In Defense of FOX

Last week, Topless Robot published their take on the 20 greatest shows canceled by FOX before their time. Hundreds of comments later — followed by the obligatory internet uproar that just happened to echo the author’s thesis that “the FOX Network is the f*cking devil” — this TV Addict thought it might be fun to see how it feels to, just this once, defend the network that cancelled some of our favorite shows (including FIREFLY, THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, BRISCO COUNTY JR, DRIVE) and ask: Are FOX execs in league with Satan… or paying the perhaps-inevitable price for thinking outside the box?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that anyone should thank FOX for cancelling [insert your own missed, mourned and lamented series here], but rather that they should be applauding for taking some incredible risks (such as putting SEINFELD alum Patrick Warburton into a giant blue bug suit and giving us the quirktastic comedy THE TICK).

Unlike other networks who shall not be named (CBS, ABC, NBC) who pat themselves on the back for having the “cajones” to launch such creative endeavors as CSI: NY, NCIS: LOS ANGELES or yet another medical drama (Quick… which’ll be cancelled first: TRAUMA or MERCY?), FOX has taken risks, for better (ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE) or worse (OSBOURNES: RELOADED).

In other words, FOX’s gambles may not always pay off, but at least they’re willing to take the chance on shows that occasionally change the way we look at television, such as 24 or even AMERICAN IDOL. And while folks love to take FOX to task for the cancellation of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, it’s worth noting that the network gave the show three season in which to try and find an audience. Think NBC would have been so patient?

As anyone who isn’t blind, deaf or dumb (in either sense of the word) no doubt knows, this fall FOX will be rolling out another high-risk show with the launch of GLEE, a genre-bending series with something for everyone… that could, in fact, prove to be not enough of anything for a mass audience. That seems unlikely given the initial response to the pilot, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a critical darling found a cult following but didn’t catch on with the formula-loving, originality-fearing, mind-numbed masses.

After all, those folks are gonna have a pretty full schedule, what with three CSI’s and two NCIS’ to keep up with.

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  • John

    It’s a fair defense, which I actually agree with. Truth to tell I think ABC is more scummy for NOT giving out those second chances. Look at Kevin Reilly’s decisions at FOX so far: giving Sarah Connor a back-nine order against all odds, renewing Dollhouse for a second season, even GREENLIGHTING Glee, allowing King of the Hill to at least air a finale this fall. These are considerate decisions from the man who took a huge risk renewing The Office for NBC, which then became one of their biggest hits. I’m a Reilly fan.

  • blueberry

    I wouldn’t call it three seasons. I agree that any other network might not have been so kind, but Arrested Development did win an Emmy its first season. That itself deserved at least one/two more full seasons.

  • Ace

    Ok, I’m forewarning that this might get long, but I’ve had a lot of beloved shows cancelled on me in the last year so I get defensive ;-).

    At this point, I know I am guilty of this too, it is easy to blame the evil network for cancelling your favorite show. But really what is at fault is the way ratings are done and the audience. You can have a brilliant and different show like Pushing Daisies that the critics love and the network really wants to stand behind, but what are they supposed to do when it gets less than 4 million viewers a week and a tiny share of the people who “really matter” (i.e., 18-49)? And if a show like the Bachelorette is super cheap to make and gets three times the vieweres? Well, then I think they have their answer. I wish they would figure out a way to count DVR watchers, but you also can’t blame the ad buyers for not wanting that to happen (although, I now actually watch the commercials…just really, really fast).

    Obviously, shows got cancelled before the writer’s strike, but the way they handled everything really hurt them. Not only did a lot of people realize that there was tons of quality programing on the cable network, but DVRs also started to really catch on during the strike. The best thing they could have done was settle with the writers before the strike even started so that people didn’t go in search for other networks to watch. And then when the strike ended, what did they do? Waiting MONTHS to bring back shows that had a huge buzz so that when they came back people forgot they existed. I can probably count on one hand the number of new shows that survived the strike. Just thankful that Chuck is one of them (for now).

    The worst part to me is that as a viewer, it is really hard to get yourself invested in shows now that seems unique/quirkly b/c chances are you are one of the few people actually watching it and it willl be gone in a few weeks (think Kings).

    Ok, rant over. Go about your business…nothing to see here…

  • Would NBC have been patient with Arrested Development? Well, they were patient with The Office, which didn’t deserve to last past its short season 1 ratings-wise. They were patient with the practically DOA 30 Rock. Just because those paid off and AD didn’t in the Nielsens doesn’t mean Fox’s patience was any more noble.

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  • fred

    It is true that they do take chances and try new/different things, but how the Hell can we not hate them, when they pretend to dare take chances and for example allow Joss Whedon to create the best show ever, only to mess with it, ask for a new pilot, not air episodes in order, and cancel the whole thing before it even aired (or close enough).

    It would be true if they really believed and supported shows such as Firefly, Wonderfalls, and all such amazing series they instead decided to trash away. Which, in the end, only trims down chances that in the future such shows could find an audience…

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  • You make good points, as does Ace. (I figure people watching live leave the room when the commercials come on–bathroom, kitchen, etc.–but DVR watchers actually see them. And I always stop and go back for a Macs and PCs commercial or something that catches my eye. But that’s another topic. 🙂 )

    Here’s what I would like to see (barring the broken ratings system scrapped or fixed) is Fox (or any other network) loading the schedule with a very broad variety of these out-of-the-box shows, committing to them for a full season, and collecting multiple niche audiences. Sure, CSI might beat them on any given night, but collectively, they’ll pull in tons of eyeballs over the course of the week.

    Or does that only make sense to me because it’s past 11:00 p.m.? 😉

  • B

    I work for one of the networks and have to jump in and clarify…

    Nielsen DOES report DVR viewing… In fact, the main ratings the networks currently sell advertising based on look strictly at commercial viewing for each show both Live and those that are played back via DVR within 3 days. (Also, the networks track and get credit for viewing of shows through legit websites–i.e. Hulu,,, etc.)

  • Ace

    Thanks, B. That is encouraging to hear. I did a Neilsen diary last year and it had you write down if you “time shifted” a show, but I wasn’t sure if that was just for research purposes. Glad they take it into account.

    Natalie — For your idea of them committing to a full season, I wouldn’t even mind if they went to cable length seasons (12-15 episodes). I’ll take quality over quantity any day of the week.

  • Two words: Herman’s Head.

    Two more words: The Winner

    Five More Words: Andy Richter Controls the Universe

    And finally: The War at Home

    All perfectly great comedies that Fox pulled prematurely.

    Though I have to say I was impressed with the Dollhouse renewal. That took balls. Good for Kevin Reilly.

    Now if he would only realize that ‘Til Death is just the worst kind of crap we’d be set.

  • Mike

    I just want to say that i believe in all of Fox’s decisions regarding thier scheudle except one, the cancellation of the War at Home after just only two seasons. i just want to say fox you made a huge mistake when you did not renew the war at home, you insured that i will never watch your network unless you bring this great series back. i hope you soon relaize the error of your ways, or else you have lost several once faithful viewers.