Wednesday, December 2, 2015


It's been three episodes so it's time to enter CHICAGO MED into The Book of Life. Here are the four paths that a new show can go down:

BUY THE DELI PLATTER AND PAY A SHIVA CALL (stick a fork in it, it's done)
WILL CELEBRATE THEIR B'NAI MITZVAH (will get to 13 on the air)
SET A PLACE AT THE SEDER TABLE (should finish full the season)
SEE YOU AT NEXT YEAR'S KOL NIDRE SERVICE (there's a second season)

Before I pronounce judgement a little housekeeping. I am going to introduce a fifth fate. The networks have figured out a way to cancel a show without cancelling it and that's this notion of "trimming" the order. Trimming is sort of a netherworld between abject failure (Shiva) and playing out a 13 episode order (B'nai Mitzvah). Starting with The next show to be entered into The Book of Life (I believe Superstore) there will be a fifth potential entry LET'S GO TO A BRIS (see what I did there?) which indicates the show is toast but the network is in denial so they snip the order.

OK Chicago Med

This is a business of failure and it's quite difficult for broadcast networks to program 22 or 15 hours of series every week. Over the history of the business there have been forms which can fill up several hours of a schedule so as to minimize the chances of risk. Movie nights (both theatricals and made-for TV movies) would often occupy two or three nights of a schedule. By the mid-90's News Magazines started to supplant movies as a go to vehicle for filling up time slots (by the way I have a cool story about cancelling the NBC Monday Movie....remind me). By the beginning of the new century, reality shows, especially reality competition shows like American Idol could fill up three to four hours a week.

......and then there's the "colonized hit"

Let me spin a yarn for you. I'm at NBC and sometime in the 98-99 season we find out that Dick Wolf, the creator of the wildly successful LAW & ORDER is going to give us another series for the 1999-2000 season. It will be a police procedural and will also take place in New York City. It will be called "Sex Crimes". I love LAW & ORDER and there is a love letter to the show from my late lamented blog among the postings here. We ordered SEX CRIMES to series without a script and there would not be a completed pilot before the upfront in May....but, hey, it's Dick Wolf.

As we were approaching the upfront something happened. We started to hear from our Sales Department that they were having trouble with the title SEX CRIMES. Advertisers were balking and this was going to be a problem. We were coming up with all sorts of alternative titles when one day the SEX CRIMES script arrives. Here were the first two sentences of the script:

In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.

I called up Scott Sassa who was running things at the time and I asked him if he had read the script. He hadn't yet. I read him the first two lines and said "Why are we driving ourselves crazy. Why don't we just call it LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT ?" A colonized hit was born.

CBS has has a lot of luck with colonized hits....CSI and NCIS. These colonized hits reduce the cost of failure on a network schedule. They also create universes which allow for crossovers during sweeps which often boost the ratings for all the shows. They are often mocked by the Television Intelligentsia but they are a valuable asset to a network.

Dick Wolf has made NBC Universal a fortune with the  LAW & ORDER franchise and he's doing it again with his Chicago shows so, regarding CHICAGO MED well duh SEE YOU AT NEXT YEAR'S KOL NIDRE SERVICE.

Next week I'll look back at all the Book of Life postings so far and see how I did.

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