Don’t Touch That Dial
By BILL CARTER, Published: October 29, 2006
IN every television season some new lesson about the American audience is imparted. This season’s lesson was clear within the first weeks of the fall: you can ask people to commit only so many hours to intense, dark, intricately constructed serialized dramas, to sign huge chunks of their lives away to follow every minuscule plot development and character tic both on the air and on Internet sites crowded with similarly addicted fanatics.
Ask for more and you will get what happened to every network this fall. “The Nine” got low numbers. “Vanished” was banished. “Kidnapped” went unransomed. “Smith” was swift-kicked. “Runaway” sounded like a command.
“The message we received was that people have strains on their lives,” said Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment. “People are saying, ‘I’ve got my handful of shows like this, and I don’t want more.’ ”