Since it began four years ago, I’ve had a strong love for ABC’s Ugly Betty. Everything about the show from the very beginning got it right. It was new and different, bright and colorful and always funny.
Now, less than a year after axing other fantastic programs like Pushing Daisies, Life on Mars and Eli Stone, ABC has decided to give the boot to Betty, citing poor ratings. I can’t not weigh in on this.
Though this cancellation comes a no real surprise, I’m still more than a little outraged that it happened. First off, ABC shuffled Betty around so much this season, it was hard to keep track of what night it aired. Ugly Betty was a Thursday staple for its first 3 seasons, where it performed well enough running before their hit Grey’s Anatomy. But last year the decision was made to move Betty to Fridays, or as it’s known in the industry: The Kiss of Death.
Historically, Fridays have never been a big night for television, as most households spend the night out (dates, movie nights, dinners out, etc.) When this move was made, all us Betty fans felt the icy breath of death upon us. But recently, ABC did what all thought would pull the show back into the ratings game: a move to Wednesday night after the new hit Modern Family. There was hope on the horizon, but today, hardly two weeks after the second move, the guillotine dropped before it had a chance.
So here’s my big rant. RATINGS MEAN NOTHING IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET.
This is something most all broadcast networks just cannot get through their cigar smoking heads. Case in point- The CW. It’s a small network that in no way stacks up in the ratings game against the larger opposition, but what they realize is that their audience doesn’t watch TV live. In fact, CW found that most of their viewers come from iTunes downloads and views on their website. So when a powerhouse like Gossip Girl only pulls in just over 1 million viewers, they’re actually doing extremely well.
However, even as Betty pulls in higher ratings than a show like Gossip Girl, because they’re measuring it against other shows on the Big Four, it looks quite abysmal. The problem is that they aren’t accounting for time-shifted, downloaded and internet viewing, which is a HUGE chunk of the Betty demographic.
I know that I personally have watched Betty, not on my DVR, but online (hulu) this season more than I ever have in the past, often marathoning multiple episodes in a single evening.
But ABC isn’t concerned with how many people watch online, because it all comes down to advertising dollars that they feel they aren’t getting from live viewings. They just don’t want to give up on the old business model in a rapidly changing industry.
And you know, I get it. Betty wasn’t what it had been, especially the seasons during and immediately following the writers strike. But Season 4 had finally pulled it back together and was consistently delivering great storylines. It was finally back to where it should have been for the past two years.
All this brings up another point. Over the past year, ABC has brought some gems to the television screen. Pushing Daisies was by far the most original show on network TV in a very very long time. It was fresh, exciting and completely out-of-the-ordinary. It was a show that had a loyal fanbase that, again, didn’t watch the show live. Since its cancellation, I have met so many people who loved the show and all say the same thing, they watched online or on their DVRs. I struggle to think of one person who admitted to sitting down to it every Wednesday at 7.
This happened again around the same time with the American version of Life on Mars. I was completely obsessed with this show and could hardly wait for new episodes every week because of the fantastic mystery surrounding the plot. But the hammer fell and Mars lasted only a season, which had a half-assed finale just to wrap up the loose ends.
What’s next? Will Castle meet its untimely demise as well?
So here we find ourselves, watching another fantastic show, brought to us by a network that gave us the promise of completely new programming so far above that of its competitors, begin its death throes.
Well I’ve had it. ABC has proven that it doesn’t give a fat fuck about its shows and their audiences. They’re happy to shovel more lackluster comedy vehicles to the old folks in their recliners. I’m done with ABC for a very long while, even after I’ve fallen in love with Castle and their remake of V. I’d much rather download them from illegal torrents than do anything that could put a penny in the network’s pockets.
Goodbye, Betty. I loved you with all my heart. And goodbye to you, ABC, you fuck-ups.