Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Class / Jericho - Sept. 23, 2006




Second chances

There’s always a lot of hoopla about the first episodes of new series. But it’s the second ones that really tell the tale of whether those shows will survive or fail.

By Eric Kohanik

You can never really tell if a TVshow is going to be good until you watch its second episode.

Which is why this week is a crucial one in the TV industry.

The 2006-07 TV season officially got rolling on Sept. 18 for the big American networks. That’s the day Nielsen’s weekly ratings measurements began for the new season.

Although a few new series did trickle in before that, it was last week that REALLY counted. And that’s why we saw the first really major wave of new series.

Last week’s ratings will matter a lot to the big networks, but it’s the ratings of this coming week – when new shows roll out their second episodes – that will be scrutinized extra closely. Often, those ratings will determine which new shows will survive and which ones will die. In some cases, the doomed ones may get axed right away.

It’s all a numbers game, with millions of dollars in advertising revenue riding on each ratings point. That’s why the second episode of any series has got to be great.

Producers spend a lot more time, effort and money to make the first episode – known as the pilot – really impressive. After all, that’s the episode that determines whether a show even gets onto a network schedule.

It’s also the one given to advertisers, affiliates and (last, but not least) TV columnists, who all hand down their assessments. When it comes to the second episode (and each one after that), the weekly grind of production doesn’t afford the same luxury of time or money. So, the second instalment has to be able to hold viewer interest without it.

CBS sent out advance screeners of second episodes of a couple of its new series to critics recently. It was a smart move – and a sign the network has faith in both shows.

The Class, CBS’s new Monday-night comedy, showed an appealing spark in its pilot. A creation of the producers who gave us Friends, the new series – about a class of third-graders who reunite 20 years later –has a quirky, colourful cast and takes amusing swipes at everything from friendship, infidelity and latent homosexuality to depression, suicidal tendencies (who’d have thought THAT could ever be funny?) and cruel twists of fate. The second instalment falters a bit, but there is clearly a lot more to explore with this new batch of “Friends.”

Jericho, CBS’s Wednesday mystery-drama, began its journey last week, too, basing its enthralling story on a nuclear holocaust that has apparently devastated the countryside. The big questions: How bad is that devastation and why did it happen? This week’s second episode has some answers, but poses even more queries to keep us coming back.

There aren’t many second chances in life, but the TV world does offer a few. Some new shows manage to make the most of that opportunity. For others, their secondchance may well be their last.

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