Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Two Weeks: How'd it go?


A little over seven months ago, I embarked on a quest to see if the ultimate fate of a first-season TV show could be determined by just its first two ratings results. Using that hypothesis, plus the tried and true wisdom that two-thirds of new shows don't make it to season 2, I divided the premiere results and the week 2 retention results into equal thirds and introduced this elegant graphic which illustrated the points system:

Thirty shows later, we're done with regular season shows for 2009-10, and we've got everything in place. This is what the final lists look like:

SAMPLING

The Vampire Diaries 6.3*
V 5.2
The Cleveland Show 4.9
NCIS: LA 4.4
Cougar Town 4.4
Modern Family 4.2
Flashforward 4.0
Melrose Place 3.9*
Community 3.8
Life Unexpected 3.6*

Glee 3.5
Accidentally on Purpose 3.3
The Good Wife 3.1
Parenthood 3.1
Eastwick 3.0
Human Target 2.9
Romantically Challenged 2.9
Past Life 2.8
The Middle 2.6
The Forgotten 2.6

Mercy 2.3
Trauma 2.2
Hank 2.1
Sons of Tucson 2.1
Three Rivers 1.9
The Deep End 1.8
The Beautiful Life: TBL 1.8*
Happy Town 1.7
Miami Medical 1.6
Brothers 1.0

*-Although A18-49 isn't necessarily the "CW demo," in an attempt to put them on a level playing field with the big 4, I've taken the A18-49 premiere number for the CW shows and multiplied it by 3.

RETENTION
The Good Wife +3%
The Deep End even
Accidentally on Purpose -6%
NCIS:LA -7%
Flashforward -8%
Glee -9%
Mercy -9%
Modern Family -10%*
Sons of Tucson -10%*
The Cleveland Show -10%*

Romantically Challenged -10%*
Three Rivers -11%
Miami Medical -13%
Cougar Town -14%
The Vampire Diaries -16%
Parenthood -16%
Human Target -17%
The Beautiful Life: TBL -18%
The Middle -19%
Brothers - 20%

Trauma -23%
Eastwick -23%
The Forgotten -23%
Life Unexpected -24%
Hank -24%
V -27%
Community -29%
Happy Town -29%
Melrose Place -31%
Past Life -50%

*- I finally did the rounding work, so the show with the actual worst retention is now the one that's bumped to tier 2. Modern Family and Sons of Tucson dropped 9.53%, The Cleveland Show dropped 10.20%, and Romantically Challenged dropped 10.34%, in case you were wondering.

EXCELLENT (6 points) - NCIS: Los Angeles, Flashforward, Modern Family, The Cleveland Show
GOOD ENOUGH (5 points) - The Vampire Diaries, Cougar Town, Accidentally on Purpose, Glee, The Good Wife
BORDERLINE (4 points) - V, Mercy, The Deep End, Melrose Place, Human Target, Parenthood, Community, The Middle, Romantically Challenged, Life Unexpected, Sons of Tucson
IN TROUBLE (2-3 points) - TBL:TBL, Eastwick, Three Rivers, Past Life, Miami Medical, The Forgotten, Brothers (3 points), Trauma, Hank, Happy Town (2 points)

How'd it go?

So now, with all the results in, how'd we do? We're not at the upfronts yet, so maybe it'd be better to wait on this post till then, but I can still say a few things at this point and will have more to say then. For now I'll go by category.

EXCELLENT: The biggest failing of this entire system was on Flashforward, which started pretty well and retained pretty well in week 2, but then just continued to slowly trickle downward until it became the mid-1's show it is today with almost no chance of renewal. I don't think there was really any way of doing this system that could've prognosticated a Flashforward failure. You just had to look at the other data points. The other three shows in this category were slam-dunk renewals.

GOOD ENOUGH: Perhaps the early renewal phenomenon bailed us out a bit here. Glee and The Vampire Diaries were both very obvious renewals, but The Good Wife and Cougar Town have struggled mightily down the stretch. Still, they're in based on earlier performance, just I said they would be in based on earlier performance. ;-) Accidentally on Purpose is the only question mark, and even it probably has a small chance of coming back, but I'm leaning no. So we probably go 4/5 here.

BORDERLINE: All season I've lamented about how a lot of true bombs have ended up in this category due to good retention out of a DOA start, but I think in saying that I may have lost sight of the basic principle of this exercise, which was "One third of new shows make it. Determine what the best third of shows is." And the shows in the borderline column are not in the best third. They're outside it, so officially the prognosis is cancellation. So a DOA show can't possibly get up into the 5 or 6 point land. In other words, maybe I shouldn't get too upset about the system saying a show is "barely dead" as opposed to "very dead."

That said, BORDERLINE really has been a borderline kind of category. Three shows here are already renewed, and perhaps the four shows with the biggest question marks at this late juncture (V, Human Target, Romantically Challenged, Life Unexpected) all reside here, too. So is there a way to separate the "DOA but good retention" bombs from the legitimately borderline shows? More on that in the post-upfronts post...

IN TROUBLE: To my credit, everything that scored 2 or 3 points is going to be canceled. Six of those ten shows are already axed, and the other four almost certainly will be.

So in the "safe" categories, I'm probably going to go 7/9, an unimpressive 78%. And in the "in trouble" category I'll go 100%. Borderline is going to be legitimately borderline, with currently 3 renewed, 4 axed or certain to be axed, and 4 borderline, of which I'd guess 2 or 3 will come back. Not half bad. But a few things need to be hammered out, namely the above issue about separating the two types of borderline shows, as well as trying to figure out if this is a useful tool early in the season... because you don't really need it that much right now, when it's easier to just look at the other data. I'll have more on all that after the upfronts.

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