Great article on the broadcast pilot season in general, and why it's likely to fail just like it's failing this year.
• ARE THE CHARACTERS LIKABLE OR RELATABLE?
There is exactly one TV-viewing demographic that still cares about this: development executives laboring under the delusion that they’ll eventually find the next Cheers or Friends (both of which, by the way, were full of characters who often behaved terribly). You know who doesn’t care about likability? People who watch Game of Thrones, or Breaking Bad, or Mad Men, or Archer. This is usually the point at which networks assert that cable shows don’t have to reach as large an audience. But that doesn’t wash anymore, not when any number of network series are pulling lower ratings than Duck Dynasty and Sons of Anarchy.
• WILL THE AUDIENCE GET IT?
Most cable series proceed from the assumption that their viewers are looking for a good show. Most network series proceed from the assumption that their viewers are stupid and inattentive. That’s why the second episodes of network dramas are usually so boring that viewers flee — they’re essentially designed to reiterate and re-explain everything that unfolded in episode 1.
• IS THE SHOW LIKE SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S ON THE AIR?
This is actually not a bad question; the problem is the answer, which the networks want to be “Yes” when they, and we, should always be rooting for “No.” Only in network TV is past failure considered a sure sign of future success.
I get the counterargument: Safety sells. Familiarity works. Formula rules. Otherwise, the No. 1 show on TV wouldn’t be the 95th season of NCIS, and the reality shows we were enthusiastically watching in 2000 wouldn’t be the same ones that half of us are halfheartedly half-watching now. Still, something is amiss: In the recently concluded February sweeps, NBC finished fifth. And there are only four big English-language networks. Which means that maybe the most relevant question programmers should be asking when they consider this season’s pilots is “What do we have to lose?”
The third point - cookie-cutter-ism - is once again dominant this season, which leads to a confused audience that can't tell the shows apart based on what little they've heard about them (and everyone zones out advertising now). There are some glimmers of being different, a few Western-themed shows for instance, but overall it just seems like a big grey mass of boredom, even worse than last season.
I'm not totally jazzed about Defiance
for instance, but it has actual aliens to show in the ads, and that makes it stand out in today's environment. The Western feel should also help.