ABC's "Once Upon a Time" premiered on Sunday to great viewing numbers, a 3.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic. The show has done a great job of publicity, but was the delayed start also to its advantage? The new fall television season is now over a month old, with shows airing at least four or five episodes by mid-October. In that time there have already been quite a few shows canceled as low performers.
Maybe "Once Upon a Time" timed its debut exactly right, waiting for the axe to drop on the first wave of premieres. By coming to the party a bit later, it doesn't have to compete with the glut of new content, which can seem overwhelming in September. In other words, viewers have already seen all that's on offer, and were ready for something new.
Would a late start have helped any of the already-canceled shows? Should their studios possibly attempt a do-over, or is it too late for a fresh start? All of the publicity surrounding the great amount of new shows does tend to make one lump them into categories. There were two new retro shows, obviously cribbing from the successful "Mad Men" - "The Playboy Club," which has already been canceled, and "Pan Am," which is reportedly in trouble. These sorts of shows take a while to build an audience. They should have definitely been staggered, not only later in the season, but not to have gone head-to-head with each other.
Another show that may still benefit from some creative scheduling is "Prime Suspect," a remake of the classic series featuring Helen Mirren, now set in New York City and featuring Maria Bello as female detective fighting crime and sexism in the police force. Comparisons to the acclaimed British series have both helped and hurt the new show. Maybe NBC should try to capture some of that audience rather than push it as just another cop show in the 10 p.m. time slot. The network has been trying to help the show survive, rebroadcasting episodes until hopefully, the show finds its audience.
These techniques probably couldn't have saved shows like the already canceled "How to Be a Gentleman," "H8R," and "Charlie's Angels," none of which seemed like very good ideas to begin with. But maybe a comedy like "Free Agents" could have worked better if it had been publicized as an American version of a British comedy. Most people know that some of our most popular shows have been borrowed from the Brits ("Three's Company," "American Idol," "The Office," "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son," etc.), and this one even featured Anthony Head, reprising his role from the British original. But most viewers didn't get a chance to even realize the "Buffy" alum was in a comedy before "Free Agents" was yanked, just after airing two episodes. It's interesting that the same network that is going all out to try and save "Prime Suspect didn't even blink at canceling this comedy.