Sunday, September 12, 2010

How to Remake It in America

Tomorrow, I'll launch into my 10:00 hour previews with Monday 10/9c, and in that post I will predict that the remake of Hawaii Five-0 will have the biggest series premiere of any new scripted show this season. I just wanted to expand on my reasoning for that prediction a bit. None of this info is particularly new if you've been keeping up with ratings for the last three years, but here's the deal: when you remake an old TV show/film with a particularly iconic past, it's kinda like signing a deal with the devil. These two things have, time and again, proven true:

1) Your sampling will usually be good. I think you can make a real argument that the four most impressive scripted series premieres of the last three seasons have been remakes.
  • Bionic Woman (NBC, 9/26/07): 5.7 A18-49
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox, 1/13/08): 7.7 A18-49 (although this one had an enormous football lead-in, to be fair)
  • 90210 (The CW, 9/2/08): 2.6 A18-49 (and a 3.1 A18-34, likely higher in "The CW Demo" of W18-34) - This has probably been the only series premiere in the history of the CDub that looked like it had the potential to be a real game-changer for the network. A 2.6 is not typically a good start on a big-4 net, but it's not prohibitive either; that's where second-season renewed The Middle started off.
  • V (ABC, 11/3/09): 5.2 A18-49
  • And that's not even including the Knight Rider made-for-TV movie, which got a 5.0 A18-49 and led NBC to pick it up as a series.

2) But the drop-off is usually considerable. None of these shows even stayed in the same stratosphere as their gigantic premieres, and in fact all of them dropped pretty hard and pretty fast.
  • Bionic Woman: Week 2 dropped 28% to a still solid 4.1 demo in week 2, then appeared to be leveling off with a 3.9, but then it tanked: into the 2's just three weeks later and then as low as a 2.2 three weeks after that. So precipitous was the drop that NBC abandoned its plans to "relaunch" the show after the WGA writer's strike and it was never seen again.
  • Terminator: SCC: Obviously the football lead-in kinda inflates the pure percentage drop numbers, but the show dropped 45% in its episode one night later. But again, a 4.2 demo is still solid. This one dropped a little more but still held up pretty well in season 1, usually posting low-3's demos. But its 2.4 premiere in fall 2008 was practically DOA, and it was into the upper 1's by mid-November. It got moved to Fridays in early 2009, where it started with an ugly 1.4 demo and never got better. It got the axe, running 31 episodes total.
  • 90210: The show dropped 35% in A18-49 in week 2, but once again, that 1.7 demo would still be pretty darn good by CW A18-49 standards. If only it had stayed there. It did for a little while, but by November 2008 it was south of a 1.5, posted low 1's for most of the rest of season 1, and in 2009-10 it averaged only a 0.95 in A18-49. It's back for season 3, but as one of the net's weaker performers.
  • V: The 5.2 premiere for V was the largest scripted series premiere since Terminator nearly two calendar years earlier, but it lost 27% in week 2 and another 18% in week 3. The 3.1 it got for its last two fall eps was still good, but it returned in 2010 with a 2.8 demo and from there mostly posted low 2's, less than half of its premiere total. And that was with the Lost lead-in, which won't be an option in the future. It was one of the better percentage retainers of Lost, and combined with ABC's rather top-heavy situation drama-wise, it barely eked out a midseason renewal for 2010-11.
  • Knight Rider's full series premiered with just a 2.5 demo in fall 2008, only half of what the movie got. It held in the low 2's for much of the fall which got it a full season, but that full season was shortened as the show plummeted into the 1's, and it got canceled after one season.
So the track record isn't great: five remakes had maybe the five strongest premieres of the last three years, but just two of those are still around, and neither is feeling particularly comfortable.

What does this mean for Hawaii Five-0? I'm saying another big premiere... my specific number is a 5.0 demo (which is part actual prediction, part numbers joke). Not only is there the power of nostalgia, but there's the comedy audience funneling in, some potential genre street cred with alums from Lost, Moonlight, and Battlestar Galactica (not to mention it's created by the makers of Fringe), and also the fact that this show would probably be right in the CBS procedural wheelhouse even without all that other stuff.

How will it hold up? I look for another 20%+ drop in week 2, but I think beyond that it can still do pretty darn well. Four of the above five were genre shows, which are pretty tough to pull off to begin with, and I think the nostalgia actually hurts that kind of show post-premiere. Many of the samplers probably expect something very specific that they will almost never get. The one show of the five that is on the fall 2010 schedule is 90210. And like Hawaii Five-0, it's right up its network's alley. I see this one doing right around CSI: Miami 2009-10 numbers, meaning an average in the mid-3's. And considering that it'll probably have a smaller lead-in than Miami did last year, that'll be a pretty nice achievement.

We're only a little over a week from seeing how bad my predictions will be! Exciting!

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