In the fall TV battle that’s shaping up to be bloodier than anyone expected, “Lone Star” now ranks as the first casualty.
Fox yanked the critically acclaimed drama Tuesday after two airings that delivered ratings so low that even the network’s spinmeisters couldn’t find the silver lining.
“The viewers have spoken,” said one network insider.
That’s not likely to be the last primetime shuffle this week, as the networks act fast to fix some lackluster performers.
This was supposed to be the fall that everyone practiced patience. But that was before the premiere week onslaught began and tossed a cold dose of reality on the network skeds.
Execs expecting to get at least a few weeks of sampling for their fall fare were instead caught unaware when viewers didn’t even bother to show up. The broadcast body bags could continue to pile up in the coming weeks as several other newbies get off to shaky starts. Shows that didn’t impress in week one included ABC’s “The Whole Truth” and “My Generation,” NBC’s “Outlaw” and Fox’s “The Good Guys” (which actually launched in the summer, but is still a fairly new fall entry). None of that freshman squad could muster even close to a 2.0 rating in the demo.
Some returnees aren’t faring much better. NBC is expected to shift “The Apprentice” out of its key Thursday 10 p.m. slot after this week — likely to a new Friday home.
Few expected Fox to hold on to “Lone Star” beyond this week, even if the show exhibited an uptick from its dismal launch. Fox execs were even worried that they might be faced with a scheduling dilemma, had “Lone Star” shown any improvement over its 1.3 premiere rating among adults 18-49.
Turns out there was no need to worry — according to final national ratings, “Lone Star’s” second episode averaged just a 1.0 rating/3 share in its Monday 9 p.m. timeslot.
“Lone Star” also appeared to be dragging down its lead-in, “House” (3.8/10). And even as “House” declines, “Lone Star” still held a stunningly low 25% of the medical drama’s lead-in audience.
Fox had to act fast: Net wound up in fourth place this premiere week, narrowly behind ABC and NBC. In a world where a tenth of a rating’s point can make a huge difference in primetime standings, Fox — which programs just 15 hours a week — couldn’t afford to keep “Lone Star” around any longer.
Fox will now air “Lie to Me” in the Monday 9 p.m. slot starting next week. “Lie to Me” wasn’t originally scheduled to return to the air until November, when it was set to kick off Wednesday night; the net is now mulling how to fill that Wednesday hole.
Quick TV cancellations are a normal course of fall: In 2008, Fox axed the comedy “Do Not Disturb” after three segs. And last year, CW’s “The Beautiful Life: TBL” won the first-to-be-axed derby after just two airings.
But it’s rare for a show with such positive reviews or the amount of marketing efforts that “Lone Star” received to be pulled so quickly. (“Do Not Disturb” was so poorly received, for example, that the show’s producers actually made a public apology before getting the boot.)
It won’t be for lack of trying on the part of critics (who gave “Lone Star” some of the best reviews of any new show this fall) or creator Kyle Killen, who took to the Internet last week in a last-ditch effort to stir up support for the show.
“For us to survive we’re going to have to pull off a minor miracle,” Killen wrote on his blog. “Statistically, new shows tend to lose viewers in their second week. We’re aiming to gain them. In fact, screw it, let’s just double our audience. The good news is, our audience was so small that if my Mom and my Dad watch it, we’ll pretty much be there.”
Unfortunately for Killen and fans of the show, it didn’t get there.
Five episodes of “Lone Star” have already been produced; a sixth was in mid-production when 20th Century Fox TV halted filming Tuesday.
Fox is still determining whether the three remaining segs will be screened elsewhere (perhaps on Hulu).
The show centered on con man Bob Allen (James Wolk), who manages to infiltrate a Houston oil company, get in good with the boss (Jon Voight) and marry his daughter (Adrianne Palicki). While playing that ruse, dreamed up by his dad (David Keith), Bob is also living a double life in small town Midland, Texas, where he’s got a girlfriend and more marks.
“Lone Star” came from exec producers Killen, Chris Keyser, Amy Lippman, Kerry Kohansky, Paul Weitz and Peter Horton. Marc Webb directed the pilot.