CW, Fox Do the Cancellation Dance

By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Controversy has erupted among The Reporters Who Cover Television as to which freshman series is the first to be canceled in this new TV season.

Late this week, CW confirmed it had put "Online Nation" out of its misery after four episodes -- though there are those who question whether "Online Nation" was actually a TV series.

In case you missed it -- lucky you -- "Online Nation," which looked to have cost about 20 bucks to produce, promised to "turn mouse potatoes into couch potatoes" by putting all of the "greatest Internet clips" into one hour of prime-time TV. I know. How could this fail, right? And yet, in its final broadcast, fewer than 580,000 people were still suffering through it.

Even so, some reporters are insisting that "Online Nation" is the first freshman series to be canceled this TV season.

But another camp points to an announcement made back in September, by the Fox network, that it had decided to pull "Nashville" from its prime-time lineup after just two episodes.

At that time, Fox insisted that "Nashville" would be back sometime in October. Also at that time, some of the reporters, the craggy, cynical ones, said they had seen Fox pull this gag a few times before: promise that a pulled series was only "resting" and would come back, only it never does come back, almost like Fox was deliberately messing with the reporters in an effort to make sure that Fox did not have the season's first cancellation.

The craggy, cynical reporters watched, and waited: first week of October and no return date announced on "Nashville." Second week of October, third week of October. And then, just hours after CW announced the offing of "ON," Fox confirms that "Nashville" is no more.

"Eureka!" shouted the craggy, cynical reporters, who have formed the " 'Nashville' Is the Season's First Cancellation" party.

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In other Games Networks Play With Their New Series news: "New Amsterdam" looks to be this year's Fox series that never makes it to the air: The network has put the new drama series on hiatus. It's about a cop who cannot die because back when New York City was New Amsterdam some Native American chick put a spell on him, making him immortal until he finds his one true love, at which point he'll kick the bucket, which seems like a pretty poor trick to play on a guy who had just saved your life.

Yanking series that are so bad they should never see the light of day is a time-honored Fox tradition, and we wish more networks would follow Fox's lead. It might have spared us "Cavemen."

And "Online Nation."

Seven episodes of "New Amsterdam" had already been shot, report the trades -- which also reported Fox's explanation that putting "NA" on hiatus will enable Fox execs to better evaluate the episodes that have been shot. Seriously.

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On a happier note, ABC has picked up full-season orders on its "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff, "Private Practice," and CBS has picked up its new Monday comedy "Big Bang Theory," making them the second and third freshman-series pickups of the 2007-08 TV season.

CW network claimed the first pickup of this new TV season when it ordered more episodes of "Gossip Girl."

"Private Practice," airing Wednesdays at 9, is the most watched freshman series of the new TV season, both among viewers of all ages and among the 18-to-49-year-olds the networks sell to advertisers. "PP" follows one of the "Grey's Anatomy" regulars, Dr. Addison Montgomery, played by Kate Walsh, who has left Seattle to work for a touchy-feely clinic in Los Angeles filled with doctors who are seriously messed up personally, including a stalker shrink, a pediatrician who finds "dates" on the Internet, etc. Anyway, technically the series was first unveiled as a two-hour "Grey's Anatomy" episode last May that served as a "backdoor pilot." In its four episodes this season, "PP" has averaged nearly 13 million viewers.

"Big Bang Theory," about two geeks who live across the hall from a hot blond waitress, airs as part of CBS's Monday comedy block; it's pulling in a smaller crowd of about 9 million viewers, but it's building on its "How I Met Your Mother" lead-in, which is a very good sign in a new series.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company