It wasn't a total loss. This is a contrarian view on the season that will go down in the Nielsen annals as the lowest rated on record for the Big Four nets, but there was some good news to be found here and there, amid the wreckage.
For sure, the season-long stats on the 2007-08 campaign are pretty darn ugly, as Variety ratings guru Rick Kissell smartly and soberly details in this season wrap. But in actuality we didn't have a season, we had two abbreviated seasons -- pre- and post-strike. Writers Guild of America leaders were as strategic as Eisenhower and Marshall carving up the European theater in triggering the work stoppage to begin on Nov. 5, to ensure maximum impact on current production and pilot development.
Of course, most everything the WGA was fighting for in its 100 Days War has been at work in force -- on steroids -- in this topsy-turvy season: the increasing popularity of web streaming of programming and DVR time-shifted viewing, the increasing use of digital extensions of traditional programs to drive traffic to network-affiliated websites and to generate new revenue streams for our half-dozen favorite media congloms.
Beyond the fairness issue and the wonky oh-my-god-younger-generations-will-never-watch-TV-the-same-way-again considerations, let's look at what the nets have to show for themselves program-wise out of the fall and spring mini seasons of '07-'08.
We learned that (some of) America still has a soft spot for Christina Applegate, and that there isn't a half- hour curse hanging over the ABC building in Burbank. Alphabet fielded a promising new laffer in "Samantha Who," (pictured right) and it also claimed a budding success in "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice." (NBC's "Bionic Woman" actually wound up in a dead heat demo-wise with "Practice" -- which ranks No. 2 behind Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" among new scripted skeins -- but since Jamie Sommers is no longer kicking...)
ABC's big bet of the season, offbeat 8 p.m. drama "Pushing Daisies," may have benefited in its creative development from the long strike-fueled hiatus. We'll find out in the fall.
CBS had no luck with "Cane" and "Viva Laughlin," and ultimately, "Moonlight." Comedy "Welcome to the Captain" was an embarrassment, but newbie "Big Bang Theory" (pictured below left) has been charming and chummy enough to help offset those misfires. With as many dramas as CBS has in its arsenal, the Eye has to be count it as a win any time it can add a building block to its Monday block. Surely "Big Bang's" promise and "How I Met Your Mother's" spring ratings uptick went a long way in encouraging CBS programmers to expand their comedy reach into Wednesdays this fall.
Another win for CBS this season was keeping drama "Criminal Minds" on track despite having to unexpectedly replace Mandy Patinkin as the lead last summer. Joltin' Joe Mantegna did the job for the Eye.
Fox had its share of scripted fouls in the frame but found enough to like in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (pictured top left) to bring it back for more. "Sarah Connor" bounded out of the gate, with a football assist, in January but then tumbled to humbler numbers from episode two on. Twisted game show "Moment of Truth" was Fox's home run on the unscripted side.
Going strictly by the numbers, NBC picked up two on faith and one on promise from its '07-'08 scripted slate. Dramedy "Chuck" (pictured right) showed potential in the early going last fall. (To put it in perspective, "Chuck" finishes out the season-long tally with a 3.5 adults 18-49 rating, just two-tenths of a ratings point behind "ER.") Dramas "Life" and "Lipstick Jungle" had steeper climbs, but both are coming back.
"Life" should find the world a little more hospitable in its new Friday 10 p.m. slot than it did last fall in the Wednesday 10 p.m. berth, where "Lipstick Jungle" is headed.
At CW, the season that just was can be summed up in two words: "Gossip Girl." (pictured below).On that cue, the netlet has its hopes and dreams for next season wrapped up in the vicissitudes of young femmes in various stages of heat (sexual heat, shopping heat, status heat, Beverly Hills heat, etc.). For its sake, here's hoping for an unseasonably warm fourth quarter.