When TNT canceled Men of a Certain Age on July 15 because of low ratings, it set off an uproar among the series’ small but passionate fan base. And those at the network were just as sad to see it go.
“It was a beautiful television program,” says Michael Wright, executive VP and head of programming for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies. “What Ray Romano and Mike Royce and that cast and crew created was really special and it’s painful, and I’m not saying this in a cavalier way; it hurt, we did not want to cancel that show.”
Men of a Certain Age’s cancellation was also disappointing because the series represented a departure from TNT’s classic franchise drama programming, embodied by shows like The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles. But while Men earned a second season to try to improve its Nielsen numbers, it ultimately couldn’t break through with a large enough portion of TNT’s viewership.
“It was a show that rewarded you for sticking with it, but it did not necessarily provide easy access,” Wright says. “On a network like ours, that’s a tough hill to climb. That is not a knock on their show; it just wasn’t as accessible to an audience that expects a certain other kind of programming.”
Men aside, Wright adds that he remains committed to his strategy of giving the TNT audience series that they don’t know they want, in addition to what those at the network call “popcorn” procedurals like this summer’s Franklin & Bash.
And that balance is encouraged partly by the breakout success of TNT’s latest genre show, Falling Skies. The sci-fi drama drew 5.9 million total viewers to its June premiere, making it cable’s top new series launch of the year. TNT has already renewed the series for a second season.
“Falling Skies is a wonderful affirmation of that, and it shows the flexibility of the TNT drama brand,” Wright says. “We had hopes for it, that it would do well, but it performed beyond our expectations.”
As such, Wright says he’ll continue to pilot both franchise procedurals and genre shows each development season. TNT has already ordered its next genre show to series, a remake of the iconic hit Dallas, which will premiere on the network in summer 2012.
And just because Men of a Certain Age didn’t work on the network, Wright says he would still try a similar show on TNT in the future.
“I would love to see us figure out how to do a family drama. The challenge is how to do it in a way that pops in a cluttered TV universe,” he says. “Softer, quieter drama is a difficult thing to get people to schedule, as you saw with Men of a Certain Age.”
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