Monday, April 03, 2017

TV: The True Deplorables

Hillary Clinton got it wrong when she referred to a group of Americans as deplorables.  But deplorables do exist and, sadly for ABC, they can often be found on TV.

Take the overly praised SPEECHLESS which stars Minnie Driver as an overbearing Brit.

SPEECHLESS is not funny enough to qualify as a sitcom.

It's riddled with "You see, Timmy" moments (see the Michael Keaton - Geena Davis film SPEECHLESS) while missing humorous beats.

Worst of all, it relies far too much on Minnie Driver whose performance is all over the map.


Well, maybe not worst of all.

Worst of all would be the ratings.

The last two new episodes (March 8th and 15th), for example, have pulled in about four million viewers.

Those same nights?  MODERN FAMILY landed over six million for each of their episodes -- episodes that aired after SPEECHLESS.

It gets worse.


Over five million viewers for both new episodes on the same night.


SPEECHLESS can't hold onto the lead in THE GOLDBERGS provides.

For 30 minutes, viewers check out each week, only to return a half hour later for MODERN FAMILY.

SPEECHLESS isn't an enjoyable show.

Nor is Minnie Driver an enjoyable actress.

She apparently uses the time she should spend trying to develop a character instead opining on Twitter.

That's where the Brit weighs in on all things Trump (she hates him) and feels its her task to influence a Congressional election in Georgia.

Again, she's British.

Is she unable to stay out of American politics?

Did no one tell her that, at best, she'd come off like a know-it-all and, at worst, a buttinsky who needs to shut the hell up?

ABC has a problem on Tuesdays as well.


THE MIDDLE is down this season.  But it's still doing better than any thirty minute show on the network other than MODERN FAMILY.  It's two episodes for the same period (March 7th and 14th) averaged six million viewers.  AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE averaged five million for the same period.

That's the good news.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT?  Three million.

And failing to make it across the finish line?  THE REAL O'NEALS less than three million an episode.

This week, ABC inserts IMAGINARY MARY into THE REAL O'NEALS spot and the issue will be ratings.

If the Jenna Elfman show succeeds in the ratings, it will be back.

The show is shaky but its raw appeal is Jenna Elfman.

The DHARMA & GREG star charmed in the otherwise hideous COURTING ALEX and she was winning in two other sitcoms ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE and 1600 PENN -- plus she did a strong dramatic turn on DAMAGES.

What's the problem with THE REAL O'NEALS?

Honestly, we don't know.

The cast is wonderful, not just Martha Plimpton, but, yes, starting with Martha.

The episodes are funny.

ABC's considering dropping the show since viewers have.

Among the things we think ABC should first consider?  Switch the show to a taped before a live audience format.  That might bring an element that's missing to the show and strengthen the comedic beats.

At ABC, the show has a few admirers among the suits and when we toss out the idea of taping before a live audience, they insist that it just needs some stronger scripts.

We disagree.

For two reasons.

First, the scripts are funny already.  (And, again, the cast is great.)

Second, better scripts aren't helping last year's deplorable.

We charted the demise of SCANDAL.

It was an ABC thriller and then Shonda Rhimes felt the way to go was to (a) be bitchy in public about a former actress and (b) be 'political' on the show.

No one watches SCANDAL for 'ripped from the headlines' stories.

All she did was run off the audience.

Thing is, the ratings are at a record low for this season, season six.

But the scripts are better, the writing is sharper and the twists and turns have returned.

They have returned, it's just the audience that hasn't.

Again, THE REAL O'NEALS doesn't need better scripts -- they are strong already.

What they need, for a third season, is something that shakes it up and makes viewers give it another chance.

What ABC needs is some solid shows.

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR is the only new one they can point to so far.  (Though DR. KEN, following LAST MAN STANDING on Fridays, does better in the ratings than every other sitcom introduced this season or last.)

About the only thing ABC really has going for it would be the fact that it's not NBC.  But at some point, law of averages, NBC has got to get its game together.  ABC needs to worry.

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