after an outcry from critics raised concern over the depiction of rural Americans.
The fates of more recent busted projects has been well-documented: The CW, for example, came very close to ordering a “Gossip Girl” spinoff, a 1980s-set show focusing on the younger exploits of Lily van der Woodsen. The show’s pilot doubled as an episode of “Gossip Girl,” but the CW ultimately passed. No other “Gossip Girl” spinoffs are planned for now.
“The Office” spinoff, meanwhile, was put on ice when exec producers Greg Daniels and Mike Schur instead created “Parks and Recreation” as a vehicle for Amy Poehler. At first, NBC said an “Office” spinoff would still happen — but now, with Steve Carell set to depart the show at the end of the year, all hands (led by showrunner Paul Lieberstein) are on deck to make sure the transition to a slightly reworked “Office” goes smoothly.
George Lucas himself has told reporters that the live-action “Star Wars” — which should have been on the air by now, per original reports — is now on hold. The current TV focus for Lucasfilm is on Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
And “Our Little Genius”?
Once allegations emerged that the show’s young contestants may have been coached, exec producer Mark Burnett and Fox decided to put a stop to the show. At that point, the concept was too damaged to continue. But Fox found a new home for “Our Little Genius” host Kevin Pollack, who will now emcee the channel’s upcoming gamer “Million Dollar Money Drop.”