3 Television Shows That Bombed in 2013

Broadcasters don't have it easy anymore. Cable television and Netflix are drawing in audiences en masse while some once-popular TV franchises are struggling to recover from historical lows.

Take CSI, which set a series low in February drawing just 8.6 million viewers. AMC Networks, by contrast, has regularly topped 10 million with The Walking Dead while the series finale for Breaking Bad drew 10.3 million.  Niche programming -- on niche networks -- is a serious and growing threat to the Big Four.

The result? Broadcast TV shows either win early or die fast, as these three did in 2013:

Blair Underwood starred in NBC's detective reboot. Source: NBCUniversal.

Episodes before cancellation: 4
Avg. viewers: 5.16 million
Distributor: NBCUniversal

Why it bombed: Remakes are a tough sell to begin with. (Remember 2008's rehash of Knight Rider? How about 2011's Charlie's Angels do-over?) NBC didn't do itself any favors in deciding not to cast a disabled actor as wheelchair-bound detective Robert Ironside, choosing instead to go with veteran performer Blair Underwood. The ensuing controversy, which led to at least one outright boycott of the show, may have been the killing blow.

State of the network: Ironside's poor performance notwithstanding, NBC has hit its stride recently. Look at the spy-cum-crime drama The Blacklist, which drew some 17 million viewers in its Monday night time slot. The network has already ordered a second season while star James Spader is up for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of professional troublemaker Red Reddington. On the other hand, as an earnings driver, NBC's broadcast TV operation contributes just 13% of Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) revenue and 2% of operating income. One big win (or loss) won't mean much for the business at its present scale.

ABC's show about lottery winners wasn't relatable enough for audiences. Source: ABC.

Lucky 7
Episodes before cancellation: 2
Avg. viewers: 3.53 million
Distributor: ABC Television

Why it bombed: Yes, we've all dreamed about winning the lottery. But a TV show that asks what if the dream came true? We've seen the concept before and it didn't work then, either. NBC cancelled Windfall in 2006 after 13 episodes, going so far as to allow affiliates the option of airing preseason football rather than the season's final installment.

State of the network: ABC is getting good performances from a handful of key shows. For example, Scandal does well on Thursday nights in spite of declining viewership for lead-in Grey's Anatomy. There's also Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has the highest live+7 day rating of any Tuesday night broadcast TV show. What's that mean financially? Not much, unfortunately. ABC's operating income dipped slightly in the third quarter as revenue improved just 1% year-over-year. 

We Are Men starred Kal Penn, Chris Smith, Jerry O'Connell, and Tony Shalhoub. Source: CBS.

We Are Men
Episodes before cancellation: 2
Avg. viewers: 6.01 million
Distributor: CBS (NYSE: CBS  )

Why it bombed: Divorced men trying to pick up women while teaching the ways of the world to a young neighbor who's just been left at the altar? OK, but history shows that you need brilliant writing and top-notch talent (e.g., Parks and Recreation) to make absurd concepts work. Critics panned We Are Men's scripts as "lazy" and "boring," among other things.

State of the network: CBS is still home to TV's most-watched show (NCIS) and possesses a powerful catalyst in Showtime, which is gaining influence thanks to edgy new dramas such as Ray Donovan and Emmy contender Homeland. Ad revenue at CBS Television increased 13% year-over-year in the third quarter. Content licensing and distribution increased 11% with new shows added to the network's syndication slate, including NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. What shows were you surprised to see bomb in 2013? What shows do you expect to be cancelled next? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 21, 2013, at 7:26 PM, taylorjlp wrote:

    The only one of these I saw was Ironside. I actually thought it had potential. Blair Underwood was doing a good job, I thought. Too bad they didn't have a chance to see what developed.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2013, at 2:19 AM, shineridge wrote:

    I didn't want any of these shows, but I'm guessing these shows failed because they were probably full of LIBERAL, Politically Correct CRAP. That trash dominates in HollyWEIRD these days. Iron Side was probably a rip off on the original Iron Side, starring Aaron Burr. That show was as good as the original Perry Mason, a true CLASSIC. This new Iron Side having a black main as the main character is a definite sign of political Correctness. Nothing against blacks, but since the original show had a WHITE main character, I'd say having a black in the new version absolutely IS PC.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2013, at 9:05 AM, wizarddrummer wrote:

    Never watched We Are Men.

    Lucky 7 - I was on the fence. I wanted to see what trouble they did get into when they spent the money.

    Ironside. - I like Blair Underwood's work. The show's premise is dumb in the first place. The only reason that the original Ironside with Raymond Burr had such a following was because it was Raymond had a real 'presence' in those days.

    Back in the 60's before cable and the internet, you only had broadcast channels to watch. Now, the playing field is so diluted that it's impossible to quantify what is a success or not. We have so many companies producing / showing content.

    How many channels does your average Sat or Cable company have? And, how many different companies are competing in the same area?

    Then, when you add the Internet with literally millions of things to choose from, it's not hard to see that traditional Broadcast shows have only a very short time to capture an audience.

    However, I would like to point out that many good shows have died because of idiots in the networks that control the schedules. Some shows were placed on the wrong day and time slots; they failed to gain an audience because there was just too much else going on at the time.

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