"In a sign that television can be a tougher business than politics, the major U.S. networks have lost two prime-time presidents in a week.
Two days after the acclaimed White House drama "The West Wing" ended its seven-year run on NBC, rival network ABC announced on Tuesday it was pulling the plug on its new series "Commander In Chief," which starred Oscar winner Geena Davis as the nation's first female president. Donald Sutherland co-starred as her political arch enemy.
However, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson left open the possibility of bringing back "Commander" sometime next season in the form of a two-hour TV movie.
The show got off to a promising start in the ratings last fall, then steadily lost ground, even after returning this spring from an 11-week hiatus with a less-competitive time slot and a renewed promotional push.
In its most recent telecast last month, "Commander" averaged a meager 6.5 million viewers, ranking 64th among all prime-time shows that week.
"It's frustrating," ABC's McPherson told reporters in New York at the network's annual "upfront" presentation to advertisers. "Creatively, the show didn't build to where it needed to be."
The final three episodes, which were pulled from ABC's schedule for the duration of the May ratings "sweep," will air on May 31, June 7 and June 14, concluding the series' prime-time run, network executives said."
"ABC Impeaches 'Commander In Chief'
Show pulled for remainder of sweeps; no airdate for remaining episodes
LOS ANGELES -- The Allen administration, which started off with such promise, is coming to a rather ignominious end.
ABC has yanked its freshman drama "Commander In Chief" from the schedule for the rest of May sweeps after the show performed poorly in its new, and exceedingly difficult, Thursday time period. Newsmagazine "Primetime" will take its place at 10 p.m. ET Thursdays for the remaining three weeks of the season.
The pulling of "Commander In Chief" probably spells doom for the show's chances of renewal and puts a cap on a remarkable slide that sent it from sparkly new hit to probable lame duck in eight months. The series began life as the most-watched new show of the fall, and star Geena Davis won a Golden Globe in January for her portrayal of Mackenzie Allen, the first female president. Behind-the-scenes upheaval and a steep ratings decline, however, conspired to bring the show down.
The backstage changes came first, with ABC and Touchstone (both of which are owned by Disney) relieving creator Rod Lurie of his showrunner duties a few weeks into the season after production had fallen behind schedule. Steven Bochco ("NYPD Blue") took over the show, bringing in a number of new writers and adding "Blue" alum Mark-Paul Gosselaar to the cast.
Through November, though, the show was still averaging a robust 15.2 million viewers per week, the best of any new series to that point.
"Commander" was off the air until Jan. 10, and on its return its ratings took a hit thanks largely to the return of "American Idol" on FOX. Three episodes in January averaged about 10.8 million viewers, which isn't all that bad, but the younger viewers that advertisers love were dropping away as well.
Another long hiatus followed, during which Bochco also gave up day-to-day running of the show (though he remains an executive producer) to work on an ABC pilot. Dee Johnson, who had been with the show from the start, became the showrunner.
ABC then moved the show from its Tuesday home to 10 p.m. Thursdays, where it would have to face CBS' powerful "Without a Trace" and NBC's still-solid "ER." Ratings have been meager since the switch -- the three episodes that have aired on Thursday have averaged only about 7.5 million viewers, less than half what the show was doing in the fall.[Note from this blog's editor: see "West Wing"s current ratings]
The network says the final three episodes of the season will likely air during the summer, but no dates have been set."
Other "Commander in Chief" news:
Guest Appearance by Adam Arkin
How to Ruin a TV Show ("Commander in Chief" Exhibit A)
West Wing News Blog's April Fool's Joke:
"Commander in Chief" to Merge With "West Wing"
Commander in Chief Ratings Trouble
West Wing Writer on "Commander in Chief"
Smits/Alda on "Commander in Chief"
IMDB Poll Results
USA Today Comparison
October Review Collection 2
October Review Collection 1
Commander in Chief Follow Up