ABC isn’t NBC, and that’s for sure.
“Isn’t one television network pretty much the same as any another?” I can hear you say.
“No, they aren’t” is my answer.
NBC just renewed two highly acclaimed yet ratings-challenged rookie series, “30 Rock” (not exactly my favorite) and “Friday Night Lights” (a masterpiece), for second seasons.
ABC, in the meantime, cancelled their highly acclaimed yet ratings-challenged series, “Six Degrees”, after airing only seven of thirteen episodes. Well, actually, they cancelled it once in early 2007 after five episodes aired. Then, after critic and fan pressure, the network brought the series back four months after canceling it, promising to run its remaining seven episodes.
Two episodes after the series’ “resurrection”, ABC broke its promise and pulled the plug on “Six Degrees” a second time.
“Aaaaargh! Spineless wimps,” I shouted from the rooftops. Then, being an old network television writer myself, I began to suspect that Hollywood politics had reared its smelly head once again.
Okay, here’s my conspiracy theory. J.J. Abrams is the co-creator and executive producer of “Six Degrees.” He’s also the co-creator and executive producer of ABC’s “Lost.” When the network launched “Lost” in 2005, it became a critical and ratings smash hit despite the fact that ABC had earlier fired executive Lloyd Braun for spending a record $14 million on the two-part “Lost” pilot. While Braun was “history”, producer Abrams became the network’s coming Messiah. In late 2006, they bought thirteen episodes of “Six Degrees.” Like “Lost”, it had a long convoluted serial story and an ensemble of characters, each with their own deep back-stories. (To be fair, the other networks had bought their own batch of new series that followed the “Lost” formula, including “Day Break”, “Jericho”, “Vanished” and “The Nine”)
Around the same time that ABC had bought “Six Degrees”, “Lost” went on a three month hiatus. When the show came back in 2007, its ratings dropped dramatically. Some critics claimed that the dip was because viewers had lost track of the show’s complicated story line and all the back stories of the show’s myriad of characters. Predictably, all the networks panicked, most canceling their “Lost” formula shows, Abram’s “Six Degrees” among the pack. Was ABC punishing Abrams for “Lost’s” ratings drop?
For me, the quality of “Six Degrees” has always been undeniable, especially the brilliant performances of the always complex chameleon-like Hope Davis and the low-key shabby-chic elegant Campbell Scott.
But, this wasn’t the first time that quality television shows had been canceled by myopic networks. I had been through this period of “grieving” before with the cancellations of “Shannon’s Deal” in the eighties and the incredible Emmy-nominated Showtime series, “Huff”, a well-acted ensemble show much like “Six Degrees.”
To ABC’s credit, the remaining five episodes can be viewed in their entirety online on their “Six Degrees” website. Thank you, Internet.