Friday, December 16, 2011

Comparative (f)Analysis #1 "TV Guide Fall Preview"

“TV Guide Fall Previews 1997-2003”

What follows will be an analysis of TV Guide’s predictions for seven seasons of network television. Each year will feature listings for show the magazine chose as highlights and another that were either personal favorites or successes that TV Guide failed to predict. There will be a tally at the end of each year concerning the overall success rate of the magazine’s selections. Successes are defined by shows that lasted more than two seasons. Extended Experiments are shows that lasted only two seasons. Failures are considered selections that lasted a season or less. Successes that TV Guide did not select, however, can be defined as shows that lasted at least two seasons, since they had, by the magazine’s standards, more to prove.

I will state for the record that I still hate the fact that TV Guide is no longer digest-sized. It’s been more than half a decade since the format change, and I have never gone back to being as avid a reader as I once was. That’s half the reason why I still have these Fall TV Preview issues and am still referencing them to this day, because it was an ideal format for the magazine. However, having made this survey, I have discovered some alarming trends I didn’t notice originally. I will save those comments until later. For now, the basic results:


TV Guide Favorites

Featured Naomi Watts, Bruce Greenwood; didn’t last half a season.

“Alright Already”
Lasted one season.

“The Wonderful World of Disney”
Lasted twelve seasons.

“Ally McBeal”
Lasted five seasons.

“George & Leo”
Featured Bob Newhart, Judd Hirsch; lasted one season.

“Michael Hayes”
Featured David Caruso; lasted one season

“Dharma & Greg”
Lasted five seasons.

Featured Fred Savage; lasted two seasons.

“Veronica’s Closet”
Lasted three seasons.

“Nothing Sacred”
Featured Kevin Anderson; lasted one season.

Featured Robert Pastorelli; lasted one season.

“The Gregory Hines Show”
Personal Favorite; lasted one season.

Featured Costas Mandylor, Ice-T; lasted one season.

“The Visitor”
Featured John Corbett; lasted half a season.

Not Favorites

“Brooklyn South”
Lasted one season.

Season tally: 3 successes (“Ally McBeal,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Veronica’s Closet”) 1 long-running variety program (“Wonderful World of Disney”) 1 extended experiment (“Working”)

Accuracy: 3/14 (.214)



TV Guide Favorites

“Fantasy Island”
Featured Malcolm McDowell; lasted half a season.

“That ’70s Show”
Lasted eight seasons.

“The King of Queens”
Lasted nine seasons.

“The Brian Benben Show”
Lasted a few episodes.

“Will & Grace”
Lasted eight seasons.

Lasted four seasons.

“The Hughleys”
Lasted four seasons.

“Maggie Winters”
Featured Faith Ford; lasted one season.

“Seven Days”
Personal favorite; lasted three seasons.

Lasted eight seasons.

Featured Christina Applegate; lasted two seasons.

“Two of a Kind”
Featured the Olsen twins; lasted one season.

“Buddy Faro”
Featured Dennis Farina; lasted half a season.

“Brother’s Keeper”
Featured Justin Cooper; lasted one season.

Not Favorites

“Martial Law”
Lasted two seasons.

“The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeifer”
Personal favorite; highly controversial; did not last long.

“Mercy Point”
Personal favorite; lasted less than half a season.

“Sports Night”
Lasted two seasons.

Personal favorite; lasted one season.

Season tally: 7 successes (“That ’70s Show,” “The King of Queens,” “Will & Grace,” “Felicity,” “The Hughleys,” “Seven Days,” “Charmed”) 1 extended experiment (“Jesse”) 2 glaring omissions (“Sports Night,” “Martial Law”)

Accuracy: 7/14 (.500)



TV Guide Favorites

“Freaks and Geeks”
Lasted one season.

“Malcolm in the Middle”
Lasted seven seasons.

“Law & Order: SVU”

“Once and Again”
Featured Sela Ward, Billy Campbell; lasted three seasons.

Lasted five seasons.

Lasted three seasons.

“The West Wing”
Lasted seven seasons.

Star Illeana Dougas, Jay Mohr; lasted half a season.

“Now and Again”
Featured Eric Close, Dennis Haysbert; lasted one season.

“Harsh Realm”
Featured Terry O’Quinn, D.B. Sweeney; lasted half a season.

Not Favorites

“Third Watch”
Lasted six seasons.

“The Parkers”
Lasted five seasons.

“Family Law”
Lasted three seasons.

“Judging Amy”
Lasted six seasons.


Featured Leslie Bibb, Christopher Gorham; lasted two seasons.

Season Tally: 6 successes (“Malcolm in the Middle,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Once and Again,” “Angel,” “Roswell,” “The West Wing”) 6 glaring omissions (“Third Watch,” “The Parkers,” “Family Law,” “Judging Amy,” “Smackdown,” “Popular”)

Accuracy: 6/10 (.600)



TV Guide Favorites

Personal favorite; lasted four seasons.

Lasted one season.

“Boston Public”
Lasted four seasons.

“Dark Angel”
Personal favorite; lasted two seasons.

Featured Bette Midler; lasted one season.

“Gilmore Girls”
Lasted seven seasons.

“The Fugitive”
Featured Tim Daly, Mykelti Williamson; lasted one season.

Not Favorites

“Yes, Dear”
Lasted six seasons.

Lasted eight seasons.

“The Michael Richards Show”
Personal favorite; lasted half a season.

“Cursed” (“The Weber Show”)
Featured Steven Weber, Chris Elliot; lasted one season.


Season Tally: 3 successes (“Ed,” “Boston Public,” “Gilmore Girls”) 1 extended experiment (“Dark Angel”) 3 glaring omissions (“Yes, Dear,” “Girlfriends,” “CSI”)

Accuracy: 3/7 (.429)



TV Guide Favorites

Personal favorite; lasted five seasons.

Personal favorite; lasted eight seasons.

Lasted one season.

Lasted ten seasons.

Personal favorite; lasted nine seasons.

“Star Trek: Enterprise”
Personal favorite; lasted four seasons.

“The Amazing Race”

“The Bernie Mac Show”
Lasted five seasons.

“The Tick”
Personal favorite; featured Patrick Warburton, Nestor Carbonell; lasted half a season.

“The Ellen Show”
Lasted one season.

“Maybe It’s Me”
Featured Fred Willard; lasted one season.

Not Favorites

“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”
Lasted ten seasons.

“Crossing Jordan”
Lasted six seasons.

“One on One”
Lasted five seasons.

“Bob Patterson”
Personal favorite; featured Jason Alexander; lasted less than half a season.

“The Guardian”
Featured Simon Baker; lasted three seasons.

“According to Jim”
Lasted eight seasons.

“The Agency”
Featured Will Paton, Gil Bellows; lasted two seasons.

Lasted six seasons.

Season Tally: 7 successes (“Alias,” “24,” “Smallville,” “Scrubs,” “Star Trek: Enterprise,” “The Amazing Race,” “The Bernie Mac Show”) 7 glaring omissions (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Crossing Jordan,” “One on One,” “The Guardian,” “According to Jim,” “The Agency,” “Reba”)

Accuracy: 7/11 (.636)



TV Guide Favorites

Personal favorite; lasted two seasons.

“CSI: Miami”

“Life with Bonnie”
Featured Bonnie Hunt; lasted two seasons.

“Birds of Prey”
Lasted half a season.

Lasted one season.

“The Twilight Zone”
Personal favorite; lasted one season.

“Without a Trace”
Lasted seven seasons.

Not Favorites

“American Dreams”
Lasted three seasons.

Lasted four seasons.

“Half and Half”
Lasted four seasons.

“Still Standing”
Lasted four seasons.

“8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter”
Featured Kaley Cuoco, John Ritter; lasted three seasons.

Featured Matthew Fox; lasted half a season.

“Less than Perfect”
Featured Sara Rue, Andy Dick; lasted four seasons.

“John Doe”
Personal favorite; featured Dominic Purcell; lasted one season.

Lasted half a season.

Season Tally: 2 successes (“CSI: Miami,” “Without a Trace”) 2 extended experiments (“Boomtown,” “Life with Bonnie”) 6 glaring omissions (“American Dreams,” “Everwood,” “Half and Half,” “Still Standing,” “8 Simple Rules,” “Less than Perfect”)

Accuracy: 2/7 (.286)



TV Guide Favorites

“The Lyon’s Den”
Featured Rob Lowe, Kyle Chandler; lasted half a season.

“Arrested Development”
Lasted three seasons.

Featured Olivia Wilde, Kevin Anderson; lasted half a season.

“Las Vegas”
Lasted five seasons.

“Two and a Half Men”

“Karen Sisco”
Featured Carla Gugino, Robert Forster; lasted half a season.

“A Minute with Stan Hooper”
Personal favorite; featured Norm McDonald, Fred Willard; lasted half a season.

“Jake 2.0”
Featured Christopher Gorham; lasted one season.

“Steve Harvey’s Big Time”
Lasted two seasons.

“Miss Match”
Featured Alicia Silverstone, Lake Bell; lasted one season.

“Joan of Arcadia”
Personal favorite; lasted two seasons.

“The Handler”
Featured Joe Pantoliano; lasted one season.

Not Favorites

“Cold Case”
Lasted seven seasons.

Lasted three seasons.


“All of Us”
Lasted four seasons.

“I’m with Her”
Personal favorite; featured Teri Polo; lasted one season.

“One Tree Hill”

“Tru Calling”
Featured Eliza Dushku; lasted two seasons.

“Hope & Faith”
Featured Kelly Ripa, Faith Ford; lasted three seasons.

Season Tally: 3 successes (“Arrested Development,” “Las Vegas,” “Two and a Half Men”) 2 extended experiments (“Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” “Joan of Arcadia”) 7 glaring omissions (“Cold Case,” “Eve,” “NCIS,” “All of Us,” “One Tree Hill,” “Tru Calling,” “Hope & Faith”)

Accuracy: 3/12 (.250)


As a whole, success rate breaks down as follows:

2001 (.636)
1999 (.600)
1998 (.500)
2000 (.429)
2002 (.286)
2003 (.250)
1997 (.214)

2001, obviously, is the winner, with TV Guide accurately predicting hit TV shows more than half the time, something accomplished only one other time (1999), while 1998 reached exactly half that mark. These results are somewhat misleading, however, since in both 2001 and 1999, they missed as many shows as they guessed correctly, which is pretty horrible. 1998, then, becomes their most accurate year, when you consider their two omissions (“Martial Law” and “Sports Night”) still didn’t last very long, even though one of them was a critical darling that was missed for years after its cancellation and remains one of the most influential shows in TV history.

There are many instances where TV Guide’s tastes were indeed in-line with actual audiences, but more often than not, the magazine tended to let itself become misled by predilections that were not proven to be accurate, whether in praising shows that lasted for only a few episodes, or rejecting ones that became wildly popular (“CSI,” for instance). In addition, TV Guide presents an alarming impulse to reject programming that would become successful with African American audiences, rejecting nearly all of them, regardless of their actual appeal (“The Hughleys” is a rare exception, but is still atypical). It seems motivated as much by nostalgia as identifying innovative television, and just as often misguidedly rejects anything that may put a fresh twist on a familiar genre, or simply offers a stimulating cast.

It’s admittedly impossible to be a hundred percent accurate, and perhaps a greater analysis might take into account the complete season slate, shows I omitted that didn’t last and therefore might effect a different set of numbers. It’s also extremely difficult to be completely objective, even in hindsight, or to predict how audiences will react to the overall quality of the material (hence why I was as spare as possible). Still, it’s worth considering, especially since TV Guide is an admitted authority. One way it may improve its accuracy would be to place a bigger spotlight on those shows it has deemed to be ahead of the creative curve.

And return to the digest format.

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