It’s September again--the beginning of the fall TV season in the United States. This new schedule brings plenty of original and returning network shows, some of which will undoubtedly be nixed from the listings within months, or even weeks. Producers inevitably anticipate tremendous success for their fresh offerings, but more often than not those shows fail to build significant audiences. That’s no more true for mind-numbing comedies and “reality” shows than it is for crime dramas. For every long-running Law & Order there’s a Today’s F.B.I. For every popular Rockford Files there’s a Bronk. Looking back through television history, it is littered with once-promising programs that failed to catch on and have now been forgotten.
As the 2010 TV season flickers into fullness, we’re going to twist the dial backwards to recall some of the American crime dramas that viewers were expected to like, but didn’t. In this series, titled “Killed in the Ratings,” we’ll confine ourselves to prime-time programs that lasted no more than a single year, and that we have not already commented on at length, and don’t expect to write much about in the near future. A few of the shows might be easily recognized, because they have since enjoyed small cult followings. Others will probably leave you scratching your head, wondering how they could have debuted and disappeared without your ever noticing. Our choices were broadcast between the early 1970s and the mid-’90s, but we’re going to list them randomly rather than chronologically. Each of the shows will be illustrated with a page out of the Fall Preview editions of TV Guide, plus a video clip from the series.
You’re encouraged to make comments about the unlucky 13 programs we have in the queue. Let us know if you remember watching them, or you deliberately tried to avoid them. And if we forget to mention your favorite failed crime drama, please bring it to our attention.
The first installment of our “Killed in the Ratings” series is scheduled to roll out later this afternoon. Others will be posted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays throughout September. By month’s end, your memory of TV crime dramas past will have become sharper than you ever imagined. Maybe sharper than you wanted it to be.