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BOY, DID I EVER GET THAT WRONG: Two weeks ago, I confidently predicted that Drive, a new show from Fox, was going to be a late-season hit for the network. Yesterday, the network announced that it was taking the keys out of the show’s ignition after barely four episodes, just 10 days after the premiere, and hadn’t decided yet whether to burn off the remaining two episodes in the can or stream them online.
According to a Variety story, the show had underperformed in its lead-in slot before 24 on Monday nights, coming in fifth for the hour, with an average of 5.6 million viewers. The network also seemed to blame Drive for diminishing ratings for 24, and making Fox slip to the fourth-rated network for the night, which may or may not be true – this season of 24 hasn’t been particularly well-received, with a lot of complaints that it peaked too early, and that, in its sixth season, it’s finally collapsing under the weight of its many improbabilities.
This is why I can never win an Oscar pool unless it’s one of those years – increasingly frequent lately – where I don’t like any of the nominations and can be perfectly cynical about what, other than actual quality, will make some film or actor a winner. Frankly, I liked Drive – it was fast and clever, and had just enough mystery at the heart of its story to hint at future, tantalizing twists without wrapping itself in a pea soup fog of pointless complexity like Lost.
In hindsight, I guess it looks like it never stood a chance – late in the season, its target audience is probably feeling a bit worn out from all the other serial dramas (Lost, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, 24) out there, with their cliffhangers, multiple characters and demands that viewers commit to a story arc. Frankly, I’m also the sort of viewer you can never rely on, as long as TV is still a matter of asses in seats in front of TVs at scheduled times – much as I loved the first episode, I’d already decided that I didn’t have the patience to endure weekly installments, and had deferred my gratification until the box set was out. What can I say – I suck.
In my defense, I can only point out that Drive’s tragedy was that it was on Fox, a network that seems happy to cancel any number of new shows, regardless of reviews or budding cult following, as long as it can rely on American Idol to rocket its average viewership to the top of the aggregate ratings. We’re also on the verge of May sweeps week and upfronts, and it looks like Fox was unwilling to take any chances, cutting away what it perceived as dead wood that might diminish their numbers and harm their chances of selling commercial time for next season. So I’m calling it a conspiracy, and leaving it at that – just don’t make the mistake of believing anything I say again.