From the “San Jose Mercury News”:
The return of adult television
Remember the start of this fall season, when the other networks decided to play the WB’s game and ordered up a batch of new series that tried to emulate WB’s youth-oriented formula?
Well, guess what? The other networks could imitate the WB but they couldn’t beat that network in the 18-to-35 demographic wars. Most of the new series not only were not very good but barely lasted into October.
In particular, Fox really self-destructed with “Ryan Caulfield,” “Harsh Realm” and the good but viewer-impaired “Action” already canceled and “Time of Your Life” on life-support. One of its new WB clone series — “Manchester Prep” — never even got on the air after both conservatives and advertisers criticized its sexual content. (The show had the potential to be the new “Melrose Place” of camp.)
The problem was that the other networks tried to clone the WB’s programming without successfully deconstructing how it worked. While shows such as ABC’s “Wasteland” crashed and burned, the WB churned merrily along and created several new shows — “Angel,” “Roswell” and “Popular” — that were just as good as “Buffy” and “Felicity.”
So what new shows did pull in the big ratings? Adult shows, aimed at the audience well beyond the 18-to-35 age group. CBS had “Family Law,” “Judging Amy” and “Now & Again.” ABC got good ratings from “Once and Again,” the best family drama to come along in quite some time. And NBC had the best: “The West Wing,” which includes sexual entanglements but also deals somewhat realistically with the American political process.