Bad News Bearers: CBS’ and CW’s 2014-2015 TV series pink slips

Bad News Bearers: CBS’ and CW’s 2014-2015 TV series pink slips

Lower body count for these two networks. But at least one pair of smarmy CBS comedy shows richly deserved the axe.

Visual still from
Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott starred in the now-canceled CBS series "Stalker." (PR photo from "Stalker's" Facebook site.)

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2015 – The TV series body bags continued to pile up late last week and early this week, as CBS and the CW administered their virtual Dr. Kevorkian solution to shows it deemed were going nowhere but down. The shows apparently were already committing suicide due to their inherent lousiness, but one or two might have deserved a second chance.

That said, ours is not to do or die, as the poet once wrote. Ours is just to print the facts, ma’am. So here they are.

First, let’s see what happened over at CBS. That network has prospered with strong programming in recent years, but suffered a few issues this season. And now those issues are gone:

“The McCarthys”: One site called this one “a misguided mashup of Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family, and just about every other family comedy on TV.” We’d agree, except that we’d have stopped after the word “misguided.”

Think up your worst stereotype of a Boston Irish family, make the stereotypical characters even worse, and voilà! You have “The McCarthys.” This is typical of the kind of nightmare sitcom that the networks have kept cranking out ever since Archie Bunker opened the Pandora’s box of scorn and ridicule for middle American working stiffs that’s long been harbored by New York media types and Hollywood moguls.

“All in the Family,” at least, was pretty well-rounded in its day. But today, we get something like “The McCarthys,” whose asinine, thoroughly dislikeable characters proved to be two-dimensional parodies of what real people are like, even in Boston.

From smutty, loud-mouthed jokes, to thoroughly dislikeable and unlovable characters, these phony Hollywood Irish men and women proved vastly less authentic than even the Irish Bostonians who inhabited those recent TV commercials mercilessly flogging sales for “The Hopper.” (Pronounced “Tha HOP-pah.”)

As if the forced ridicule of this show weren’t enough, the series producers and writers had to make it even worse by adding a gay Boston Irish son to the mix, the better to generate an endless stream of politically incorrect one-liners. Setups like this one encourage the audience to ridicule these likely Irish progressives who cluelessly engage in stereotyping and gay-baiting behavior that might even rival the feverishly imagined antics of those hated Republicans the show’s lazy writers have probably never met.

Distilled crap like this—the kind of racism nobody will name—has begun to alienate and antagonize America’s massive, “cisgendered” majority. So it’s no wonder viewers quickly began to tune out this disgusting piece of cheap, formulaic sitcom garbage. Now, obviously, CBS has tuned it out, too.


“The Millers”: Speaking of cheap, formulaic sitcom garbage, CBS has also canceled this asinine sitcom after it ran for not one but for two consistently smarmy seasons. You tended to feel cheap and dirty after watching an episode of this one. As in, “Is this all I have to do with my life?”

Some episodes are actually still in the can, but who knows what CBS will do with them, after essentially pulling the plug on the cast and crew by separating them from their scheduling connection with the highly original and still successful “Big Bang Theory” and moving them to Monday, which started having a negative impact as the lead-in to another CBS breakthrough drama, “Scorpion.”

Again, “The Millers” was just a generic flavor of “The McCarthys,” featuring the non-adventures of a cretinous family lorded over by a fat, hateful mom that any normal American family would have shot, burying the overweight corpse underneath the garage concrete in the dead of night, never to be seen or heard of again. This one should have been 86’d a year ago. But better late than never.

“Stalker”: Maybe this was CBS’ attempt to put the increasingly sick formula of gruesome hit show “Criminal Minds” to work in a similar vehicle. Hey, there’s nothing sicker than having a stalker destroy your life. Your basic stalker is reliably nuts, always obsessed, always implacable, and almost always a sicko male. What else are Y-chromosomes for?

These fiends are nearly always ready for rape, torture and murder, the perfect excuse for week-after-week of crime porn generally focused on terrified females, since terrified males generally aren’t as much fun and don’t do much to advance “the narrative.”

“Stalker’s” central character, portrayed by Maggie Q (late of “Nikita,” where we liked her better), is yet another example of TV’s dreary parade of female police chiefs and/or lead detective/cops who seem to have taken over American TV police departments from their male predecessors.

That’s proof, apparently, that guys are no longer competent to lead anything serious on the tube, particularly when it comes to a sick and twisted crime like stalking, where you need equal parts of violence and empathy to deal effectively with both sides of this bizarre game.

“Stalker” was just too grim and too formulaic. Besides, CBS still does gruesome better on “Criminal Minds,” even though that show has just lost the services of the delectable Jennifer Love Hewitt. Jenn spent only a year on that series, where she replaced Jean Tripplehorn, herself something of a short termer. (Rumor has it that Jenn may return, however.)

In the end, it looks like “Stalker” simply succumbed to that ultimate TV series stalker, the Nielsens.

“Battle Creek”: We had a soft spot for this semi-humorous police procedural starring hunky Josh Duhamel and not-so-hunky Dean Winters, the latter actor probably better known for playing “Mayhem” in a recent series of Allstate commercials. “Battle Creek” was a nice attempt to do something different in the genre, but it never quite caught fire, debuting as a late-season replacement series on March 1.

The setup was interesting, focusing on the budget-strapped police department of a not-quite-fictional Battle Creek, Mich. It was refreshing to see a show set in flyover country for a change instead of the same old, same old streets of LA.

Probably better known as the world HQ of Kellogg’s, real-life Battle Creek is actually typical of many small towns in Michigan that have been hit hard economically over the past decade or three, burdened by high taxes and predatory public employee unions alike, giving this show some instant verisimilitude.

Winters’ character was the head detective at one particularly down-and-out precinct. So imagine his resentment when the FBI opened a small local field office across the hall, staffing it with slick, good-looking, impossibly smart FBI agent Josh Duhamel. That gave us the sitcom part of the show as these two oil and water characters got paired together to solve crimes in Battle Creek with mixed results.

When we were sent advance PR/preview CDs of 12 entire episodes by the network, we got a sneaky feeling the series might be wobbly out the gate, as indeed it was. Each episode improved on the former—slowly—as the bugs slowly got worked out of its slow-moving plots.

This is a series that might’ve had a better chance if it had gotten the premise development out of the way sooner. But it didn’t, and an almost complete lack of supporting PR by the network once the show had opened probably helped to sink it.

So, too, did the usual Hollywood liberal tics: As in having a woman as precinct captain, which apparently every police department in the U.S. now does, except for Tom Selleck; or a clunky, essentially stillborn office romance, this one between Winters and a fetching colleague, both of whom miss every romantic cue with alarming regularity; and, of course, a weird pathologist, in this case a midget (really) female with a bad case of gender feminism which is supposed to be funny and ironic but isn’t.

Frankly, if you watch TV too much these days and if you’re not, umm, “differently abled” transgendered, gay or otherwise nonstandard, you get the feeling that the reason you’re not getting ahead is that you lack a fashionable disability. But we digress, not to mention jeopardizing our non-careers by antagonizing the thought police.

At any rate, “Battle Creek”—promisingly backed by “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan—got mediocre reviews and never attracted enough buzz to make it to the finish line. That’s what happens when you take a promising story line and lard it up with PC characters and situations. Sorry, guys.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”: As we reported earlier this week, after endless speculation as to its fate, this granddaddy of forensic police procedurals simply ran out its string, slowly strangled by increasingly lousy writing, leading to what everybody knew but CBS wouldn’t tell—the end of the road.

READ ALSO: Breaking from CBS: ‘CSI’ is DOA.

But we really have nothing snarky to say here. After 15 years, it was simply a hell of a good run for any show, and must have made for many a great payday for its fairly stable staff.

We’re sorry to see “CSI” and its Vegas locale disappear from America’s flatscreens. Even though it was mostly filmed in LA anyway, the eccentrics and weirdos that populated many of its episodes as perps and would-be perps always gave things an interesting and legitimately exotic flavor.

Where the “CSI” cast goes this fall after its special two-hour series sendoff nobody knows, although Ted Danson, at least, may be headed over to the cast of “CSI’s” already somewhat wobbly successor, “CSI: Cyber.” The boss of that cast, of course, is another female, so we’re not sure where that would leave Danson’s D.B. Cooper in the pecking order.

And now, over to you, CW:

“Hart of Dixie:” Yet another “dramedy,” this series focused on the medical profession in an off-the-beaten-path Gulf Coast town in Alabama. It worked pretty well and had a loyal enough audience to last for four years, a more-than-respectable run on the idiot box.

Scuttlebutt is that the real reason for this series’ cancellation notice was that its star, Rachel Bilson, wanted to spend more time with her family. While this writer always figures that the “family time” excuse is just a crock of BS when it comes from TV and film stars, failed CEOs and any politician, we honestly don’t know if this was the motivating force behind the nonexistence of a new season 5 for this show.

Apparently the show’s fans are mounting a petition drive. But if this is really because the series star wants to leave, well, sorry, folks. Not gonna happen.

“The Messengers”: This show was apparently a brave attempt by the CW to see if the dissed and politically disenfranchised religious crowd that’s flocked to Bible-linked films and religiously-themed cable TV shows could be induced to watch a drama series focused on heading off the Apocalypse.

Unfortunately for the writers, the cast and the crew, “The Messengers” are themselves headed off to where all sinners ultimately must go, without even enjoying the cathartic benefit of the real Second Coming.

Filmed in New Mexico, like “Breaking Bad,” “The Messengers” didn’t attract too many viewers at all, although the CW will run the rest of the episodes it already has.

Maybe this show failed because, as any fundamentalist Christian already knows, nobody’s going to head off the Apocalypse because it’s divinely ordained. The End of Times will come when it comes, and God is in charge of the timing, not actors or network producers. Perhaps that’s a big reason why the show garnered only a 0.3 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

Then again, Hollywood is far more comfortable trashing Christianity anyway.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17