The untimely demise of NBC's "The Playboy Club" offers some intriguing insights into the disposable nature of modern television, both in terms of show longevity and actor turnover.
Thirteen weeks has been reduced two episodes
In the 1970s, it was common for a freshman television series to get at least 13 weeks to make a good impression on viewers. A series with low Nielsen ratings after that period typically landed on the TV scrapheap, however.
There were, however, notable exceptions, especially when talking about "Cheers." Now a permanent part of the pop culture, the place where "Everyone knows your name" was nearly canceled during its freshman 1982-83 season.
Suffering from a lack of blockbuster programming, NBC's advertising at the time focused on creating quality blocks of programming anchored by such shows as the critically-acclaimed "Hill Street Blues."
"Cheers" became a ratings favorite and, when "The Cosby Show" came along in 1984, NBC had a powerhouse Thursday night line-up which they called "Must See TV." David Letterman reportedly rechristened the night as "Must Pee TV" thanks to viewers parking themselves in front of their TV sets for three hours.
Though lambasted by the critics, "The Playboy Club" deserved more than just two or three outings to find its audience.
Sitcoms as television cannon fodder
Previews of fall TV shows are a high point on the television calendar. Historically, TV Guide would pack an over-sized issue with glossy photos of new stars, summaries of new shows and the editor's picks for the most promising newcomer. This year, "The Big Bang Theory" cast even hosted a 30-minute preview of CBS's new fall shows.
While watching the CBS preview, it became apparent at how so many shows are treated as ratings cannon fodder. Each fall, dozens of new shows appear but are quickly forgotten by the time the Thanksgiving turkey is on the table.
What happened to that commitment that NBC showed to "Cheers" and other shows back in the 1980s? Granted, "The Playboy Club" appeared targeted for a male audience, but characters and storylines can, if given enough time, evolve into something with a cross-demographic appeal.
Actors and actresses as disposable commodities
2011 turned out to be the "Year of the Warlock" as Charlie Sheen made an inglorious exit from his long-running sitcom "Two and a Half Men." Sheen's public rants became tabloid gold, especially his remarks about show creator Chuck Lorre.
Sheen's departure reminds us that there are few real television icons left. "Two and a Half Men" is back for another run with Ashton Kutcher coming in as a new character to fill the void. By episode three, the references to Charlie Harper, Sheen's character, have all but disappeared.
Shows really aren't built around one character anymore, making it easy for producers to remove or replace a member of a ensemble cast. ABC's "Pan Am" features a bevy of beautiful actresses, but it's a safe bet that if any of them start acting like a diva, their uniforms will be filled with new actresses.
Ultimately, television producers and networks need to invest in their shows and stars, nurturing the talent so we can enjoy something like "Cheers" in the near future.
Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Join the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own articles.