Which struggling shows can rebound into hits?

There’s an interesting (if not revolutionary) paragraph at the end of Nellie Andreeva’s Hollywood Reporter piece about ABC’s Help Me Help You, The Nine, and Men in Trees (and NBC’s Studio 60) scoring additional script orders despite low initial ratings. In it, she notes that producers of those shows, as well as the other struggling series to receive similar votes of confidence — Fox’s Vanished, Standoff, Justice, ‘Til Death, and Happy Hour; NBC’s Friday Night Lights (and possibly 30 Rock); CBS’s The Class — are all hoping to be the next Seinfeld, Cheers, or House, in other words, shows that were "all on the brink of cancellation before exploding into megahits."

Now I know a lot of folks, myself included, frequently deride the networks for pulling the cancellation trigger too quickly (RIP, Smith), but it’s kind of remarkable how many non-successes are still hanging on for life as November approaches. And so, the question I’d like to pose to you, PopWatchers, is which of the above series are you hoping is headed for breakout status? Much like my colleague Mandi Bierly, I’ve become increasingly attached to ABC’s frothy Men in Trees. And while it scored a scant 6.84 million viewers this week, I’m in total agreement with Mediaweek‘s Marc Berman that with a move to woeful Six Degrees‘ plum post-Grey’s Anatomy timeslot, lots of viewers might just fall in love with Anne Heche’s romantic comedy. What say you?

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  • melissa

    Friday Night Lights offers something so different in tone (less cynical and nastiness-oriented, among other differences) than most other primetime shows, I hope it manages to stay on and do well.

  • Blair

    I’ve watched every episode of Studio 60 but I missed the last one, and although the last episode I saw (The One Out-of-towners) was a little sugary for me, I liked how the characters are starting to develop. We are learning more about these characters and their lives are getting interesting. I will keep watching.
    On the other hand there is the Class, and I am surprised it is still on the air. It reminds me of Joey. The elements that could make it good are there, but it feels forced. The actors just don’t seem comfortable in their roles, and it seems like the writers are trying their best. Is Paulie G writing for the series.
    I love Valerie Cherish. She was one of the best characters on TV.

  • KJ

    I gave most of these shows a shot on my DVR at the beginning. I found The Class to be remarkably unfunny. Standoff was unremarkable, in the take it or leave it kind of way. Justice seems like yet another reincarnation of CSI/L&O, but I do love Kerr Smith. The Nine I keep watching because it’s slightly compelling, if incredibly slow. Men in Trees is cute and remains on my DVR if only because there is little competition for slots on Friday night. The one that I absolutely fell in love with though was Friday Night Lights. That show was killed by it’s marketing and time slot. It is much more than a teen drama about football and 8PM is entirely to early for the heavy plot line that FNL is offering. I hope NBC keeps it around– I would be heartbroken to see such high quality TV cut with so little a chance to gain traction.

  • Cherrie

    The Nine and Studio 60 are my picks for breakout hits. The Nine has brought me back each week from the beginning for the “mystery” of the 52 missing hours and for the excellent performances.
    I’m an Aaron Sorkin fan, so I was always set to watch Studio 60, but I’ll admit that the first couple of episodes, where the plot and character bios were set up, were less than stellar. However, with the past couple of episodes, this series is beginning to develop. The actors are doing great work, and I’m now able to see how the characters mesh together. Themes are coming to the forefront that make the plot lines more weighty. I’m beginning to feel that happy glow that I felt so often when watching The West Wing. I definitely want to see what awaits these characters in the future.

  • Kurt

    Friday Night Lights is the best new show this season, hands down. I don’t even care if it develops into a huge hit, just as long as it’s not cancelled.

  • Dan

    I think the networks should be congratulated for serving up some interesting fare this Fall season. The problem is that the focus on serialized drama has meant too many shows that demand religiously loyal viewing. I’m hooked on Heroes, but one look at The Nine, Studio 60, and Friday Night Lights and I immediately knew these demanded more of my time than I had to give.
    One of the things that works for Men in Trees is that it’s entertaining even if you only watch sporadically. Sometimes we just need something that’s mindless and throwaway… but please no more CSIs or L&Os.

  • Laura

    The only one I on there I watch is The Class. It appears I’m in the minority, but I enjoy it. I watch Studio 60 occasionally, but I could take it or leave it.

  • Shane

    I agree with the other posters in hoping that “Friday Night Lights” remains on the air. The show is really about relationships between people, not just football. I also really like the head coach and the wife as the central part of the drama. Having read the book and seen the film, I am glad that they chose to focus on the adult characters more than the previous two incarnations of the story.

  • fredric

    Add me to the formidable queue as a fan of Friday Night Lights. Now maybe if iTunes were to carry past episodes (like it does with Heroes), people could catch up and start viewing it regularly. Part of the reason why these series drop in viewership is that there is a way of thinking that it’s difficult to pick up on a series if you haven’t watched from the beginning. Having digital episodes helps tremendously, especially for a tool like me who often forgets to record when I’m out of the house.

  • step

    One more for the Friday Night Lights fanclub. I’m so in love with this show, it’s not even funny. And for those who claim they won’t like it because it’s about football, understand this. Football to Friday Night Lights is what Medicine is to Grey’s Anatomy. It’s about a group of people that just happen to be united by football. The group of people is what the show’s about. And it’s just so good.

  • Jason

    I’ve got my fingers crossed for Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock. Those are the two best new shows I’ve seen (along with Heroes which is in no trouble of being cancelled). Generally the new shows have been quite good, but the problem is there just isn’t enough time to commit to shows on a weekly basis. And it always bothers me when I here that 6 or 8 million viewers isn’t enough. If the audience is loyal, let it live out the season at least. Maybe networks should just start committing to a 12 episode season for all shows (which would help with quality as well) and then if it is a success, bring it back. More of a BBC type thing. That way, shows that are compelling, but fail to bring in huge ratings, can appease the audience that follows it, allowing for some kind of closure. As audience members, we’re all fearful of loving a show only to see it cancelled before the narrative arc is complete.

  • McGee

    I will watch Studio 60 until I’m dragged away kicking a screaming, or until NBC drags it away from me (I’ll still be kicking and screaming.) I’ll spare you my plan to “fix” (and I use that term loosely) Studio 60, but I firmly believe that Aaron Sorkin can work this out if NBC and viewers will give him the chance. Well, okay, MORE of a chance…

  • Denise

    I’m rooting for Friday Night Lights and definitely for Justice — great show!
    Sorry, but I’m still not with you on Men in Trees. I’ve tried and tried but … ew.

  • Josh

    I started out the season as a die-hard “Studio 60″ fan. I still enjoy the show, but “Friday Night Lights” has surpassed it as my favorite new series. I hope each of them stick around for a while. Just don’t take them both, please!

  • Ren275

    I really like “Friday Night Lights” and I hope it makes it this season. I also enjoy “Men in Trees”. “The Class” is one of the worst sitcoms on TV. The fact that they moved it to the 8:30 slot frustrated me.

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