A Season without Turkeys; Networks Give Viewers Reason to Be Thankful: Few Fall Losers
Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Turkey leftovers will be the dish of the day for most of us, but it's not too late to give thanks for a fall TV season that didn't live down to the usual low expectations. Every year, the networks bombard us with new shows, out of which just a lucky few survive. Some leave us scratching our heads over how they ever made it on the air in the first place.
"A Minute with Stan Hooper," anyone?
The fall of 2005 should go down as one of the better season starters in recent memory.
The strong fall might reflect the networks' need to compete with cable programming from the likes of HBO and FX. It's hard to imagine a show like NBC's "My Name is Earl," a quirky, laugh-track-free affair shot with one camera, making it to the air a decade ago, let alone thriving.
So far, we haven't seen any network-makers, as uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer dubs them, but the usual cancellation blood bath never happened.
Fox swallowed hard and yanked its legal comedy "Head Cases" off its schedule after just two weeks, but even it proved far superior to stinkers of yore.
Let's consider a quick list of some modest hits - UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris," the WB's "Supernatural," NBC's "Earl," Fox's "Prison Break," CBS' "Ghost Whisperer" and "How I Met Your Mother" and ABC's "Commander in Chief." The latter is so juicy, some on the political right insist it's a warm-up for a certain presidential contender and U.S. senator from New York.
Never underestimate the power of the boob tube.
The wave of paranormal shows enjoyed a lukewarm reception. ABC's "Invasion," CBS' "Threshold" and NBC's "Surface" are all still on the air, but their tepid ratings could ultimately spell doom.
Fox hasn't yet unleashed its seasons of "24" or "American Idol," two can't-miss hits, and any year without another "CSI" or "Law & Order" clone can only be a good thing.
Perhaps the biggest reason to cheer the fall season lies in the way we watch TV - or will watch it in the months - and years - to come.
Apple IPod users can download "Lost" or "Desperate Housewives" at their convenience. The folks at TiVo announced Monday that its users soon
will be able to transfer recorded programs onto IPods and PlayStation Portables.
That's a win-win for the studios and television viewers alike.
If the way we watch television is changing, so, too, is the conventional wisdom about what kinds of shows guarantee big audiences.
"My Name is Earl's" executive producer and creator, Greg Garcia, says just a few voices within NBC suggested tweaking "Earl" to make it more like the conventional sitcom, but otherwise, the network let him make the show he wanted. …