As you may recall from the mockumentary movie A Mighty Wind, that was the sitcom title and catch phrase for a character played by Fred Willard.
"Every time something would go wrong, I would look at the camera and say, 'Wha' happened?' " Willard's character explained. He lamented that, shockingly, his series lasted only a year.
Well, the unfortunate shows we're talking about today didn't even last that long.
Of the 21 scripted series to debut on major U.S. television networks in the fall of 2012, five have been cancelled already (some still are airing previously completed episodes, but no more are being produced). So let's ask, "Wha' Happened?"
LAST RESORT (ABC, Global)
Surprised it failed? No.
This premise about a rogue submarine essentially going to war with its own country on a point of principle just wasn't sustainable. It should have been a movie, not a TV series.
PARTNERS (CBS, Citytv)
Surprised it failed? Yes.
This show was snuggled securely in the Monday comedy block on CBS, with How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls and Mike & Molly, and success over the long haul seemed assured. But two things occurred. First, the moving of Two and a Half Men to Thursdays negatively impacted the Monday sitcom block more than anticipated. And second, Partners seemed to be a 1999 sitcom trying to make it in 2012. There are gay characters all over TV now; having some doesn't instantly make you notable any more.
666 PARK AVENUE (ABC, Citytv)
Surprised it failed? Yes and no.
My usual lament about spooky shows on network TV is that they never can be scary enough, making cable the home for horror. But this series was pretty damn scary, I have to give it credit for that. So colour me surprised at how attractively frightening the storylines were, but not surprised that this type of programming struggled in ABC's previously coveted Sundays-at-10 p.m. slot. It reaffirms that horror-thriller is a niche market.
MADE IN JERSEY (CBS, Global)
Surprised it failed? Yes.
Well, maybe I should say, I was surprised it failed so quickly. Series lead Janet Montgomery is cute as a button, and it's not as if the "underdog woman trying to make it in a law office" formula hasn't worked before. But consider this anecdote: Early in the fall, in more than one conversation I had with avid TV watchers, Made in Jersey was mistaken for The Mob Doctor, and vice versa. Mob, jersey, get it? The Mob Doctor (Fox, CTV) is doomed, too, even if it hasn't been physically whacked yet. But Made in Jersey is a prime example of a show that truly got lost in the mix.
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