So, after only four low-rated episodes, NBC has said enough is enough for "Cold Feet," the weak comic soap opera that took the 10 p.m. Friday timeslot previously held by the long-running, acclaimed "Homicide: Life on the Street."
Originally envisioned as an evening "companion" series for the lightweight but relatively successful "Providence," "Cold Feet" was supposed to make NBC Friday nights a more "friendly" overall package and a ratings winner. If "Providence" was a hit, then so might be "Cold Feet," right?
One must of course question the wisdom of cramming "Dateline NBC" between two hours that are supposed to constitute a distinctive tone (If you're going for consistency for the night, why not run "Dateline" at 8 p.m. followed by the two hours of fluff?), but that's not the real problem here. The problem is that, given the current level of competition, there are simply going to be shows that aren't highly rated; there just aren't enough viewers out there for every timeslot to be a winner.
By expecting some vague, unknowable audience to go along with "Cold Feet," NBC knocked off "Homicide" — but did they ask if perhaps the timeslot was the larger struggle, and not the show? (Personally, I had often wondered how "Homicide" would perform Wednesdays at 9 p.m., as a lead-in to "Law & Order.") Unfortunately for "Cold Feet" and NBC, audiences didn't bite; maybe we're not as stupid as networks think we are. Maybe predicted demographics aren't everything they're cracked up to be.
But now, more than ever, NBC's decision to cancel "Homicide" seems ill-advised. True, "Homicide" wasn't a highly rated show and consistently finished behind its competition. But it had a loyal fan base and a reasonable viewership in a tough timeslot — not to mention the long-standing critical acclaim and overall storytelling quality that is rare for a network series.
Of course, hindsight it 20/20. If "Cold Feet" had been as successful as "Providence," NBC execs might've been looking like marketing geniuses right now. Look no further than UPN, where mindless entertainment in "WWF Smackdown!" has basically saved the struggling network and for all practical purposes has replaced "Star Trek: Voyager" as the flagship program. That success, however, didn't happen for NBC's 10 p.m. Friday slot, and now we must ask if pulling the plug on an established, reasonably rated, high-quality veteran television series was really worth the gamble on an hour of superficial dreck that was all concept and little, if any, content. (There's also the cold comfort that, as of this moment, the bottom line for viewers is that "Homicide" has been canceled for reruns of "Law & Order.")
Sure, "Homicide" was in its waning years, coming off an uneven seventh season. But there was still a good year or two of life left in the show. Alas, network impatience and the axioms that Money Is Everything and Demographics Are Key may have prompted NBC to pull the trigger prematurely when it murdered "Homicide" back in May.
In any case, back to the drawing board.