Will Defying Gravity defy low Nielsen ratings expectations?
Update: This post’s title question has now been answered. Resoundingly. No.
I’ve heard it said that this fall’s forthcoming Flash Forward is Grey’s Anatomy meets Lost. What then of this Sunday’s two hour premiere of Defying Gravity? Grey’s Anatomy meets Lost in Space? More like Grey’s Anatomy meets Lost. In space.
I watched the pilot and the second episode that ABC will air back-to-back Sunday night. That it includes a lengthy six year space mission that does some TV broadcasts from the ship back to earth has some comparing it to the pilot of Virtuality. But other than it involving a long space mission I didn’t find the shows similar at all. My expectations for any scripted dramas a broadcast network would deliberately debut in August were incredibly low, so from that standpoint my expectations were certainly exceeded.
But I’ll leave the reviews to the paid professionals. Here’s what Variety had to say:
Defying Gravity” telegraphs its aspirations in terms of commercial longevity — a six-year (God willing) space mission — but otherwise holds its cards close to its spacesuit. Frequently flashing back to build a soap opera around its sci-fi skeleton, this international co-production proves mildly intriguing and looks reasonably handsome but divulges only vague hints regarding its ultimate destination during the two-hour premiere. As a consequence, the storytelling needs to pick up momentum quickly if the show expects an audience to tag along on its planned journey to Venus and beyond.
I mostly agree with that assessment. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. In the pilot they went with more than one “musical montage”, and that had me thinking, “Oh boy…”, but I was relieved they didn’t persist with it in the second episode. It’s Lost-y in the sense that there are a lot of flashbacks and that there are unrevealed mysteries — though it appears the central mystery of the two hour premiere will not be a mystery for long.
But let’s face it, Internet opinions of the show won’t matter. The ratings will.
We can glean a little bit of understanding about what ABC thinks about it just by realizing ABC is premiering the show in August. August! It’s probably fairly cheap for ABC as its internationally co-produced by Fox Television Studios and companies in association with Canada’s CTV.
If ABC really wanted to make a big splash with Defying Gravity, it seems like ABC would’ve aired the premiere behind the premiere (of what will be an 11 episode run) of the 10th anniversary of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
But ABC didn’t do that and Defying Gravity is premiering a week before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Millionaire’s premiere on 8/9 will be followed by the summer premiere of Shark Tank and another episode of Defying Gravity. To ABC’s credit, they are programming several summer Sundays with all-new content.
It’s hard to be optimistic for scripted dramas that debut in the summer and it’s hard to imagine ABC has very high expectations.
But perhaps Defying Gravity will defy the odds, and become ABC’s Flashpoint — both in the sense that it’s a Canadian production and that it lives on for more than one season. Or perhaps not. We’ll know more on Monday morning.