May sweeps mean best of TV is just ahead
By BILL GOODYKOONTZ
By BILL GOODYKOONTZ
You had me at goodbye.
Television's May sweeps — which began Thursday, continue tonight with a Tom Selleck whodunit and wrap up May 24 with the "Lost" finale (a listing of finale dates for network shows follows) — are alway bittersweet.
Sure, you've got a month of stunts and specials and finales and whatnot designed to reel in viewers so as to set the highest-possible advertising rates.
But since it's the end of the season, you've also got a bunch of shows that, once they go away, stay gone for good.
Sometimes their exit is planned well in advance for maximum hoopla, like the end of the line for "The West Wing," "Will & Grace" and "Malcolm in the Middle."
But sometimes a show twists in the ratings wind, neither renewed nor killed, its fans hoping, perhaps quixotically, that a boost in the May sweeps will save it.
Networks almost never use the word "canceled" — when the fall schedule is announced, the show in question simply doesn't reappear.
That's a long-winded way of saying that if you like "Invasion" or "Out of Practice," among several others, now is an excellent time to start watching them.
And get your friends and relatives to do so as well.
The whole thing is also complicated by the gnawing feeling that networks have already made up their minds about most of these shows, that they're just letting some — "Commander In Chief," which started out so promisingly before a stunning collapse in both creativity and ratings, comes quickly to mind — play out the string before pulling the plug.
Which means that no matter how many people the show can scare up for an episode, Geena Davis is still toast.
To you and me, whether a show stays or goes is a matter of taste, colored with hope and disappointment. To networks, the stakes are bigger. The shows are multimillion-dollar pieces of an even more-expensive puzzle. The executives like to at least try to make the right choice, even if their track record isn't anything to shout about.
Let's help them out. You've got a remote. Use it, and use it wisely.
Here's a look at some dates — finales, events, predictions, etc. on the major networks — to circle on the calendar:
"Jesse Stone: Death In Paradise": 8 tonight on CBS. You don't think of Tom Selleck as a sweeps draw, not since about 1985, but CBS seems to have faith in this tale of a cop investigating a murder.
"Hope & Faith" season finale: 7:30 p.m. on ABC. Kelly Ripa might be whittling her workload down to just Regis after this.
"Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar": 9 p.m. on CBS. Worth it just to compare plastic surgeries.
"What About Brian" season finale: 9 p.m. on ABC — Bet it's not coming back?
"My Name Is Earl" season finale: 7:40 p.m. on NBC. NBC's only legitimate new hit of the season. Roll out the red carpet.
"The Office" season finale: 8:20 p.m. on NBC. No one could have guessed, but thanks in part to its online popularity — and its improved quality — it'll be back.
"Malcolm In the Middle" series finale: 7 p.m. on Fox. It's time — past time, really — for it to end, but this show was a hoot in its glory days.
"The West Wing" series finale: 7 p.m. on NBC. Really, did anyone care about seeing a Santos presidency? The show lives and dies with Bartlet.
"Prison Break" season finale: 7 p.m. on Fox. It's been renewed. But what happens now?
"How I Met Your Mother" season finale: 7:30 p.m. on CBS. Since it's been renewed already, presumably we won't, indeed, find out how. Not yet, anyway.
"Grey's Anatomy" season finale: 8 p.m. on ABC. It's huge. Of course it'll be back. But maybe on a different night.
"Boston Legal" season finale: 8 p.m. on ABC. Say goodnight, Denny Crane. Just a guess, but there you have it.
"Scrubs" season finale: 8 p.m. on NBC. If NBC drops it, there's an excellent chance ABC will pick it up. Sure hope so.
"Invasion" season finale: 9:01 p.m. on ABC. I wish it would be back, but it's seeming more and more unlikely.
"That '70s Show" series finale: 7 p.m. on Fox. Nice run and all, but seriously, how can this thing still be on the air?
"Will & Grace" series finale: 8 p.m. on NBC. Really funny once upon a time. That time passed a while back.
"The O.C.": 8 p.m. on Fox. Oddly enough, despite a dip in ratings and a plummet in quality, it's rumored that this show will be back.
"A Dr. Phil Prime-time Special: Escaping Danger": 7 p.m. on CBS. My suggestion: run.
"Close to Home" season finale: 8 p.m. on CBS. Decent show, but I just don't see another season in it.
"10.5 Apocalypse": 8 p.m. on NBC. If it's anywhere near as laughably bad as the original miniseries, it's must-see viewing.
"24": 7 p.m. on Fox. Kiefer Sutherland just re-upped for three more seasons, so rest easy.
"The New Adventures of Old Christine": 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on CBS. Will the "Seinfeld" curse be broken? Bet she's queen of the castle.
"Alias" series finale: 8 p.m. on ABC. So many twists, so many turns, so many wigs and costume changes.
"Stephen King's Desperation": 7 p.m. on ABC. King used to be kind of a sweeps staple. This was one of his better books. Be curious to see how the gore gets handled.
"House" season finale: 8 p.m. on Fox. In which, I'm guessing, the good doctor is mean to someone. Or everyone. See you in the fall.
"Lost" season finale: 8 p.m. on ABC. If they wanted to really end the season in a representative way, they'd show a repeat.