In a story wonderfully headlined "Ratings are the TV serial killers" our friend Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star writes:
“Caprica,” the prequel to “Battlestar Galactica,” is dying on Syfy Friday nights. Just 1.1 million souls are tuning in per episode, about half of “Battlestar’s” audience. FX’s “Damages,” which has won some serious Emmy Awards, is trying to stay north of 1 million viewers.
Well, you say, that’s because I record “Damages” on my DVR. And that is true — “Damages” and “Battlestar” were two of the 10 most time-shifted shows in 2009, according to Nielsen. But the show that led that list — Fox’s “Dollhouse,” a procedural with a serial component — got canceled anyway.
I've written about this meme before, which has been precipitated by Lost's final season. Though I agree there are challenges with serials on TV these days, the problem I have with the articles is they are typically so one-sided.
For a show in its 8th season, 24's ratings really aren't that bad (this is not a comment on the quality show, only on its ratings).
Though I can't think of a single recent success with a heavily serialized drama on the broadcast networks, with cable several quickly spring to mind.
I regularly have been beating the "hold your nose, here are this week's ratings for Caprica and Damages" drum, but I also regularly trumpeted cable's heavily serialized successes like Sons of Anarchy and True Blood. In its fourth season Dexter set ratings records for Showtime. And though its numbers are relatively somewhat meager (due at least in part to only being available in relatively few homes) Starz has had early success with Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
"Serialized dramas make a home on cable" is probably a more accurate meme, but I'll concede that it doesn't make nearly as good of a headline.