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Jace Lacob, thedailybeast.com / Aug 8, 2011 10:19 PM EDT.
With the announcement that long-running 'Desperate Housewives' is to end, Jace Lacob examines the death of massively popular scripted TV.
The fall of 2004 kicked off a television season that brought us some of the biggest hits of the last decade, launching and. Seven years later, those supernovas are either burning out or dead altogether, victims of audience fatigue or oversight, as their once-huge numbers dwindled year after year. ABC announced on Sunday that will end its run in May—the demise of the once powerful drama signals a death knell for serialized storytelling at the broadcast networks.
The TV graveyard is littered with the remains of ABC’s attempts to find replacements and companions for its surprise hit (which ended in May 2010), none of which clicked with viewers. (Remember ? No? You’re not alone.) With the loss of and the eventual loss of , ABC faces a terrifying challenge of making do without its event series, as its viewership erodes under competition from cable, the Internet, Netflix, and delayed DVR viewing. Can any upcoming serialized show on the broadcast networks even dream of the enormous ratings these shows once pulled in their prime? ( lured 11.4 million last season, compared to a second season high of 19.8 million; has lost nearly half of its audience in the last four seasons, as Season 7 drew 10.3 million versus Season 3’s 19.4 million; ’ 11.9 million last season is way off from the 23.7 million in Season 1; and ’s final season drew its lowest ratings ever.)
Fox believes it has a shot at ratings glory with its prehistoric/time travel drama , or it could have an expensive disaster on its hands. But what it likely won’t have is an opportunity to ensnare nearly as many viewers as or did back in their respective heydays, when both shows commanded more than 18 million viewers. While the seemingly halcyon 2004-2005 season may not seem that far off, it represents an era of veritable possibility compared to the complicated times the networks are facing right now. Whether or not clicks with viewers, for the broadcasters, these are desperate times indeed.
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