Actors suffer as networks increasingly refuse to pull the plug on low-rated series.
As TV's annual rush to cast pilots kicks into high gear, a troubling theme has developed: the high cost of indecision among executives. In an era of eroding ratings, it has become increasingly unclear which shows will get canceled and which will live on. Does the 1.2 demo rating averaged by CBS' A Gifted Man mean it will get the hook? Is Terra Nova's 2.5 enough to survive on Fox? How about Fringe's 1? Or CSI: NY's 1.5 on CBS? Bearing the brunt of the networks' unwillingness to decide the fate of that ballooning class of bubble shows are the series' casts, who by and large have had to sit and watch projects go by this pilot season.
A current show "will really need to have nails in the coffin for networks to take a chance [on a second-position actor]," gripes one agent, referring to the practice of casting a role with the knowledge that the star might become unavailable if his or her show is renewed. Of course, as another notes, what qualifies as "nail in the coffin" is no longer so clear, given the ratings free fall in recent years.
Among the few exceptions: NBC's The Firm, currently being burned off on Saturday nights, and ABC's Pan Am, whose co-star Mike Vogel was cast in Fox's Rob McElhenney comedy pilot. Vogel's co-star Karine Vanasse is said to have put herself on the market in recent weeks. Still, casting her is a bit of a gamble if ABC decides to bring back the airline drama.