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Bad Idea of the Week: Canceling the Canceled Shows

Here's the story of this TV season in a nutshell: Networks put on new shows. Networks cancel new shows. Networks promise to bring back the canceled shows so dedicated fans can get some bit of closure. Well, now we can add a new step to the process: Networks cancel the canceled shows again, further frustrating fans who had waited months for the supposed resolution and now are unlikely to get it at all.

ABC got into the act this week, canceling "The Knights of Prosperity" and "The Nine" for a second time after just two episodes each. They must have taken a lesson from Fox, which moved the date of the final two episodes of "Drive" several times before finally deciding against putting the episodes on TV at all.

In all these cases, the presumed reason behind pulling the show yet again is low ratings. But how could the networks have expected anything else? We viewers take risks when we make time for new shows, and when they get pulled mid-season, that chips away at our trust and makes us less likely to return. With me so far? Then

Only the most dedicated fans of the canceled shows are likely to even know that the remaining episodes have been slipped back on the air, as they arrive with no fanfare and little, if any, promotion. And quite a few fans, having been burned by the network the first time around, are unlikely to make time in their schedules for the burn-off episodes; even I, a big "Knights of Prosperity" fan the first time around, only remembered at the last minute to TiVo one of last week's two new episodes, and I haven't even watched it yet.

That still doesn't justify the networks' yanking of shows a second time around. It's pretty obvious that if the shows had been getting good ratings to start with, they wouldn't have been canceled in the first place. Naturally, episodes of an irrelevant show that air long after the show was last broadcast will do worse. Any network executive who believes otherwise is, frankly, delirious.

But having the shows pulled a second time is just an insult to the dedicated fans who did make an effort to find the show again— and that makes viewers even less likely to commit to new network shows the next time around. I'd like to see shows get to finish their full runs on the air a la "Studio 60." But if the networks aren't fully committed to letting them burn every one of the unaired episodes on TV, I'd rather see the series go online or to a DVD. When they pop back on TV only briefly, we just feel the rug being pulled out from under us again.

Photo copyright 2007 ABC, Inc.

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