Monday, July 22, 2013

Flipping Channels: Remember Unforgettable?

Posted by on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 5:09 AM

When a network dominates the ratings the way CBS has (WTVF-5 locally) the past couple of seasons, it enjoys the luxury of so many successful programs — at least in terms of ratings — that it sometimes opts to cancel shows just to make room for newer ones.

That was the case this season with Vegas, a period-piece crime saga that started with a bang, then experienced some creative and pacing problems. Still, it regularly finished in the Top 30 (sometimes the Top 20), and ended the year with better ratings than almost any other new program except Elementary.

But CBS didn't like its older-skewing ratings and ultimately canned it. Another show that met a similar fate, though for different reasons, was the Poppy Montgomery vehicle Unforgettable, which debuted in the fall of the 2011 season.

It was an otherwise routine crime procedural with one intriguing twist: The show's principal character, Carrie Wells (Montgomery), is among a select group of people with hyperthymesia — a real, extremely rare medical condition that produces the ability to remember everything visually.

Wells had been a top cop in Syracuse for five years, but then her sister was murdered, and the investigation never discovered the killer. She finally left the police department and moved to New York City, but was recruited by her former partner Lt. Al Burns (Dylan Walsh) for assistance on what was supposed to be only one case. Their reunion served as the pilot episode, and soon Wells was back on the force full-time.

Over the season's 22 episodes, it turned out that the previous partnership between Wells and Burns extended beyond the professional ranks. That revelation and its aftermath eventually caused the demise of Burns' engagement, and further complications between them.

However, viewers never saw a resolution to that situation. CBS canned Unforgettable in May 2012, despite solid ratings. There was early talk it might continue on either TNT or Lifetime, but CBS then decided the show was too valuable a property to lose.

With the fall schedule already completed, the compromise was to bring Unforgettable back as a 13-episode summer series, with the option for continuing it in subsequent seasons.

Unforgettable returns July 28, moving into The Good Wife's 8 p.m. slot with some changes. Only Montgomery and Walsh remain from the initial cast. Fresh faces include Eliot Delson (Dallas Roberts), the new NYPD Major Cases Section boss; former FBI agent Cherie Rollins-Murray (Tawny Cypress); and technical wizard Jay Lee (James Liao).

Loosely based on J. Robert Lennon's short story "The Rememberer," the show has a famous consultant: actress Marilu Henner, who actually has hyperthymesia. She had a guest spot in one first-season episode as Carrie Wells' aunt.

No one beats CBS when it comes to crafting comfortable, decently acted crime procedurals. Unforgettable will no doubt duplicate its earlier audience levels, and might even flourish in the less competitive summer environment.

Ray Donovan renewed
It didn't take long for Showtime's Ray Donovan to find its niche with both viewers and critics. The series about a West Coast fixer whose life fluctuates between weird clients and even stranger family situations enjoyed the best debut of any Showtime original series in history on June 30 with 1.35 million viewers, topping Homeland's 1.08. The second week, its audience jumped to 2.2 million (impressive for a pay-cable launch).

It hasn't yet hit the heights regularly reached by Dexter, but Showtime rewarded the program this week with a second season renewal. "Ray Donovan is on track to be our biggest Season 1 show ever," Showtime president David Nevins said in a press statement. "(Series creator) Ann Biderman and the extraordinarily talented creative team, coupled with the brilliant ensemble cast led by Liev Schreiber, have produced one of the hottest new drams of the year. We are proud and excited to pick up another season."

Schreiber's Donovan is a fascinating personality, and this show thrives on antiheroes and unconventional (to put it mildly) events. If you ever want to see the difference in terms of what television producers, writers and directors can and will do when free of concerns about FCC content restrictions, watch just one episode of Ray Donovan.

But it's also done with flair and skill, which distinguishes it from the hack jobs you sometimes see on pay-cable that try to elevate inferior writing and acting with nudity and vulgarity. Ray Donovan, at least for the first couple of episodes, has brilliantly blended the profane and the provocative. It airs 9 p.m. Sundays.

Super Dome
There's considerable online buzz regarding the artistic merits (or lack of them) of CBS' summer miniseries Under The Dome. But it is clearly a huge hit. While it hasn't quite achieved the early highs it enjoyed (almost 14 million viewers the first week), it remains the network's most potent seasonal addition.

The July 15 episode (Mondays, WTVF-5, 9 p.m.) attracted 10.8 million total viewers, and gave CBS the night's top program among the 18-49 bunch with 6.7 million viewers. It also helped them take Monday night despite an otherwise dull rerun slate.

ABC and Univision were tied for second, while NBC was fourth, and Fox tied with Telemundo for fifth. For those who love or loathe it, here's more interesting news. There's a better-than-even chance a second season of Under The Dome is coming, although both the network and the producers say they will resolve all story lines during this summer's 13-episode run.

"We've pitched how a second year would unfold," executive producer Neal Baer told TV Guide. "We have many stories under our sleeve. There are 2,000 people who live in Chester's Mill. We won't run out of characters."

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