My friend Aaron Barnhart posted some thoughts on the resignation of ABC programming honcho Steve McPherson. Unlike some, Barnhart thinks McPherson had a solid run at ABC and notes some of successes.
In Aaron's opinion, McPherson's fundamental flaw was he canceled too many series before they had a chance to root.
To me, McPherson’s core flaw was he kept snuffing out series before they had a chance to do much. “Better off Ted” is just the most recent example. Stand up as your show is called: “Pushing Daisies,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Eli Stone,” “Cavemen” (that one was for Itzkoff), “The Nine,” “Invasion” …
I have a lot of respect for Mr. Barnhart. He is, after all, the person who basically told me "Watch The Wire, or be a dope and miss out on perhaps the best show in the history of TV -- the choice is yours." I wound up agreeing with him about that, but here I respectfully disagree.
It could be the scheduling machinations with Better Off Ted are to blame, but, even after awful (not just bad, but AWFUL) ratings, McPherson still renewed Better Off Ted.
Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone were all hit by the WGA strike, but its hard to specifically quantify any role of the strike in those shows' failure. But McPherson still brought all three of those shows back for second seasons, and while they didn't have the horribly awful ratings of Better Off Ted, the ratings for all three shows were typically worse than mediocre. Update: Commenter DonJ1973 notes that Eli Stone wasn't really hit by the WGA strike, it was a mid-season launch in early 2008.
From a ratings perspective, it could be argued in the case of all four of those shows that his flaw wasn't snuffing them out too soon, but not snuffing them out soon enough.