By Wayne Harada
It’s tough being a rookie TV show — and the Hawaii-filmed “Last Resort” is a good example.
The ABC series was canceled Friday, an action not totally surprising. The 13 episodes ordered will air in the usual time slot.
“Last Resort” collected some of the season’s best reviews, perhaps for the quirky plot about a renegade nuclear submarine crew which defies government orders to find independence and refuge at a remote island (Hawaii playing remote again).
But viewership, or lack of it, was the bottom-line issue. In its 7 p.m. (8 p.m. Mainland) Thursday slot, it faced tough competition on CBS and a reality show on Fox. Thursday’s episode was the lowest viewed since the drama was launched, though the pilot didn’t post the best figures anyway, but the glide has been consistent since the kick-off. So if you think figures don’t matter, they do — but it’s roughest on the newbie shows.
The shrinking audience for “Hawaii Five-0” on a Monday night might have been a factor in cancellation, too, were it not for the fact that the CBS remake is in season three now, so it’s saved by its junior ranking, not a freshman like “Last Resort.” If it were a freshman show, its fate might have been in jeopardy, too, but “H50” also has a TNT syndication deal sealed — for numbers are important still, but not the prevailing factor.
“Last Resort” had pedigree — its creator is the highly regarded Shawn Ryan (who partnered with Karl Gajdusek), who was best known for the taut and gritty “The Shield.” The cast is darn good, too, headed by Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman, and the scripts have been tight, with both savory and suspect characters vital for the genre.
So what went wrong?
Was it the 13-episode jinx?
Was it the 1.3 demo rating (superstitious yet?) in the most recent outing, witnessed by only 5.8 million viewers before DVR figures were added? (Um, add the two digits, and they amount to 13, gulp).
Can’t blame a lead-in, or lack of one. The slot is the start of primetime viewing, with news and syndicated features preceding it.
It’s a spot the alphabet network has yet to figure out, since “Ugly Betty” completed its run. Subsequent failures include “Charlie’s Angels” and “My Generation.”
Was it bad karma for the prolific Ryan, who had hopes for a decent run, but a wild card in play with a new CBS series — a sequel to “Beverly Hills Cop” — along with a another drama about a U.S. marshal also in development at TNT — that insiders say annoyed ABC execs.
Still, you have to hand it to ABC. It had immense success with “Lost,” which ran six seasons with the Island backdrop — and no doubt wanted to keep the shows coming. A recent series, Shonda Rhimes’ “Off the Map,” also had a dismal and brief four-month run, due to bad ratings. ABC more recently filmed “The River” here, with Hawaii again putting on its remote dress, that pulled stakes after eight episodes earlier this year. This was an oddity — horror, drama, paranormal — which simply played out poorly.
When ABC gave “Last Resort” the hook, it also decided to pull the plug on Sunday’s “666 Park Avenue,” also a freshman show this year, though offering to air the committed 13 episodes.
13 again. 666. Bad omens.
Did you watch “Last Resort”? Will you miss it? Do you care?