New Fox Show Good: No-one Cares


22nd September 2010

The end of September brings with it Autumn, the DFS sale and so many new shows your viewing device of choice might explode. Some programmes will make it, some will perish – that’s the circle of TV life – but occasionally some are dashed against the ratings rocks and prematurely bite it. For every NCIS there is a FlashForward.

On Monday night, 12 primetime shows premiered on US TV including NBC’s much-hyped The Event. For months I couldn’t get on a bus or walk past a blank wall without seeing Jason Ritter’s face staring back at me mysteriously and beseechingly. It’s Eventiness was everywhere; if market saturation equalled success then NBC were looking at a winner. IF being the operative word.
In some form of childish rebellion I chose to watch Fox’s new critically anticipated drama Lone Star, which has a stupid title but was an engrossing, well-written and well played drama about a conman with a conscience. Afterwards, I was excited because I’d found a new show to follow, and had blown the dust off a little gem. Granted, the premise of a man leading a double life only really has a 2 series shelf life at best, but just because it wasn’t going to last forever was no reason to dislike it. More reason to enjoy it while it was around, if you ask me.

In a nutshell, it’s the tale of lifetime conman Bob Allen who’s been playing the long game so long he’s lost sight of the big picture – the dollar. He’s in love with his wife, whose father (played with squinty eyed gravitas by Jon Voight) he’s trying to fleece for millions, and he’s in love with his girlfriend, whose parents (her Mum is Aunt Zelda from Sabrina!) he’s already fleeced for thousands. People are sniffing around already, and heat is building under him and his conman Dad, but rather than cut and run, Bob’s sticking to his guns. With hilarious results??

Obviously with The Event on NBC, and the second hour of Dancing With The Stars (... two hours?) to compete against, Fox were hoping for a middle of the table performance – maybe 9 million? What they got was a staggeringly low 4.1 million viewers. 4.1. To give some form of context, in that very timeslot, 14 million watched Two and a Half Men. (*sob*)

That is a disastrous debut for a primetime drama on network TV and as far as Fox are concerned, it seems to be one strike and you’re out as the show is already facing cancellation.
This isn’t only a shame for director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, Spidey Jnr Re-boot) and the ostensibly talented cast of Lone Star, but it’s part of an overarching vibe that pervades TV right now. “Be a hit immediately, or you’re out the door”. What does it take to be a hit? Well, if you judge on the antiquated Nielsen system alone, it takes David Hasslehoff shuffling around like a parody of himself, and Charlie Sheen making thinly veiled cock jokes.

Fans of the pilot will be up in arms, there will be excuses bandied about such as its going head-to-head with The Event, which for all its publicity only pulled in 11 million viewers. Other feelings are that Fox isn’t the right network for this slow paced, morally ambiguous story, and if it’s picked up by FX or AMC it will be a guaranteed hit. With only a couple of episodes in the bag there is every chance that a network jump could indeed save it. There’s the old watch-it-online excuse that’s trotted out by the flaming young people, but not even all these reasons combined can truly explain the lacklustre performance, it’s a televisual anomaly.
We watch with interest and hope, the fate of Lone Star and its star, the beautiful and equally silly-monikered Jimmy Wolk.

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