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NBC programming keeps going down South

So, I woke up this morning with another news that symbolized the continued downfall of the Peacock network.

“Southland” has been cancelled after a quick run in the spring, and while it was scheduled to return in the Friday slot of death in just 2 weeks.

Today, TV commenters are dumbfounded by the decision, which was prompted, according to sources, by a content deemed “too gritty” for 9 p.m. viewers. Some people call it “the first casualty of Jay Leno”; others “the end of NBC’s commitment to excellence in drama”. They’re absolutely right. But I also think it shows tragic misdirection in NBC’s management of their development slate.

“Southland” premiered in the Thursday slot left vacant by “ER”, which was run by John Wells, who also produces this show. The ratings were surprisingly solid, which was seen as a “tour de force” in an otherwise bleak season. But, as we all know, Jay Leno would take all the 10 p.m. slots in the fall. NBC sure wanted to stay in business with Wells, so they decided to renew the show, but put it on Fridays at 9.

Usually, if a show had a gritty content, execs would ask to lighten up the tone of the stories somewhat. Not the case here: they waited until six episodes were completed, and decided it was inappropriate to show on Fridays. This comes after news that Amaury Nolasco was leaving the show, the premiere was pushed back a month…

And there was still a slot on Sundays at 10 pm on midseason.

Oh, wait. That’s “The Apprentice” time.

As we all know, apart from “Law and Order SVU” and its comedy block (with modest ratings compared to the Must-See TV days), nobody even bothers watching the fiction programming anymore. “The Biggest Loser” apparently does fine, and, coming October, “Dateline NBC” will do fine….especially for NBC, who produces the program in-house rather than buying an expensive and “dark” John Wells production for a hefty price tag.

Nikki Finke also reported that “Trauma” could be next to face the axe, with less than 6 million viewers. Barely surprising. And I also bet that the new JJ Abrams project, as well as a few other shows, will be fast-tracked for midseason, once all the drama slates are left vacant.

In conclusion, an interesting analysis from a NPR specialist.

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