May 29--The 2012-13 broadcast television season that ended last week was pretty much one long, drawn out American horror story.
Overall ratings plunged to terrifying levels. New shows debuted with plenty of promise, only to be bludgeoned. Viewers fled in droves.
And almost everyone fell victim, in some way, to the brutality -- unless you worked for CBS, the only network to experience a gain in viewership. And even that was just a measly 1 percent gain.
Amid all the carnage, there were lessons to be learned -- mainly that there are very few sure bets remaining in broadcast TV. Here are six other things the season taught us:
1 "American Idol" is no longer bulletproof: The show that put
Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood on the pop-music map used to be a ratings monster that clobbered anything in its path. So it was shocking to see it get roughed up by the likes of "Duck Dynasty" as its audience shrank faster than Mariah Carey's critiquing credibility.
Key factors? A lack of chemistry on the judges' panel, the absence of a young male heartthrob, too many boring ballads and stupid theme nights. These flaws will be addressed by producers -- reports have it that there will be a clean sweep of the judges' panel.
But even if major repairs are made, it appears that the "Idol" glory days are long gone.
2 Use good judgment when it comes to star power: Speaking of reality
competitions, it should be clear by now that breaking the bank to sign big-name celebrities can be a huge waste of money.
To wit: Britney Spears ("The X Factor") and the aforementioned Carey were both brought in to boost the buzz. Not only did the divas fail to pay ratings dividends, they were bland and wishy-washy arbiters who rarely offered any sort of useful critiques.
The lesson here is that it's better to hire people who make good TV than gold records.
3 Comedy is really, really hard: When "Modern Family" burst upon the scene three seasons ago, it inspired networks to eagerly embrace the sitcom once again. But there's nothing funny about this season's comedy bloodbath, in which even buzzy shows such as ABC's "Happy Landings" suffered a very unhappy fate.
How difficult is it to make a sitcom that sticks? Just ask Matthew Perry. He watched his NBC show, "Go On," start off well only to sputter. He's now 0-for-2 on the comedy front, post- "Friends."
4 Cable is even more of a threat to broadcasters: One only has to scan the Emmy nominations in recent years to know that cable fare has long pummeled network offerings in terms
of quality and prestige. But now it's making impressive gains in overall popularity as well.
AMC's "The Walking Dead," for example, attracted more 18-to-49 viewers to its weekly splat-fest than any other entertainment show, becoming the first cable series to rule TV's most coveted demographic.
Moreover, cable shows such as "Sons of Anarchy" (FX), "Duck Dynasty" (A&E), "Homeland" (Showtime), "Dexter" (Showtime) and "Game of Thrones" (HBO) saw their audiences grow. In addition, more than 95 million viewers watched all or part of "The Bible," Mark Burnett's miniseries on the History Channel.
5 Crime still pays: No one saturates the airwaves with killers and felons like CBS. You would think the formula would wear thin, but apparently, you would be wrong.
In a remarkable show of dominance, CBS had the season's seven most popular shows and five were crime procedurals: "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "Person of Interest," "Blue Bloods" and "Elementary." (The other two were comedies: "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men.") And other crime shows like "The Mentalist," "CSI" and "Criminal Minds" provided reliable backup.
Clearly, if there's any future talk of gun control, you won't hear it coming from CBS.
6 Friday isn't a complete wasteland: Used to be that, if a show was scheduled on Friday, it was pretty much like being stranded on a deserted island with no cellphone reception. It was that brutal.
But there are signs of hope: ABC's "Shark Tank" experienced a 17 percent increase in its 18-49 ratings. Meanwhile, "Blue Bloods" became Friday's most-watched scripted series in a decade, averaging nearly 14 million viewers.
That might be encouraging news for "Hawaii Five-0" (CBS) and "The Neighbors" (ABC), which both get shipped to Fridays next season.
Contact Chuck Barney at email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/bayareanewsgroup.chuckbarney.
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