Dave on Demand: Viewers, tagged as fickle, blame the networks

"The Mentalist" with Simon Baker (left, with Pruitt Taylor Vince), suffered in its new slot, a viewer writes.
"The Mentalist" with Simon Baker (left, with Pruitt Taylor Vince), suffered in its new slot, a viewer writes. (ROBERT VOETS / Warner Bros.)
Posted: April 21, 2013

Apparently I struck a nerve with last week's column accusing you of capriciously abandoning both new and established series this season. I believe fickle was the word I used.

In the torrent of often angry, always passionate e-mail I received, one theme predominated: It's the networks that who have broken faith with viewers.

"Fickle?" wrote Polley Maltese from Warminster. "How about betrayed by ridiculous, manipulative plots ( Revenge) and formulaic, not to mention wooden, acting ( Vegas, especially Dennis Quaid)? We stick with the shows that continue to respect us: The Middle, The Good Wife, Justified."

Donna Carlin's e-mail from Philadelphia summed up some of the most recurrent explanations I heard for jettisoning shows, particularly The Mentalist.

"Really? You put the blame on the viewers for sagging ratings?" she wrote. "I blame the networks for changing their schedules. For example: The Mentalist is a great show. I never missed an episode when it was on Thursday night at 10 p.m. Then CBS changed it to Sunday night. I tune in at 9:00 for The Good Wife and The Amazing Race is still on. Why? Because all through the Fall, football runs late. Then when football season is over, golf or some other sport that is on in the afternoon runs late.

"So, maybe The Amazing Race is over at 9:10, or maybe it is over at 9:45 or 9:50. That means The Mentalist won't end until 11:10, 11:45 or 11:50. . . . I set the DVR, but the DVR doesn't know the show starts late.

"Revenge is another show whose fanbase was probably lost when it was switched to Sunday night.

"The other reason shows lose viewers? The networks have gone 'cable' with their 'short seasons.' Somewhere around November we'll hear an announcement that says, 'This is the conclusion of our Winter season. Join us in February (or January or March) when (insert show title here) returns with all new episodes for the Spring season.' When a show goes on hiatus in the Winter, viewers will change the channel and maybe find something they like better and never return."

Like I said, fickle.

The return of junk TV. The Disney Channel announced this week that it is producing another teen version of Win, Lose or Draw. If that title doesn't bring back warm memories, you've made better use of your time on this earth than I.

Win, Lose or Draw was a late-'80s game show "invented" by Burt Reynolds. (It was a blatant ripoff of Pictionary.) Bert Convy hosted the doodling contest with celebrity guests like Betty White, Barbara Eden, Ricardo Montalban, Linda Blair, Donna Pescow, and, in the most risible episodes, Reynolds with sidekick Dom DeLuise.

It was the pinnacle of junk culture and a thoroughly good (waste of) time.

You heard? I was catching up on a few DVRed episodes of Scandal (hey, if I don't watch them consecutively, I can't follow the plot from week to week) and was delighted to see Jay Jackson in a cameo as a serious news anchor.

It was an inside-TV joke, as Jackson is best known as Parks and Recreation's Perd Hapley, the most clueless TV newsman since Ted Baxter.

Adios, again. This is by way of a correction, I guess. Last week I wrote a blog post with the headline "Louie's Last Dive" about Louie Anderson's seismic elimination from Splash.

But this week, he was back again after beauty queen Katherine Webb withdrew (she had a note from her doctor).

Proudly proclaiming that he had slimmed down to 399 pounds, Anderson ended up in a dive-off with soccer's Brandi Chastain. But rather than go off the 10-meter board again, a spectacle that looked like a bulging sack of potatoes being hurled off a roof, Louie conceded, proving once again that self-preservation is the better part of valor.

Splash host Joey Lawrence spoke for all of us when he said, "Louie, you won our hearts the first time you took a dive. Tonight, you have won our hearts forever."

Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552, dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv.

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