Music-Themed TV Series Hit Mixed Notes

Fox on Wednesday (Dec. 14) will launch its music-themed series Star, the latest entry in a genre that so far this year has hit several sour notes.

The series, which takes over the prime time timeslot of Fox’s hit music series Empire, will look to strike a chord with viewers who tuned out of several cable-based music shows this year.

After much fanfare and a second season green light, HBO’s Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger ’70 s executive-produced rock ‘n’ roll drama Vinyl failed to hit with viewers, and was canceled four months after it premiered this past February.

Showtime hoped viewers would dance to the beat of its drama Roadies, which followed the lives of crew members for major performers. But the network canceled the Cameron Crowe-produced show before it opened for a second season.

FX’s Denis Leary-helmed comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll was silenced this past September after two seasons of so-so ratings.

While Empire continues to deliver big ratings for Fox, the task of developing a successful scripted series around the music business is not an exact science, according to Eric Deggans, the media and TV critic for National Public Radio, who is also a musician. While music has broad appeal, Deggans said viewers tend to gravitate to shows that weave music themes into otherwise dramatic, soap opera-esque storylines rather than shows that focus on the nuts and bolts of the music industry itself.

 “I think the way to have a successful show has been shown by Empire and [FX freshman series] Atlanta — you have to figure out ways in which the music is paired with some other attraction so that you get a wide range of viewers,” he said. “When you do feature the music, it has to be strong and authentic.”

Indeed, the Donald Glover-created Atlanta, which focuses on two cousins trying to navigate the ATL’s rap scene, has found an audience. The series’s Sept. 6 premiere drew the network’s second-biggest audience for a series debut, with 3 million viewers. Atlanta has already been renewed for a second season.

CMT is singing the praises of ABC’s cancelled country music-themed Nashville. The cable network will offer an early preview of its season-five premiere on Dec. 15 and  will officially launch the season on Jan. 5.

Star will get its chance to serenade television viewers with the hopes of making beautiful ratings music within a genre that’s delivered mixed results in 2016.

Pictured (from left):Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittany O'Grady, the stars of Fox's new series Star, premiering Dec. 14.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.