Sometimes just saying something is enough, right? Major League Baseball calls its championship the World Series, despite only representing teams based in North America. Zsa Zsa Gabor’s sketchy husband claims to be a Prince when he merely kicked a soccer ball with some royal kids. As Canadian rapper Drake put it, “I’m the greatest, man, I said that before I knew I was.” Self-definition is a bedrock promise of the American dream.
Old Tom Eliot had it wrong: April isn’t the cruelest month, it’s October. As the final blasts of the shofar fade into memory, television’s brightest hopes find themselves adrift in an unfamiliar landscape, dotted with returning giants and buffeted by the cruel winds of fate, audience indifference, and the dreaded over-run of NFL games. And after a sleepy start, this month the 2011 TV season has finally started to stack bodies like Chris and Snoop let loose in an abandoned tenement. First fell The Playboy Club, the victim of a brutal, boring high-heel to the throat. Then Free Agents was sacked and How to Be a Gentlemanlost its duel at ten paces (and two episodes). At the end of the day on Friday, Charlie’s Angels was mercifully dispatched to the afterlife. It’s unclear what’s more damning to the networks: that all four of these heavily hyped newcomers were knocked off before Halloween or that there most likely won’t be a single soul who misses them. (I’m beset by visions of NBC boss Bob Greenblatt trapped in his office, drowning in an avalanche of mailed-in bunny tails like so many low-rent, porny tribbles. I’d make a joke about similar save-our-show campaigns for the other recently deceased but I honestly can’t think of a single memorable moment from any of them.)
The early going of a baseball season is often slow: Teams need extra time to gel, personalities need to mesh, and scoring is down. The inaugural Grantland Fall TV Cancellation League is no different: two weeks in and action, as well as the pickings, are slim. There is only one out-of-the-box breakout hit — Fox’s The New Girl — and all six of us were smart enough to leave it undrafted. Meanwhile, despite all evidence to the contrary, there are no spectacular disasters, no Lone Stars burning brightly with promise and then incinerating in the heat the hopes and dreams of a million changed channels — although Free Agents is coming tantalizingly close. (Friday-morning update:Drop the Zen schtick, Greenblatt! When a horse — or, say, a bunny — breaks its leg, you don’t stroke your chin, you act! Savagely!) To date, there have been no cancellations, no tepid votes of confidence, no showrunner firings, and no emergency castings of John Stamos. This lack of movement, this uncharacteristic patience on the part of network executives, is reflected in our first scoring update: There are two teams on top and a whole bunch of Seattle Mariners. For 3/4 of the league, the standings are grim — and we don’t mean overall No. 1 pick Grimm, which doesn’t debut for three more weeks.