The Journal-Gazette of Fort Wayne has a good write-up on The Cancellation Bear.
The website TV By the Numbers is making sport out of predicting which television series will survive or disappear, and the first weeks of a new TV season are particularly busy. The Renew/Cancel Index is a popular feature, where all the broadcast networks’ shows are given ratings from one (certain to be cancelled) to five (certain to be renewed).
Less than four weeks into the new season, two shows – CBS’ “Made in Jersey” and NBC’s “Animal Practice” – are already swimming with the fishes. The site gives six other shows the dreaded single frowning face. Site co-founder Bill Gorman, asked to go out on a limb, predicted “The Mob Doctor” on Fox will be next to disappear.
Gorman and partner Robert Seidman regularly tweet about their predictions as “The Cancellation Bear.” The name refers to the old joke about two men being chased by a bear; you don’t have to be faster than the bear, just outrun the other guy. Most TV shows just need better ratings than other programs on their network to survive.
(Before I get to the content of the post, I’d never heard that joke about the bear. I’d heard it about gators. Maybe because Gulf Coast?)
I consider the Bear to be an invaluable source. It’s more than entertainment, it’s a guide to entertainment. If a TV show isn’t going to last, then it’s not worth my time to invest in it. This is less true of comedies than dramas and science fiction. In the case of the latter, it most likely means that storylines will go very unresolved. Of course, some shows have demonstrated that you can have seasons and seasons to tell a story and the end result is the introduction of storylines that go unresolved, but it’s still a better arrangement. In the case of comedies, it’s less a matter of unresolved storylines and more a matter of getting excited about shows right when they go away. That’s precisely what happened last year with Man Up and, believe it or not, several years ago Cavemen (though in the latter case, I was at least very prepared for it). This year, I managed to avoid getting invested in Red Widow and Deception.
While I’m on the subject, I want to congratulate ABC for something. Two of their shows quickly turned out to be duds, Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue. Instead of just pulling them off, as usually happens, they’re giving them an opportunity to wrap up storylines. In addition to being good for the fans, I think this is good for the network (or at least, I hope it proves to be). If networks want us to invest in a series that may or may not be around, they need to give us a consolation prize if it doesn’t make it. If not a full half-season, then a movie. If not a movie, then a comic book or traditional book. Something. I am not more likely to invest in ABC shows than ones from other networks.
Honestly, it’s reaching the point where I almost don’t want to invest in any new programs until I know they’re going to stick around. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if people who are being gauged by Nielsen take this attitude en masse. I’ve been chosen for Nielsen twice now in the past three years! So at least one Nielsen pick is influenced by such things.