It is curious how bad news gets delivered in this country.
Shaw/Global sent out a release Monday that made it sound like a good thing that the only Canadian-produced drama they currently have on the main network–Bomb Girls–had been axed.
“We are pleased to share,” reads their release, “that we will be creating a Bomb Girls two hour TV movie event to premiere winter 2014 which will conclude the rich storylines and the amazing journeys of these beloved characters which have strongly resonated with the show’s loyal fans.”
Translation: congratulations! You’ve been cancelled!
Word of the bombshell announcement was quickly reported in the U.S. and Canada. The series seemed to be doing well, with a recent appearance by guest star Rosie O’Donnell drawing some hype.
A closer look at the ratings, however, indicates Global had reason to believe that the second-year series was already trending down.
Moved to Mondays this season, it drew an overnight, estimated 605,000 viewers April 15, finishing fourth in its timeslot behind The Following on CTV (1,339,000), Murdoch Mysteries on CBC (1,099,000) and 2 Broke Girls on City (1,036,000). The series also finished fourth in the A25-54 demo, closer to Murdoch but well behind timeslot front runner 2 Broke Girls.
Having their Canadian drama beat our Canadian drama probably didn’t help. With so few original scripted Canadian series on Canadian television, its a shame they had to be head-to-head.
What hurt Bomb Girls more was not being able to hold a hefty lead-in audience. The same night, hammocked between Bones (1,541,000) and Hawaii Five-0 (1,252,000), Bomb Girls simply shed too many viewers.
Had the series not been off the air so long between seasons–11 months–things might be different. Season One was a success, drawing close to and sometimes above a million viewers a week. A lot of momentum was lost, but with Bomb Girls originally envisioned as a miniseries, there was little the network could do while production ramped back up unexpectedly for a second season.
Another problem I think was marketing. FX and other U.S. cable networks spend a fortune getting the word out on a series and selling a show with the right poster or image is often seen as a key ingredient. Look at FX’s approach with The Americans, set in 1981, towards the end of the Cold War (above right). A picture says a thousand words and the Soviet era poster hits you like a hammer and sickle, getting across that this show deals with Ruskies in America in a smart and provocative way.
The art for Bomb Girls, for me, never really exploited the iconic, Rosie the Riveter, WWII propaganda poster opportunities the series presented. Instead the images of the four lead women, some saluting, some looking forward, looked like four random “outs” that fell on the floor and were hastily assembled into the show’s key art message. Was it a comedy? A show about sullen, desperate housewives? Where was the war? Why does one woman have a hubcap on her head? It was a mixed message misfire.
The sudden demise of the series unfortunately reinforces the commonly held industry perception that nothing is a sure thing in Canadian television and today’s hit could be tomorrow’s flop. Two of the most chilling words in Canadian television: Combat Hospital.
As there always is, there is a movement to save Bomb Girls with Facebook fan groups already posting petitions and asking folks to lobby Global executives for more seasons (see above). The series has developed a fan following in other countries on ITV, Reelz and Netflix.
TV has never been more of a bottom line business, however, and unless two million Canadians tune in for Monday’s season and, aside from the movie, series finale, consider Bomb Girls detonated.
|Hey Girls–could Murdoch point the way?|
Unless…and this is pure speculation, but didn’t CBC just rescue another rival network series with astonishing success? Could the Murdoch miracle happen twice? Global’s 2014 TV-movie order may be more of a curse than a blessing in terms of traveling this show to another Canadian network. CBC, on the other hand, has no new series offerings on its 2013-14 schedule. Bombs Girls, starring Canada’s recent Best Dramatic Actress “Screenie” Awards winner, Meg Tilly, would give the public broadcaster something new to promote.
CBC head Kirstine Stewart often referred to the Girls at industry gatherings (and on Twitter) as proof Canadians will watch Canadian TV. Global-CBC relations have been competitive and edgy in recent years, but both could look like winners if a way could be found to give a Canadian series with a vocal fan base a new lease on life.