The push is on and Push, Nevada is off.
Struggling ABC became the first network to start tossing new shows on the scrap heap (otherwise known in TV land as "hiatus"), ditching the heavily hyped, hidden-treasure mystery created by Ben Affleck's Live Planet company. That Was Then, one of this season's several nostalgia trips, has also got the heave-ho.
The demise of the two hourlong dramas was announced Thursday, a day after the Alphabet announced a full-seaon pick-up of Less Than Perfect (an apt motto for ABC, no?). The half-hour sitcom joins its two fellow new Tuesday night laughers, 8 Simple Rules ... and Life with Bonnie, which got their good stay-and-play news last week.
Push, Nevada registered just 4.4 million viewers last week, nearly a two-thirds drop-off since 12 million tuned in to watch the premiere of the series about IRS man Jim Prufrock on the trail of lost loot. The scenario of the show presented a pesky cancellation problem for the programmers at the Disney-owned network. An interactive tie-in allowed viewers to follow clues scattered through each episode in pursuit of a grand prize in excess of $1 million.
Despite the shrinking ratings for the Twin Peaks-esque show (which actually garnered decent reviews from tube critics), ABC will continue the Thursday night contest-drama series until October 24.
In a statement, ABC president Susan Lyne says, "We want viewers of Push to see the outcome of Prufrock's investigation, and airing it through the seventh episode will give closure to the storyline." Translation: The network had no other choice because legally the prize money must be paid out. So a "master clue" will be inserted in the final episode and revised rules posted on www.abc.com.
It's a different story for That Was Then, which, like Push, was produced by Disney's Touchstone Television. The show, about a 30-year-old who gets a second chance to flashback to high school in the '80s, has been yanked from the schedule immediately after just two episodes in its Friday night slot. While its future is bleak, Lyne says That Was Then was "a good show in a bad time period. We have six remaining episodes that we fully anticipate trying in a different time slot later on."
With scheduling gaps to fill and ratings wounds to stanch, ABC has also shuffled some other shows around. To give network stalwart Drew Carey a kick in the pants, Lyne is moving his ratings-tired half-hours The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway from 8-9 p.m. Mondays to 9-10 p.m Fridays, the slot left bare by That Was Then's demise. The move will become effective November 8, with interim Fridays plugged with endless episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos and, on October 25, Charlie Brown and Winnie-the-Pooh Halloween specials.
ABC had been hoping that a complete schedule overhaul combined with aggressive marketing would help the network rise from last year's ashes. So far, though, ABC is actually losing viewers compared to last season. The networked ranked third last week behind NBC and CBS in the advertiser-favored 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen.
While its newbie dramas have struggled mightily, the Alphabet net's rookie comedies are holding their own. Less Than Perfect, also produced by Touchstone, got picked up because it's been averaging 10 million viewers, a 14 percent improvement in the 9.30 p.m. time slot over last season. It has also maintained a strong portion of the audiences attracted to John Ritter and Bonnie Hunt's sitcoms (yes, both are Touchstone productions) earlier in the evening.
"Through wonderful writing and a stellar cast, led by the incandescent Sara Rue, this funny, charming show has quickly captured the hearts of viewers. With each passing week, our confidence in this new comedy block just continues to grow," Lyne says.
Too bad there are six other days she has to worry about.