DYNASTY's time-slot and production costs

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Michael Torrance, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. The Holiday Whore

    The Holiday Whore Soap Chat Warrior

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    The thing that does bug me about Dynasty and it's astronomical budgets is that a whole lot of money seemed to be wasted on the silliest things. I think things like Nolan's wardrobe money were a given. That was very much essential to the show. For the most part the sets were there, the established ones, the main ones, like the mansion and the penthouse etc. What I will never understand is why they would spend so much on things like expensive china and crystal that you couldn't really make out on 1980s tv screens. Why would all the flowers have to be real and fresh, on set every day, when they would be so out of focus they literally could have been paper. Why did the cast have real champagne on set for scenes, when most shows used ginger ale? Why must the foot rests of Alexis' penthouse bar stools be 24 carat gold? I couldn't even see the damn foot rests! Why must the throw cushions and drapes be imported raw silk instead of a silk poly? Too much time and money was spent on things that were seen only fleetingly in a blur. While the thing that needed the most time, money and attention was left neglected. Hidden but actually in plain site. The writing and plotting! The problem wasn't really only the pollocks with their terrible daytime soap writing plan. It had to do also with people like Doug Cramer and Spelling. I'm surprised Spelling agreed to most of this money squandering for a "look" as he was notoriously frugal, for want of a better word. Part of what I love about soaps is the creativity of a show being able to fake something convincingly. It's a necessity on a soap, especially a prime time one. Show's like ABC's later, recent-ish soap Revenge were brilliant at that kind of fakery. The art on the walls was fake or cheap prints, the set decorator said you can frame anything in a massive frame sprayed gold and it looks like a masterpiece. All the ornaments and tchotchkes that dressed the sets either came from discount stores, thrift stores or were flee market finds revamped. The flowers fake, the champagne fake, but it all looked expensive, it all felt expensive. TV is 2 dimensional. We are not all actually standing on the set with the actors. The fakery and the make believe of it all is part of the appeal, and part of the art of the medium. Going right back to theatre, then to old movies, even the golden age of Hollywood. You have to fake it to make it.
    They spent so much money on things you could hardly see or that didn't even look that great.
     
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  2. The Holiday Whore

    The Holiday Whore Soap Chat Warrior

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    That is interesting that the other successful soaps were all on the same network. Something I never really thought about until now. DYNASTY was sort of an outsider.
     
  3. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Actually Bochco had no track record with sitcoms, and aside from Hooperman which was cancelled in its second season, he also had one of the most high-profile flops of a sitcom of all time with Cop Rock. Even Doogie Howser, his only sitcom that lasted four seasons, was not a success, ranking between a #28 and #24. So an unproven new show or a show still in the top #20 by the end of the 86-87 season (#14)?

    I think the issue is more this:

    I think Bochco was the kind of brand name ABC wanted to develop, thus they rewarded him with a cushier time-slot. But to move a show to a worse time slot for the 87-88 season without a lead-in and then accuse it of losing more of its audience in that time-slot (with the new show doing worse after all than its replacement) is disingenuous. Aka, ABC.

    DYNASTY's rise to #1 was inexplicable considering the quality of the show at the time. It was just more and more people catching up with the show and its maelstrom of publicity and making it a fad (not unlike Game of Thrones buzz, whose earlier seasons were the strongest ones, though of course the later ones are nowhere as horrendous as DYNASTY's). But those who rise in the PR bubble, die by its bursting: when the tabloids and ET tonight and what not had their "Moldavia is a lousy outcome, DYNASTY is out," self-recycling mantra going, those going for the current water cooler show left in droves. I think it was amazing that with everything that had happened in 6A (Rita, Joel, Galen) to keep pushing viewers away, the show was able to make a comeback and finish the season at a #7 ranking. So I don't know that it was officially a two-year drop.

    The real disaster was the following year: when I look at the 86-87 season, I do see bigger problems, because besides the awful 7B/Sarah Curtis mess, even 7A is highly problematic. Culhane, the recast Amanda, the way Ben and Caress are underutilized, and on and on. But these are quality problems, and ABC never cared about the bad quality before...
     
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  4. Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

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    And all were Lorimar except DYNASTY.
     
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  5. Angel Gabriel

    Angel Gabriel Soap Chat Addict

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    As if they were trying to convince themselves of the show's glamour and not the viewers.

    I did however begin to notice some details in the pristine restored episodes (especially the 1080p HD ones) that I hadn't seen before. Obviously, that couldn't have had an impact on 1980s TV sets.

    I thought one of the silliest was when they reshot a scene because Blake was holding the wrong car keys.

    I do believe that perverted attention to unnecessary detail went out the window in latter years. For instance, in seasons 6-9, a number of the outfits are recycled from past seasons. How embarrassing when a Dynasty diva gets to wear an outfit previously worn by someone on The Colbys.

    It's easy to be smart in hindsight and say his comedies failed. But, in the spring of 1987 there hadn't been any Cop Rock or Doogie to judge his performance by. He was a hot producer with a hot new show which had a hot star attached to it. Which made it less "unproven" than any other new show.

    Trying out new shows is a necessity and the only way to find that next hot thing. Most of the new shows are expected to fail. But that doesn't mean you don't try and keep a declining line-up intact.

    By the way, 'Hooperman' wasn't actually a typical 1980s sitcom. The reviewers at the time referred to it as a 'dramcom'. I'd say it was a precursor of today's single camera comedies with no laugh track.

    The season finale always gets stronger ratings. Especially these crazy 80s cliffhangers. But Dynasty actually ranked 25th for the season. And that's only 2 years after being the #1 show in America.

    Clearly, the bloom was off the rose. The show was dropping like a rock and it was going to do even worse the following year, so a move to 10pm was really very logical. Especially since there was an even weaker show at 10pm that needed to go. Sliding a still somewhat potent Dynasty to improve the 10pm ratings is what most network schedulers would do.

    They had three choices:

    a) keep the night intact (clearly unacceptable, they needed to do something)
    b) move Hotel, but keep Dynasty at 9 and launch a new drama at 10 (not the best option as a declining Dynasty could no longer provide a solid lead-in)
    c) slide Dynasty to the same timeslot where it previously managed to grow into a top-5 show and build a new comedy night before it

    Obviously the last option was the best.

    And yet in recent years ABC was the network that became firmly established on the market with its lineup of soaps (Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Ugly Betty, Revenge, Nashville, etc.) and CBS became a crime procedural network on which every (rare) attempt to launch a soapy show failed (Cane, Swingtown). Of course, ABC is moving away from that and the soapiest now is probably The CW (on a couple of nights).
     
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  6. colbyco

    colbyco Soap Chat Active Member

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    - So Spelling had to pay money for license fee or the other way round?
     
  7. Angel Gabriel

    Angel Gabriel Soap Chat Addict

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    The other way around. Spelling was producing the show. He owned it, not ABC. ABC simply bought the rights from his company to air the show. It's like renting the show from him. Then they made money from advertising. And that ad income naturally went to ABC, not Spelling.

    Spelling, on the other hand, made money by selling the show to ABC and then other TV networks / channels (internationally or US cable). And of course Dynasty-related merchandising (still a lucrative business as late as 1988) also went to Spelling / the Shapiros.

    That's why it's not possible to simplistically say this was Dynasty's budget and that was the income. Each side had its own cost vs. income situation.

    If the show does very well in the ratings the studio can renegotiate the deal and get a higher license fee (because the network is making a lot of money from advertising, so they can afford it). On the other hand, when the ratings go down, the network can push the studio to accept a lower license fee (they can threaten with cancelation).

    By the way, Spelling's titles are owned by CBS/Paramount now. That's why the 2006 reunion aired on CBS, the Dynasty DVDs were released by CBS/Paramount and the new Dynasty airs on the CW (a sister network of CBS) and ABC has nothing to do with any of it.
     
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  8. colbyco

    colbyco Soap Chat Active Member

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    THANKS --- But ABC had to pay only the half of the production costs?
     
  9. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I'll repeat my point: "Actually Bochco had no track record with sitcoms." That was true even then, with no hindsight. I don't see how Bochco's history with Hill Street Blues or Ritter's success in another sitcom made the show less "unproven." It was still a wild card, an untested show over a top #15 one at the time of the shift.

    Except, it wasn't dropping like a rock. The episode before the cliffhanger ("The Affair") was at #14. The one before that("The Confession") , was at #13. The #14 finish for "Shadow Play" was not because of audience interest in the cliffhanger. As soon as that awful Sarah Curtis plot was over and the show focused more on the drama of some core characters (Adam's identity, Ben's daughter and the identity of Clay) there was renewed viewer interest. The lower overall ranking for the season was because of the lousy stories before these episodes, but the spike in ratings showed there was still an audience to make the show a top #15 hit if somebody with some sense in them took the reigns AND if they did not switch its timeslot. As soon as it switched in the next season, it went to #29--clearly there was no audience interest in the cliffhanger follow-up, though the cliffhanger was quite a twist with Matthew's appearance. It would have served ABC better to insist that Spelling put someone in charge who would deliver on the show's still existing audience potential. If Paulsen or someone else was in charge for 87-88, and the show was in its old slot, it probably would have had a less abrupt and ratings-bottom ending than it did.

    I almost wonder if that is a real story or a leaked one by the producing team to brag about their attention to detail--to these details, rather than the plot or character ones.
     
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  10. Angel Gabriel

    Angel Gabriel Soap Chat Addict

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    All new shows are wild cards. But Steven Bochco was television royalty (like Shonda Rhimes or Dick Wolf today) and his shows were treated as such. And 'Hooperman' had very positive pre-premiere buzz, the reviews dubbing it 'the most promising new show of the season.'

    A month after 'Hooperman' premiered The Washington Post wrote:

    "Steve Bochco, the genius who developed "Hill Street Blues" and "L.A. Law" for NBC and has now created "Hooperman," one of the few new hits ABC has seen in recent seasons, is reportedly close to signing a long-term deal with ABC to develop 10 series over the next six years …"

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/arch...bf8-b3c2-f74d6a9f4f8e/?utm_term=.205aac5d59f1

    A hot new show from Steven Bochco was always going to get preferential treatment over the 8th season of a fast-fading soap opera.

    Yes, it was. The show's constant yo-yo trajectory notwithstanding. The overall ratings were dropping like a rock.

    You are focused on the rankings. And they can be misleading, because they tell you how the show compared to the other shows that happened to air that particular week. Obviously it's better if the show is 15th as opposed to 75th. But, a show can drop in the ratings and go up in the rankings if competition is taking a week or two off. The best way to judge its performance is to look at the ratings and the number of households that tuned in. The actual audience.

    Let's just look at the season finales (in households) between 1985 and 1987, which are some of the highest rated episodes during this period:

    529 - 22.0 million (May 85)
    630 - 18.8 million (May 86)
    728 - 15.4 million (May 87)

    The most watched episode during this period (and the entire series) was the season 6 premiere with 24.1 million households. If that's not dropping like a rock between fall 1985 and spring 1987, I don't know what is.

    Yes, the brilliant last few episodes of season 7 with its motorcycles and hot dogs and a tacked-on South American gang. Common now. Do you really think that's what gave the show a small bump towards the end? There was also a marked increase in March while Sarah Curtis was front and center with the stupid kidnapping story. The ratings were going up and down all the time, but the overall trajectory was negative as evident in that 40% drop within a year and a half.

    See, your ranking makes the drop sound more dramatic. Actually, the season 8 premiere scored 14.6 million households, not that far off the May cliffhanger (15.4 million).

    There was nothing wrong with the Wednesday at 10 timeslot. In fact the show scored some of its highest ratings at 10pm. The season 3 finale in the spring of 1983 scored 22.7 million households, more than the Moldavian massacre finale. The hospital wedding between Alexis and Cecil Colby scored 21.5 million households, etc. All that 10pm.

    When the show was hot it was able to deliver strong ratings regardless of the timeslot.
     
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  11. GillesDenver

    GillesDenver Soap Chat Fan

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    "Magnum P.I." was in worst position than "Dynasty" and yet in the 1987-1988's season it was still broadcasted at 9 pm.
     
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  12. Angel Gabriel

    Angel Gabriel Soap Chat Addict

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    I don't know what the exact agreement between ABC and Spelling was in this case, if it was exactly 50% or another figure, but that's how it normally works. The license fee the network pays to the production studio for rights to air a program at least twice within 2 years is always less than the production budget.

    ABC was certainly not going to pay the full production cost. That'd be fantastic business for Spelling if they did, lol.

    The production studio (in this case Spelling) always produces the show at a financial deficit and then makes additional money (to cover the full cost and hopefully in the end make profit) by selling the show to syndication, cable, international, home video, nowadays streaming, etc.

    If a show is canceled quickly, the producer will most likely lose money on it. If a show does well, the producer must first earn enough money to cover the full cost, then to offset his losses from other shows that flopped (like Spelling's Lucille Ball comedy) and only then they start making money. It's a tough business.

    Between 1970 and the 1990s it was actually illegal for networks to own shows. That's why they needed guys like Spelling. The situation today is different, because the laws changed in the 90s. Now networks can own shows and they do it through affiliated production studios. For example, ABC owns 'Revenge' which was produced by their subsidiary ABC Studio. Of course, they still air shows they don't own, for example, ABC's hit comedy "Modern Family" is produced by FOX.
     
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  13. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Well, no, I mentioned rankings of the last few episodes after you said that the cliffhanger was a fluke, and that Dynasty ranked #25 for the season, but that is not looking at where the show ended its run with its last few episodes.

    If they are, as you say, such outliers, why focus on them? I don't disagree that DYNASTY had lost a lot of its audience, but it still had a core audience that could have kept it going for longer than it did. The new time slot, and the weaker lead-ins I believe worsened the situation.

    I don't disagree that DYNASTY was not the strong show it used to be. My initial post stated that given how season 8 was not worse than before (and in many ways was improved as it had a season long arc after many years again) "the ratings decline may have something to do with the slot also. CBS knew not to mess with the Dallas slot these years." But also, that Wednesday 10 p.m timeslot used to have hour-long dramas, not sitcoms.

    Amazingly, that "new hit" was cancelled the next year so I think some PR writers were better than his own sitcom writers. I don't discount how good Bochco was in dramas. But he never delivered a sitcom as strong as them. But yes, ABC wanted to promote him any way possible.
     
  14. Angel Gabriel

    Angel Gabriel Soap Chat Addict

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    Obviously, I only mentioned the 86/87 ranking after you used the show's misleading end-of-season ranking to question the network's decision to move it to 10pm. The massive overall audience bleeding between September 1985 and May 1987 (best shown in the actual ratings) is what mattered (indicating future downward trend), not wherever the latest of the many fluctuations stood.

    Because you compare apples to apples and that comparison still shows you the massive downward trend between seasons. I could've chosen the lowest rated episodes of each season and again they would've shown the massive drop between the seasons:

    528 - 18.60 mil
    613 - 15.20 mil
    720 - 11.98 mil

    Again, if the timeslot was good enough for the show in 1983 to beat many of its later 9.00pm airings including the wedding massacre, it should be good enough for it in 1987, too.

    And, at the end of the day, it actually was. Of course, the show continued to go up and down like a yo-yo, but it opened the season with 14.6 households and ended the season with 14.3 million households in March 1988. Neither figure much off the May 87 finale. The massive bleeding from 85-87 had abated.

    But CBS had Falcon Crest at 10pm. Hotel on the other hand had to go. Was ABC supposed to put a new drama behind an aging Dynasty? Besides, after they canceled Falcon Crest, what did CBS do? They did exactly the same thing - immediately moved Dallas to 10pm to make way for a new 9pm show in the fall of 1990. The new show flopped, so they put Dallas back at 9pm for its final episodes in early 1991. Hooperman however did well enough for ABC to keep it on Wednesdays at 9pm.

    I'm sure we would all be perfect schedulers with that addictive luxury of hindsight you've been using extensively to mock the performance of 'Hooperman'. But we're in the spring of 1987 here (when the scheduling decision was made) or fall (when the figures came in and the above-linked Washington Post article you dismissed as PR was written) and 'Hooperman' a) did have strong pre-premiere buzz and b) did initially do very well for a hits-starved network stuck in the last place.

    From a late September 1987 ratings report:

    HOOPERMAN IS A HIT - The premiere of the half-hour series that received the best reviews of the season, ABC's Hooperman, hauled in a whopping 35 share in its Sept. 23 debut, and was ranked 10th for the week. The "Slap" Maxwell Story, which follows it, was in 18th place. That's great news for ABC, particularly since Hooperman didn't drop off substantially last week (precise figures aren't yet available).

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1987-10-06-8703200953-story.html

    Yes, the show got canceled after 2 seasons in 1989, but that doesn't invalidate ABC's spring 1987 decision to move a quickly fading Dynasty to 10pm over Bochco's buzzworthy 'Hooperman'.

    But timeslot change is one of the most common fan excuses. We had been through that on the TNT's DALLAS board constantly.
     
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  15. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    If you do compare apples to apples, you will understand that lead-ins matter, and the timeslot was not the same in early 80s with hour-long dramas before vs. with sitcoms later. If they needed to put a new show before Dynasty, it could at least have been something not so obviously different in genre.

    Even though its actual ratings (not rankings, which you don't like) were lower than DYNASTY's previously. And CBS only moved Dallas close to the end of its run as you state.

    If cliffhangers are outliers, first few episodes are even bigger outliers. The show did not end up becoming a ratings hit. No, I am not suggesting that ABC could have known that with knowledge of the future as you keep mocking, but I also don't think moving a show that was two years ago your only hit and putting a sitcom from someone who is known for dramas only makes much sense either. And that WAS known at the time. You seem intent on justifying the decision no matter what, so I don't think anything I say will make a difference.

    One is a cable show in 2012, the other a network show in 1987, but sure it makes for a nice hasty generalization, so why not throw it in.
     
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  16. GillesDenver

    GillesDenver Soap Chat Fan

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    From 1981 to 1983, "Dynasty" had a solid lead-in with "the fall guy" (which was in the top 20 for both seasons), which certainly helped a lot. In 1987-1988 it had sitcoms with terrible ratings.
     
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  17. Angel Gabriel

    Angel Gabriel Soap Chat Addict

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    Veteran shows are not entitled to plum lead-ins, they're supposed to stand on their own and provide a lead-in. If they can't do that, they're moved out of the way.

    As for the genre, as I explained earlier, these were not typical 80s sitcoms with a laugh track. They were essentially half hour dramedies. In terms of genre alignment, they were certainly not further off from Dynasty than The Fall Guy.

    No, it's not about what I like, it's about what best illustrates the tragic fall from grace Dynasty suffered between 601 and 728.

    As did ABC with Dynasty. The show could've easily ended in March 1988, but Spelling agreed to lower the license fee (resulting in lower budget & cast cuts in season 9), they were fighting to keep it on the air since the merchandising business was still bringing in a lot of money for him and the Shapiros.

    Either way, whether that happened 44 or 22 episodes before the final end, the principle was the same - as soon as the 10pm timeslot was vacated, both ABC and CBS slid their weakened 9pm soaps to the later timeslot.

    But I did not post the ratings report to argue that "Hooperman" was a big hit. I acknowledged that the show was canceled after 2 seasons. The report was I response to your suggestion that the earlier story I linked from The Washington Post (from October 1987) was merely a paid PR effort for the show. No, the show did initially do well, but alas it quickly faded.

    That however doesn't invalidate ABC's decision to take a risk. Businesses must always take risks in order to grow. And they will fail 10 times until something they try is a success. Which ABC finally did the following year when 'Roseanne' became a monster hit for them.

    That is merely my opinion and I'm explaining it. I'm not sure what difference there was supposed to be made.

    I selected the Dallas example because it got extensive coverage and very passionate discussions on this board, as anybody who was here between 2012 and 2014 can surely remember. I could have chosen any show from the 80s, 90s, 00s or 10s. It has been a constant. Fans always look for excuses why their show is not working, other than the show itself. Which is understandable since they love the show.

    A popular ratings site referred to it as part of a "Fan Excuse Bingo" filled with such popular items as "The hiatus was too long!," "The competition was too tough!", "The show was preempted too often!," "The show was moved t0 10pm". At the end of the day, they are only excuses.

    Most of us can agree, Dynasty's scripts had deteriorated progressively over the years, with seasons 7 and 8 being (arguably) the worst in quality. It is no accident then, that after the show opened at its record-breaking 24 million households in September 1985 it bottomed out at a mere 11.9 million in the spring of 1987.

    That's what made it drop like a rock, that's what made ABC decide to simply return the show to its original Wednesday night timeslot where it had become a hit in the first place.
     
  18. GillesDenver

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    OK but then why this does not apply to season 9 ? And to a lesser extend to "The Colbys" ?
     
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  19. Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

    Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Soap Chat Oracle

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    Because we should probably say that they're "usually" excuses, as opposed to "only" excuses. Obviously, time slot can make a difference.
     
  20. Tony

    Tony Soap Chat Active Member

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    I tend to agree with Gabriel in this thread as the evidence is in the material.

    Much of the damage to Dynasty’s credibility was done in seasons 6 and 7, because of the Moldavia resolution, the two krystles, the new fake Fallon followed by fake Amanda, the slow repetition of 6A and ponderous too nice 7b.

    Despite upticks in 6B and the middle and latter half of 7, it wasn’t enough to bring back the lost audience as the damage had been done.

    Season 8 was shorter with more cohesion so the core audience stabilised at 10pm but with the Season 9 Thursday time slot it was the death rattle as ABC were determined to kill the show.
     
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