News Column

St. Joseph News-Press, Mo., Shea Conner column

May 17, 2013


May 17--America said goodbye to "The Office" last night. But we'll get more into that next week, after I've had some time to let the finale and the retrospective marinate. This week's column is all about the shows that were forced to end.

In case you hadn't heard, tons of network TV shows got the axe this week. And it was a lot more than usual. Discounting "The Office" and "30 Rock," which came to ends on their own, 35 shows were canceled by Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW.

You could see some of the cancellations coming from a mile away. NBC's "Animal Practice" had no chance for survival. Neither did CBS's "Made in Jersey" or ABC's "How to Live With Your Parents" (sorry, Sarah Chalke). Of course, "Don't Trust the B-- in Apt. 23" also got the ol' hook. Who didn't see that coming? I mean, did anyone expect a show that swapped out the actual five-letter B-word for a "B" with an em-dash to actually survive?

Other cancellations, however, are going to sting some very loyal fanbases. Sci-fi lovers already are up in arms over the cancellation of "Fringe," which was quite possibly the genre's most well-written show. Those who tune in to CBS's Thursday night lineup will need to get used to life without the Patrick Warburton/David Spade sitcom "Rules of Engagement." And the list goes on: "Happy Endings" (ABC), "CSI: NY" (CBS), "Smash" (NBC), "Private Practice" (ABC) and "90210" (The CW) all had good runs and loyal viewership on their respective networks, but their ratings weren't quite good enough for renewal. All of them were canceled.

NBC axed a staggering 10 shows, and most of them were the sitcoms that The Peacock hoped to develop as replacements for "The Office," "30 Rock" and regular chopping block dweller "Community." The failures of "Animal Practice" have been well-documented, but the presidential comedy "1600 Penn" and the "Modern Family" knock-off "The New Normal" boasted similarly terrible ratings. Honestly, I don't know how "Whitney" got a second season, but thankfully NBC put that show out of its misery, too. "Go On" got off to a hot start but fizzled as it approached the season finale.

The cancellation of "Up All Night" was the only one that felt bittersweet. It should have been a hit. The show came with a strong comedy pedigree, starring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph with "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels as the producer. At the center was a solid premise for the young adults watching the network's other upscale comedies: a hip couple in their 30s adjusts to life with a baby.

But two years after creator Emily Spivey shot the pilot, "Up All Night" was killed by blunt force trauma from outlandish ideas and a thousand tinkers.

When NBC announced the show in May 2011, Applegate was going to be playing Reagan, a successful public relations exec and new mom, Arnett was her stay-at-home husband, Chris, and Rudolph was her boss and best friend, Ava. James Pumphrey was set to play Brian, Reagan's socially awkward hipster assistant.

Then came "Bridesmaids." The feature surprised Hollywood by becoming a mega-hit and raised Rudolph's profile, something both NBC and Michaels wanted to exploit. The PR firm angle was soon thrown out, and the pilot was re-shot with Ava as a daytime talk show host. Reagan became Ava's producer, and Pumphrey was replaced by Jennifer Hall as Reagan's ditzy assistant, Missy. The show's focus began to center more and more on the talk show workplace and the relationship between Reagan and Ava.

But the changes were just beginning. Nick Cannon was brought in to play Ava's sidekick, and Steven Pasquale later came in as a foil to Reagan and Ava's exploits on "The Ava Show."

By the time it moved from Wednesday to Thursday, the struggling show had lost more than half the audience from its premiere. "Up All Night" then underwent another overhaul in the second season. "The Ava Show" was canceled, bringing Reagan back home. Arnett's character, a former lawyer, became a contractor, and Hall was written out of the show completely.

"Up All Night" opened its second season with a pitiful 1.3 rating. By October of 2012, Michaels said he wanted to change the show from a single-camera comedy into a multi-camera one, shot in front of a studio audience. NBC agreed and put the show on hiatus.

With all of these changes being forced upon her show, it wasn't long before Spivey left NBC to work on the Fox animated comedy "Murder Police." Applegate followed Spivey out the door in February.

Those were the straws that broke the camel's back. Its cancellation was inevitable. "Up All Night" became yet another victim of network toying and NBC's incompetence.

So, my fellow readers, here's a toast to "Up All Night" and the rest of the canceled shows of 2013. Some were awesome. Some were awful. But we won't be seeing them on our television sets anytime soon.

Shea Conner can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.


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