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If NBC didn't like 'Southland' why didn't it just keep 'Medium'?

So let's get this straight.

SOUTHLAND Last May, NBC renewed its freshman cop drama "Southland" for the fall season. The plan was to put it on at 9 p.m. Friday nights. Although "Southland" didn't draw huge numbers when it was on last spring, it had some critical buzz. The dark drama (I'm tired of the word "gritty") followed Los Angeles beat cops and was known for the way it bleeped out swear words to give the show an authentic feel. It sounds hokey but it actually sort of worked.

Anyway, at the same time the brain trust at NBC was deciding to keep "Southland" -- even though they knew it would move from a 10 p.m. time slot to the earlier 9 p.m. slot -- to make room for Jay Leno's prime-time invasion, it decided to cancel "Medium," a softer drama about a woman who solves crimes by talking to the dead. After NBC passed on "Medium," CBS pounced and grabbed it for its Friday night lineup.

This is why Thursday's decision to cancel "Southland" just weeks before its second season got started and substitute the news magazine "Dateline" is all the more confusing. NBC is spinning that the show was just too gritty hardscrabble for 9 p.m. (8 p.m. central and mountain) and indeed we reported over the summer that the network was concerned about the content in the earlier time slot.

MEDIUM But NBC knew last spring when it renewed "Southland" that it wasn't "Leave it to Beaver," so why did it bring it back in the first place? If it was worried about the content, why didn't it stick with "Medium" or try to develop another show? In fact, a lot of industry people were surprised when NBC opted to bring "Southland" back because it would have to go at 9 p.m.. If it was because of the network's respect for and relationship with the show's executive producer John Wells ("ER"), we're guessing canceling it two weeks before it was to premiere and after six episodes have been made stung a little worse than if it had pulled the plug last May.

NBC's move certainly caught Wells and Warner Bros., which makes the show, by surprise. They are now scrambling to try to find a new home for the show, most likely on cable. Even NBC affiliates were taken aback by the abrupt decision.

"That's a little premature," said Michael Fiorile, chief executive of Dispatch Broadcast Group and chairman of NBC's affiliate board, when told it had been canned. "Creatively, I thought it was pretty good show."

The numbers for "Southland" and "Medium" were almost identical. Last season, "Medium" averaged 8.5 million viewers and 2.9 rating in adults the 18 to 49 demographic while "Southland" drew 8.3 million viewers and a 2.7 in adults 18 to 49.

Both did better last year than anything NBC has going on this year, and "Medium" on CBS is getting more viewers than NBC is averaging in prime time. And now NBC has neither.

In terms of cost, NBC paid about $1.5 million in licensing fees for "Southland," and the price tag for "Medium" is in that ballpark, people familiar with the situation say.

Of course, by subbing in "Dateline," NBC will be saving a lot of money in the time period and that can't be taken lightly in trying to figure out what is motivating NBC here. They better save a lot, because so far this season the only business strategy that seems to be working there is the one in which they alienate the entire creative community.

-- Joe Flint

Related posts: 

NBC axes `Southland'

NBC and 'Southland' producers worried about the bleeping FCC

Photo (top): "Southland." Credit: Richard Foreman / NBC

Photo (bottom): "Medium." Credit: Danny Feld / NBC

Comments () | Archives (15)

I truly poor decision on the part of NBC. Southland could have been a very successful series, if given a chance. NBC is becoming a place of fluff.

Now I have another reason for NOT watching Leno.
Thanks Jay...

NBC made a big mistake by sacking Medium. It was the only reason my wife and I watched NBC. "Southland"?, never heard of it until I read this article.

Hopefully Southland will land on its feet on another network.

I don't watch a lot of network TV these days because the great majority of it is lousy. Southland was an exception. I dearly hope that another network picks it up, because it's an excellent show that isn't dumbed down.

The average for Southland is misleading since it was losing viewers since it started. It's final episode got a 1.9 in the demo and 6.5 million viewers- which just raises the question why they renewed it in the first place.

Yes, it's true that "Southland" had solid start and tailed if off. That goes to my point about why then did they pick it up in the first place. Is this a money move or something else. Seems like a waste of over $10 million on NBC's part by the time they're done paying for it.

Southland was an amazing series. I was looking forward to another season. Same with Medium, great show, great writing always. You would think, oh another cop show and another series about LA but the writing was superb. And it didn't need any "quirkiness" to be good, just real characters who have their own quirks like any of us. NBC what a stupid move to have Jay Leno on five nights a week at 10 p.m. Why? Who's bright idea was that? You know, have you heard the old saying, if it ain't broke don't fix it?

Better reason was posted in comments at Deadline.com -- NBC is clearing the books for the sale to Comcast. Which means everything not absolutely necessary will be dumped.

Secondary reason is Zucker is an ass.

How can viewers invest in new shows when they can be canceled in a snap. I was happy Southland was picked up and now this? I admit, I watch a lot of television, I buy every show I watch on DVD and I am very disappointed in seeing good shows get canceled. I may even stop watching new shows until they are in their third season just to know I'm not going to get cut off mid story line. I invested hours in the shows I've enjoyed only to be left angry; Journeyman, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Life on Mars, the Unusuals, now Southland. Instead we have crap tv with reality shows and Jay Leno taking a 10 PM show every night!

I'm hoping maybe FX or A&E can pick up the show.

Leno will bring down NBC.... And they deserve it for giving him the 10pm slot and putting so many industry people out of work. Leno show is weak sauce.

Really sad that NBC is dropping Southland. It was goingto be something worth watching - dropping it and keeping Dateline? - that's like the Enquirer for TV. Really some people can handle a good drama.

what would Kreskin see, NBC has become what FOX was when it first launched...a joke.

at the rate there going how long till NBC stands for New Brodcasting Corporation (or Clowns, perhaps)

The decision by NBC just points to the disarray of the network and the fact that they are caving to the bottom line. A spinoff of The Biggest Loser? That's the "quality" programming they have planned. I'd say the title of the show also says a lot about the network it's on.


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