Friday, April 24, 2015

If You Ever Wondered...

It's an all too familiar sight on network television- a show that is loved by the critics and gets a small but stable following ends up canceled. The network expresses its regrets that the show just never seemed to find a following despite its best efforts. Most of the time the fans blame the network for not promoting the show or moving it around the schedule so much that it could never get n audience. The network typically just shrugs and it's left to others to argue the cause. Except for the case of WKRP in Cincinnati.

WKRP captured the attention of critics, who heaped praise on the show. The problem was that audiences seemed to ignore it, so CBS helpfully moved the show around the schedule. It didn't seem to do very well in any of the 11 different time slots it was given. Fans of the show believed this was the problem; viewers were never sure when it would air. CBS decided that this meant the show would never fully catch on no matter where it was on the schedule. In 1982 they canceled the show after just four seasons.

Ironically, the show finally got a stable time slot as CBS burned off the last few episodes and its contracted rerun airings. Now that the show was in one place from week to week, its ratings exploded. The fans and critics were right- the show could succeed with a stable time slot.

The ratings were too good to ignore. CBS decided it would un-cancel the series. However, by the time CBS decided to renew the show, series stars Loni Anderson, Gary Sandy and Howard Hesseman had signed onto other projects. Unwilling to bring the show back without its biggest stars, CBS chose to keep the show canceled. Unfortunately, CBS didn't seem to learn any lessons from this situation.