The Nielsen Ratings and the Great TV Shows That Were Taken Before Their Time


Veronica Mars Should Still Be On The Air


Once upon a time, Americans would work their daily lives around their television schedules fit, ensuring that classes or meetings weren’t scheduled on the nights their favorite shows aired. In the era of “Must See TV” that lasted into the early-2000’s, the top scripted programs would go on to pull in numbers that, today, would make even American Idol jealous. However, with the emergence of the Internet and Digital Video Recorders over the last six years, the Nielsen Ratings are no longer the telltale signifier of which television programs are being watched on a weekly basis.

With college-aged students able to watch their programs on Hulu, Netflix, or the websites of each broadcast network the following day, they can spend their nights being social, picking up evening work shifts, or finishing assignments in the library. Likewise, since they can now enjoy the luxury of entertainment as they see fit, Adults in their 20s and 30s have found themselves much more inclined to focus on getting ahead in their careers throughout this struggling economy. Furthermore, families can now go to bed earlier, comfortably knowing that their favorite shows will be on their DVR to watch the following evening or weekend. With that in mind, the very 18-49 demographic that advertisers covet are the ones most likely to utilize these new advancements makes this the pop-culture equivalent to a buyer’s market.

The gang at Nolita know things aren’t as they used to be.

The most telling statistic? We currently live in a time where the most successful sitcoms draw less than a 5.0 Nielsen rating and less than 15 million total viewer, numbers that would have resulted in an automatic cancellation 10 years ago. In fact, the only programs that haven’t been as affected by this era of On-Demand programming are sporting events, award shows, and reality-based competitions. Because all of these are longer programs that air live, it negates the idea of digital recording, causing viewers to continue to tune in regularly.

Fox had James Franco, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogan, & Jason Segel?

Unfortunately, while the times have drastically changed, the standard in which a series fate is decided has not. So let’s not consider the various ways in which audiences enjoy their television, let’s overlook the fact that there are currently hundreds of channels available at any given moment, and let’s completely lose the idea that a Nielsen box is a faulty measuring tool. There is no debating that a show’s survival still relies on the ratings it pulls in. Because of this tried-and-true formula, some of the best (and most critically-acclaimed) series have been subject to early and unjust cancellation.

The Tick and Arthur: Yet another Fox mishap.

Over the next few months, along with an upcoming feature on my television award thoughts and predictions and the ongoing “Summer Movie Review” series, I will be doing a series titled “Great TV Shows Taken Before Their Time.” Many of the shows that will be featured were never offered a second season and very few were on-air for more than three years. Among the series featured, in no particular order, will be Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared,Veronica Mars, Party Down, Firefly, The Tick, Arrested Development, Kitchen Confidential, Friday Night Lights, Terriers, Rubicon, and Lights Out.


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