And school, apparently, is the last thing viewers wanted to see on Fox this summer. After just two weeks struggling to compete with the voyeuristic fetishes across the dial on CBS' Big Brother, Fox has expelled its critically lauded reality drama-turned-ratings dud, American High. The show, which averaged a meager 3.5 million viewers during its brief run, will be replaced starting Wednesday with back-to-back episodes of Futurama.
"We are, of course, disappointed," says American High creator R.J. Cutler. Cutler broke the news to the 14 students of Illinois' Highland Park High School, who allowed camera crews to trail them for an entire school year, documenting their lives and logging almost 3,000 hours worth of footage. "This was a very difficult time slot, launching in August and being on Fox, we were in a tough position for a show that needs the slightest bit of patience."
Morgan Moss, one of the show's stars, was a tad less forgiving.
"It really sucks, and I blame it all on Fox," the 18-year-old tells E! Online. "I called it in the very beginning, that Fox wasn't publicizing it enough.
"It's really disappointing," he adds. "All I got were compliments about the show. You don't get paid anything, but you figure, 'at least I got my face on television.' It sounds kind of conceited, but I kinda hoped I'd get commercial out of it, or a spot on Letterman or Leno."
American High ran as two consecutive half-hour episodes, debuting August 2 with stories about kids like the rambunctious Moss, cute, aspiring songwriter Kaytee and scholarship-hunting football kicker Kiwi. Critics singled out the series as one positive offshoot of TV's current reality craze.
But no matter how much critical praise was heaped on the show, viewers stayed away from American High like a nasty chemistry midterm. The series debuted to a dismal 2.9 household rating and 5 share (1.8 rating, 5 share among adults 18-49)--the network's worst numbers in that time slot since Jennifer Love Hewitt's dearly departed clunker Time of Your Life.
The numbers led some to speculate that Fox (and it could be the first time that we've ever said this) wasn't low-brow enough to beat CBS.
"Everybody wanted the show to have a nice long run on its original home," Cutler says. "But we're also incredibly proud of what we've accomplished, and excited about the possibilities that have come in front of us in the last day and a half."
Cutler won't comment on who he's been talking with, but American High could get another shot at passing grades on another network, presumably cable. Fox may even find a nice fit on one of its cable properties, like the FX Network or Fox Family Channel.
Fox Family Channel has a history of rescuing critically acclaimed teen dramas: The network recently acquired NBC's series, Freaks & Geeks and last year aired reruns of the angst-a-licious My So-Called Life. Still others are wondering whether American High's best fit (given its more high-brow feel) could even be on, um, PBS.
Cutler, meanwhile, insists he harbors no ill will toward Fox for its decision.
"I'm sympathetic toward the very difficult position they were in," he says. "With the exception of them canceling the show, they were the ideal network."