TV

Many new fall series are dropping like autumn leaves

David Hornsby, left, and Kevin Dillon were on CBS's short-lived How to Be a Gentleman.
David Hornsby, left, and Kevin Dillon were on CBS's short-lived How to Be a Gentleman.

In November, the leaves are falling from the trees, and the TV networks are shedding shows from their schedules.

This season, CBS is prime time's mighty oak. NBC, on the other hand, feels like a hollow log.

By now, with the World Series past and the holidays fast-approaching, broadcasters have had a chance to assess their new fall series for almost two months.

Some shows are long gone. NBC, despite its struggles, canceled Playboy Club after just three episodes, and made Free Agents true free agents.

Over on supersuccessful CBS, How to Be a Gentleman, whose numbers might have gotten a pass from NBC, was exiled to Saturdays, then dropped entirely.

ABC admitted failure in its attempt to reboot Charlie's Angels, which ended its run last week after 13 episodes. The CW dumped the universally hated H8R.

Here's a network-by-network look at the new season to date, including reassessments of some shows.

CBS

The problem for CBS, if it could be considered a problem, is too much success. So many of its shows are ratings winners (in one of the most recent weeks, 10 of the Top 20 non-sports programs were on CBS) that a series that would be a hit on another network may look weak here.

Don't dismiss CBS as the "geezer network," either. Those 10 shows in the Top 20 were with viewers 18 to 49 years old, those preferred by advertisers. When total viewers are considered, CBS landed 13 shows in the non-sports Top 20.

How to Be a Gentleman, a truly terrible comedy, was an easy cut for CBS, which had Rules of Engagement (8:30 p.m. Thursdays) waiting in the wings. The new 2 Broke Girls (an edgier comedy than CBS usually programs) is an early hit in the Monday night comedy block (8:30 p.m.).

Not every new show has soared for CBS. Leading off Fridays, A Gifted Man (8 p.m.) is struggling, with viewers rejecting the premise of a doctor who talks to his dead ex-wife. Better writing, and better use of the wonderful Margo Martindale, would help.

Person of Interest (9 p.m. Thursdays) has attracted a following and has been picked up for the full season, but it's shockingly dull given its pedigree (J.J. Abrams' shop), and CBS can't like that it has been coming in fourth in its time period.

Unforgettable (10 p.m. Tuesdays) isn't getting much buzz, but the routine procedural is doing well enough in a weak time slot, winning over Body of Proof and Parenthood; it got full-season renewal.

NBC

Poor NBC, which dominated prime time for years, now has only one non-sports show in the Top 20 (The Office). In addition to the two shows already canceled, Harry's Law (9 p.m. Wednesdays) has plunged in the ratings as former fans rejected drastic changes to the cast and premise.

Prime Suspect (10 p.m. Thursdays) has been a disappointment from the start; when the premiere episode was so obnoxious, viewers turned it off midway through. The premise seemed dated, the characters were off-putting, and comparison to the British original was inevitable. Since then, critics who have stuck with the show say it has improved, but viewers stayed away even when NBC loaded the lineup with repeats to encourage sampling.

But not all is lost. After two episodes, Grimm (9 p.m. Fridays) is an early success story and is being promoted as the No. 1 new Friday show. It's also more involving than expected.

NBC has hits, if not runaway ones, in the charming Up All Night (8 p.m. Wednesdays) and grating Whitney (9:30 p.m. Thursdays), both picked up for the full season.

ABC

My happiest surprise of the new season: Once Upon a Time (8 p.m. Sundays) is a hit. I love this fairy-tale-meets-Lost drama, but I thought viewers might dismiss it as silly. Not so. On tough Sunday nights, Once has become a top-rated series for ABC and has been picked up for the full season.

Pan Am (10 p.m. Sundays), a show I want to like more than I actually do, is struggling, and no wonder. The period setting is fun and the characters have potential, but the storytelling (especially the jumps in time) makes it difficult to engage with them. Given a course correction, it could turn around, and ABC might be prepared to be patient. The network just ordered five more scripts, although those episodes won't necessarily be produced.

The drama Revenge (10 p.m. Wednesdays), a suspenseful, soapy guilty pleasure, is building a passionate fan base for ABC, and the dry comedy Suburgatory (8:30 p.m. Wednesdays) is a good fit with The Middle and Modern Family. Both have been picked up for the full season.

ABC also gave Tim Allen's broad Last Man Standing (8 p.m. Tuesdays) a full-season pickup, but viewership for the annoying Man Up! (8:30 p.m. Tuesdays) continues to fall.

FOX

New Girl (9 p.m. Tuesdays) is an official hit, picked up for the full season by Fox, but the adorkableness of Zooey Deschanel is growing thin with some viewers, and ratings have declined week to week. Now it's time for the writers to step up and discover where else they can take the characters.

At best, Steven Spielberg's Terra Nova (8 p.m. Mondays) has to be considered an expensive disappointment. Ratings aren't bad, but only 13 episodes were ordered. Fox will have to crunch numbers to decide whether to go for more.

Fox's big splash this fall, of course, is the singing competition The X Factor (8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays), which is doing very well — but not as well as executive producer Simon Cowell promised.

THE CW

A hit for The CW isn't the same as a hit for other networks, but the witch-themed The Secret Circle (10 p.m. Thursdays) is doing well by CW standards, as is Sarah Michelle Gellar's Ringer (9 p.m. Wednesdays). But Gilmore Girls wannabe Hart of Dixie (9 p.m. Mondays) is shedding viewers by the week.

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