‘Whiskey Cavalier’ Proves Network TV Isn’t Yet Ready to Try New Things

Look, I unapologetically love Whiskey Cavalier. It’s a fun, light show that leans heavily on tropes and delivers fun, feel-good entertainment every week, while still managing to touch on important topics, present a diverse team and make us feel like these people are actual human beings with feelings and issues and opportunities to grow.

So, of course, Whiskey Cavalier was cancelled by ABC. Worst of all, it was cancelled at the last moment, and it touted as a “really hard decision,” with the network finally choosing to go with an in-studio Pilot to fill that spot.

And no, I’m not shocked. I can’t even say I’m angry, either. This is the way TV, network TV in particular, has been going for a while. But I am sad, and sad me turns reflective, so that’s what I’m going to attempt to do today: reflect, not just on Whiskey Cavalier, but on the state of network TV and why it increasingly seems like they just aren’t here to bet on anything even remotely different.

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Not that Whiskey Cavalier was trying to re-invent the wheel, no. But it was very clearly trying to do something different within a genre that has seen remake after remake after remake. It was never a straight shooter, but it wasn’t really a parody either. It just …was, and it balanced that middle ground with a hell of a lot of heart and tons of chemistry between a really diverse cast.

This, of course, brings me back to something I discussed a while back (it seems every year we’re lamenting a cancellation that shouldn’t have happened) about diverse shows being the first to get axed. It happened to Pitch, it happened to Timeless, and it happened to One Day At A Time. Network TV says it wants shows that tell different stories, that center diverse actors, but then it never really gives those shows the benefit of …well, of common sense.

I’m really not even asking for more. Oh, the ratings for Whiskey Cavalier were nothing to write home about, you’ll say, and I’ll point out to the fact that this was a romance-heavy show with a super light tone and a procedural style airing at 10PM on Wednesdays after a block of comedies. Set it up to succeed ABC did not.

angry tyler james williams GIF by ABC Network

And that’s without even going into the reality that NO ONE WATCHES TV LIVE ANYMORE, much less at 10PM. Even Game of Thrones, a darker show than anything on network TV, airs at 9PM, because that’s about as late as people want to stay these days to watch live TV, and even that would be pushing it for a lot of things not-Game of Thrones.

There’s, after all, no reason to stay up late, not in the age of DVR and binge-watching.

Whiskey Cavalier’s delayed numbers weren’t just decent, they were pretty damn great too, which proves that people were indeed interested, they just weren’t – aren’t, in general, interested in watching anything at 10PM on Wednesday nights.

lauren cohan fist bump GIF by ABC Network

The easier conclusion to be reached here would be that people only want medical and cop dramas, but the truth of the fact is that, even those medical and cop dramas doing well on TV today do well because there’s something behind them, a plan, the right time slot, a hell of a lot of promotion, or maybe, in cases like Grey’s Anatomy, a level of loyalty that comes from the days when we watched TV a different way.

So, what do people want these days? Certainty. We want to know a show is going to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and we preferably would like to be able to consume all of those whenever we choose to, even if that means we don’t move from the couch for an entire weekend.

Well, that, and we want to go to bed early. Netflix hasn’t just changed the way we consume entertainment, it has also changed our sense of immediacy. Unless it’s something huge, something someone is likely to spoil for us if we don’t watch right away, we can just wait till we can consume a season in one go.

whiskey cavalier GIF by ABC Network

In fact, we rather prefer it that way. Less suffering.

All of this means that Whiskey Cavalier wasn’t the problem; the problem was what ABC – and network TV in general – expects of their shows. Things are likely to change soon, with each and every network introducing their own streaming service, but for now, we continue to lose shows that deserved so much more.

Pitch.

Timeless.

Sweet/Vicious.

Whiskey Cavalier.

How much is too much? Where does it end? And how long will viewers continue to give networks the benefit of the doubt?

The answer is clearly not that long. Ball’s in your court, network TV. Time to wise up.

Whiskey Cavalier airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC. The season/series finale airs tonight.



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