Why did “FlashForward” fail?

The world blacks out and sees a glimpse of its near future. It was a good premise, yet here we are a few months later and “FlashForward” has been canceled. What happened?

Ratings were strong in the beginning and kept falling throughout the series run. ABC shelved the show for a while during the Olympics, but ratings continued to plummet when it returned.

Generally, I enjoyed the show, but grew a bit weary at times, largely because I really didn’t feel that there were any characters worth rooting for. Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) was supposed to be the hero, but he was always so angry and serious all the time that it was hard to like the guy. Everyone was so weighted down by the emotions surrounding their flashforwards that no one was happy. Moreover, no one was funny.

“FlashForward” made me realize just how important it is for any show, even a drama, to have a good sense of humor. Think about the last few great dramas — “Lost,” “The Shield,” “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Sopranos,” hell, even “The Wire” — they all had moments of hilarity. Can we say the same about “FlashForward”? I can list several funny moments for each of those aforementioned shows, but I can’t think of a single funny moment in “FlashForward.”

That said, I gave up on “V” but stood by “FlashForward,” yet the former has been renewed while the latter has been canceled. I thought the storytelling in “FlashForward” was far superior to “V,” but that’s not saying a whole lot. “V” doesn’t have a sense of humor, either, which is why I deleted my season pass.

With the departure of “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” and the failure of “FlashForward,” sci-fi television is struggling.

  

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Season Pass Deleted: “V”

Truthfully, I stuck with this series longer than I should have, probably due to the presence of Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost”) and Morena Baccarin (“Firefly”). But I just can’t sit through another episode. The overacting, the plot holes, the general lack of excitement — three strikes and you’re out.

This week’s episode — “Hearts and Minds” — was confounding. First of all, is it just me, or are television shows using the opening scene-then-flashback device way too much? I know there’s a rule in screenwriting that says a movie/episode should “start with an event” but it seems like every time I turn on the TV, some familiar character is in a weird situation and then five minutes later I get to start to see how he got there. I think this is fine in small doses, but it becomes a crutch when used too much.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

In this episode, we see Ryan, Father Jack, and Kyle blow up a shuttle that was supposed to be filled with “seekers.” After they shoot it down with some advanced V technology that looks like it was cobbled together with items from the local Wal-Mart, Father Jack starts running through the wreckage to find that there are only human remains. Uh-oh. Now we’re going to spend the rest of the episode wishing they wouldn’t make the decisions they’re about to make. That’s fun.

After an awkward scene where Father Jack flirts with Erica over a punching bag — I’m sorry, but I just can’t see Catholic priests as sexual beings — Ryan tells the gang that the seekers are coming and he knows where the shuttle is going to land. Just to underline the importance of this mission, he says that if the seekers land, it’s the end of the Fifth Column. Uh-oh.

It was at this point that I deleted my season pass. If the seekers were so powerful, why didn’t Anna send them down before, or send down two or three or even ten shuttles to ensure some of them made it to the surface? If she’s apparently putting all of her eggs in one basket, why wouldn’t these nitwits figure out that this is probably a trap?

Part of the problem is that I’ve seen this story before when it originally aired in the ’80s. I know remakes/reboots/rewhatevers are all the rage, but was anyone really clamoring for more “V”? I’m a fan of sci-fi, and with “Battlestar Galactica” now over, I feel compelled to support sci-fi where I can. But “V’ just doesn’t cut it. I mentioned “BG” — now that’s how you do a reboot. “V” just pales in comparison.

The main problem is that I didn’t really care about any of these characters, save for maybe Erica, but even she refuses to tell her son the truth about the visitors even though he’s about to move up to the freaking mothership! Father Jack runs around like an impotent ninny, wondering about the spiritual ramifications of every little thing he or anyone around him does. Ryan lied to his girlfriend the entire time they were together, even after she got pregnant with his alien child. Chad Decker is a narcissistic talking head who would betray his own planet if it meant he got an exclusive.

It almost got to the point where I started rooting for the visitors.

So long, “V” — I wish I could say it was nice knowing ya.

  

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The Return of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

Ever since the writers’ strike, the television industry has been in a state of flux. Most networks still can’t figure out what works from what doesn’t, while the current economic climate has forced others to simply give up. Whether or not “The Jay Leno Show” is a success for NBC is debatable, but by surrendering the 10 p.m. time slot, they’ve greatly decreased their chances of bringing in new viewers. We would be exaggerating if we said the decision affected Bullz-Eye’s latest edition of the TV Power Rankings, but our Winter 2009 list does seem suspiciously familiar. Still, it isn’t without its surprises, as a longtime favorite returned from an extended hiatus to claim the top spot, while buzzworthy rookies like “Glee” and “FlashForward” also made impressive Top 10 debuts. At the end of the day, however, the real winner is HBO, who walked away with three of the four top spots, thus reestablishing themselves as the best network around.

A few examples from the piece:


5. Glee (Fox): There isn’t a show on this list that we love and hate with the same enthusiasm that we have for “Glee.” It contains some of the best-drawn characters in Fox’s history (aspiring diva Rachel Berry, adorable germaphobe Emma Pillsbury, cantankerous alpha female Sue Sylvester), and the iTunes chart-burning musical numbers, lip synching aside, are deliriously fun. Imagine, then, if they didn’t make these characters jump through such ridiculous hoops. Will’s wife is actually going to take her fake pregnancy to term? Emma agrees to marry Ken, but only as long as they never tell a soul? (Those plot threads brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) Yet for each blunder the show makes, they come up with something as brilliantly funny as Finn’s technique for not climaxing (he thinks about the time when he hit the mailman with his car), or the drama queen freak show that is Sandy Ryerson (a pitch-perfect Stephen Tobolowsky). Getting Josh Groban to do a cameo as a horndog version of himself, meanwhile – and hit on Will’s drunk mother – was a moment of “Arrested Development”-style genius. Yes, it’s made mistakes, but “Glee” gets a spot in our Top Five because no other show on TV sports dialogue like “mentally ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bush baby.” But man, it would be a wonderful world if they did.David Medsker

15. Dexter (Showtime): Like “The Sopranos,” Dexter always has a theme that is explored within a season as a backdrop to the episodic progression of the show. Last season, it examined friendship within the context of Dexter’s secret world, and Jimmy Smits was brilliant as his first and only pal. This year explores the facets of intimate relationships, and balancing work and the rest of your life as it relates to it. Dexter (played with brilliant sincerity and conviction by Michael C. Hall) is struggling to find balance between his work as a blood splatter analyst, a new dad of an infant, stepfather to his wife’s kids, and his hobby of killing and dismembering other bad guys, while his entertainingly foul-mouthed sister Deb implodes the most stable relationship of her life when she sleeps with returning lover and retired FBI agent Frank Lundy. John Lithgow is also scary good as the Trinity Killer, the latest object of Dexter’s attention. When Trinity kills Lundy and wounds Deb while making it look like another killer’s signature, Dex is commanded by the ghost of Harry to seek revenge, making this season as entertaining as any in the past – no easy feat considering how consistently good this show has been.R. David Smola

Honorable MentionCougar Town (ABC): Yeah, yeah, we know: the title’s a bit dodgy. But Bill Lawrence, who co-created the show with Kevin Biegel, has said, “The roll of the dice I’ve made is that the title is noisy and that people will be aware of this show.” True enough, though the fact that the series stars Courtney Cox would’ve probably done a pretty decent job of putting it on people’s radar, anyway. The pilot alone was strong enough to suggest that “Cougar Town” could prove to be the perfect series for female viewers who’ve outgrown “Sex and the City,” but with enough of a dysfunctional family element to fit perfectly into the closing slot in ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy line-up. Although the show continues to hone its comedic formula, the trio of Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps clicked immediately (particularly the latter two, with their characters’ diametrically opposed personalities), and the relationship between the teenaged Travis and his man-child of a father rings true with its blend of unconditional love and complete embarrassment. Now that Jules’s fling with Josh is over, however, we’re curious to see who’ll be next on her slate to date — and how long this one will last.Will Harris

Returning in 2010Lost (ABC): Here we are, folks. After five seasons of confusing viewers with one of the most elaborate mythologies on television, “Lost” is finally in the home stretch. Want to know what the heck that smoke monster really is? How about the weird statue? Heck, what about the Dharma Initiative itself? All will supposedly be revealed in the sixth and final season of one of the smartest, most fearless shows network television has ever bothered to offer. Of course, this being “Lost,” we still have something to bitch about – namely, that the goddamn Olympics will interrupt the show’s final 18 episodes – but if we’ve waited this long to determine the ultimate fate of our favorite island castaways, what’s a few weeks of curling and cross-country skiing? We’ve all had our issues with the way “Lost” has unfolded over the years, and the show isn’t the phenomenon it was in its first couple of seasons. To cop one of the fall’s most popular phrases, though, this is it – and if there’s ever been a serialized drama with the guts to stick the landing and make its finale truly count, we’re betting it’s “Lost.”Jeff Giles

Check out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings in their entirety by clicking here or on the big-arse graphic you see before you. Also, be sure to check out the accompanying interviews with folks associated with the various shows, including David Goyer (“FlashForward”), Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).

Did any of your favorite shows miss the cut? Let us know by replying below!

  

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Five “must-see” new shows of the fall season

Our lead TV writer, Will Harris, is doing a bang up job of previewing the fall season as it grows closer, but I thought I’d throw in my $0.02 by mentioning the five new series that have me pumped about the fall lineup.

In order of premiere date…

1. “Community” (NBC), 9/17/09
Anyone that is a fan of Joel McHale on “The Soup” already knows about his foray into scripted comedy this fall. IMDB describes the plot this way

Jeff (Joel McHale) used to be a lawyer. When the state bar association revokes his license for having fake college credentials — he floated by on his degree from Colombia, but is legally obligated to earn one in America — Jeff enrolls at Greendale Community College. Intent on taking the easy way out, he forms a study group in a half-assed attempt seduce a pretty girl (Gillian Jacobs) and tries to coast on through. What he soon ends up with, aside from a coffee klatch of sad clowns, is a second chance at an honest life.

The trailer looks great…

The series seems to be going for a feel like that of “The Office,” though obviously that’s a tough standard to live up to. McHale has star potential, and he should bring a significant fan base over from “The Soup,” which he is going to continue hosting for the time being.

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ABC: What’s New for Fall 2009

V (Tues., Nov. 3 @ 8:00 PM, ABC)

The competition: “NCIS” (CBS) “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “Hell’s Kitchen” (Fox), “90210” (The CW)

Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Lourdes Benedicto, Logan Huffman, Laura Vandervoort, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf
Producers: Scott Peters (“The 4400,” “The Outer Limits”), Jeffrey Bell (“Day Break,” “Alias”), Steve Pearlman (“Reunion,” “Related”), and Jace Hall (“The Jace Hall Show”)
Network’s Description: A re-imagining of the 1980’s miniseries about the world’s first encounter with an alien race. Simultaneously appearing over every major city in the world, the Visitors (or V’s) promote a message of peace. Through their generous offer to share advanced technology, the V’s build a following that may actually hide a more malevolent agenda, one that twists a very deep component of human nature: devotion. While the world quickly becomes fascinated with the V’s and their link to wonders just beyond the reach of human understanding, FBI Counter Terrorist Agent Erica Evans discovers a secret hidden beneath the skin of every V – a secret that may threaten the lives of everyone close to her. Yet for her teenage son, Tyler, the V’s are his ticket to something big and hopeful — a new chance for mankind to unite in common goals. To Chad Decker, a career-hungry news anchor, his exclusive interview with Anna, the leader of the V’s, is crucial to his dominating the airwaves. Also unsure about the Visitors is Father Jack, a priest questioning his faith in the wake of the Visitors’ arrival. Seeking answers outside the church, Father Jack discovers there are other dissidents who believe the Visitors are not who they say they are, including Ryan Nichols, who is faced with his own life-altering decision when the V’s show up. Never has there been more at stake — it truly is the dawning of a new day.
The Buzz: Like “Eastwick,” there’s a certain instinct to ask, “Why do we need to revisit a 20-year-old property?” In the case of “V,” though, most of those who remember the show fondly will probably nod their heads and consider that, yes, special effects technology has evolved to a point where a concept like this one deserves to reap the benefits. And although the purists will no doubt grimace and claim that it won’t be the same without original creator Kenneth Johnson working behind the scenes, they need look no farther than “Battlestar Galactica” to have a good reason to consider the possibilities for a new “V.”
Pilot Highlight: Personally, I dug the showdown between Anna and Chad when he refuses to offer an interview consisting solely of softball questions and she informs him that either it’ll be all queries that paint the Visitors in a positive light or the interview will be canceled, but the episode’s tie-ins to terrorism were damned intriguing.
Bottom Line: There’ll clearly be a “we’ve seen this” reaction from the generation who grew up with “Independence Day,” but it’s already clear that this is not your parents’ “V.” It may not prove to have any more legs than ABC’s last stab at alien infiltration (“Invasion”), but it’s going to come down to whether or not the viewers who come in for the curiosity factor, thinking, “Hey, I liked the old show, I wonder how the new one will be,” are going to given enough to sell them right off the bat.

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