It was the kind of anguished, ripped-from-the-soul cry that celebrities release only on Twitter and Emmy-contending Lifetime movies.
"Just found out #Romantically Challenged was canceled through Twitter," tweeted star Alyssa Milano on Thursday about her humor-challenged ABC sitcom. "How crazy is that s---?"
Pretty crazy, as it turns out. Because somebody from ABC must have reached the hyperventilating star after her tweet was passed along (or "retweeted" as we say in the Twitterverse) about 100 times, including by the Entertainment Weekly writer whose Twitter post originally informed Milano her show might be gone.
"I just spoke to ABC. They say that no decision has been made as of yet," wrote the star in a follow-up tweet, after removing her original message. Now, she's urging fans to call the network and demand the show stay on, which would ruin a pretty good track record with new comedies this season that included Modern Family and The Middle.
What Milano's emotional back-and-forth really revealed was the uncertainty filling the halls of network television, as the big broadcasters prepare to unveil their new fall schedules to the world this week, starting with NBC and Fox on Monday, ABC on Tuesday, CBS on Wednesday and the CW on Thursday. And what everyone wants to know is simple: what survived and what didn't.
NBC's Law & Order also landed on the short end of the speculation stick Thursday, as multiple industry news outlets reported the series was due to be canceled one season shy of earning status as TV's longest-running series. The Peacock Network didn't confirm the news, leading some to wonder if the info was leaked to nudge negotiations, while other unnamed sources insisted talks were ongoing.
By midday Friday, NBC issued a press release confirming it was renewing Law & Order: SVU, picking up a new Law & Order set in Los Angeles (really?) and dropping the mothership L&O after 20 seasons without so much as a Very Special Finale. Way to go, NBC.
This is a balancing act the networks negotiate every year. But at a time when warhorses like Law and Order, Lost and 24 are vanishing, choices become more crucial.
From a selfish standpoint, I'm digging that the networks are following suggestions I laid out back in mid April: NBC canceled Trauma, Mercy, Heroes and Law & Order but kept Chuck; ABC canceled FlashForward and kept V; CBS should dump Miami Medical and keep Medium; and Fox kept Lie to Me and Human Target.
What we've also heard: Fox may be canceling The Wanda Sykes Show and NBC may have passed on a Rockford Files reboot (NBC also announced Friday it picked up a total of 11 new series, including programs starring Jimmy Smits and Kathy Bates). The Hollywood Reporter says ABC has picked up six shows, including Matthew Perry as a sports manager in Mr. Sunshine and Sopranos alum Michael Imperioli as a cop in Detroit 187.
With even American Idol losing audience and renewed competition from cable TV, the networks have never needed good material more. This week's announcements should give us all the first clues on whether they found it.