Top 10 Biggest TV Biz Blunders of the Decade
10. Fox canceling "Family Guy" (and perhaps "Firefly" too)
Axed TV shows usually stay dead, yet two titles canceled by former Fox chief Sandy Grushow in 2002 refused to go quietly. One was Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy," which was moved around the schedule and was even put opposite top-rated hits "Survivor" and "Friends" before getting yanked. After the show's repeats got strong ratings on Adult Swim and netted big DVD sales, the comedy eventually made its way back to broadcast in 2005. "Family Guy" is now Fox's second-highest-rated scripted series and has produced a successful spinoff ("The Cleveland Show"). As for "Firefly," the show lived on as a theatrical movie ("Serenity") and to this day, no TV series cancellation inspires louder fanboy wails.
9. NBC hiring Ben Silverman
If you have a great dentist, you shouldn't assume he can perform heart surgery. If your gardener is fantastic, he isn't necessarily a good hair stylist. You know where we're going with this? Silverman was a fine agent and accomplished dealmaker ("The Office," "Ugly Betty"), but Jeff Zucker falsely assumed Silverman could therefore run NBC and fit with the network's corporate environment. Coming off a devastating writers strike, NBC needed a Gen. Patton. It got Hulk Hogan ("American Gladiators") and KITT ("Knight Rider" remake). The executive Silverman essentially replaced, Kevin Reilly, moved on to Fox, which is having its strongest fall season in years.
8. ABC's overload on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"
After a surpassingly strong summer run in 1999, the U.S. version of the British quiz show exploded during the next season. Emboldened by "Millionaire's" success, which catapulted the ABC to the top of the ratings, executives increased the frequency of the show's airings and dramatically cut back development for the 2000-01 season. Instead, it slotted "Millionaire" four times a week on the fall schedule. "Millionaire" quickly fizzled and by November 2000, ABC had dropped from first to fourth in the ratings and had gaping holes on the schedule. Recovery took years.
7. The casting of Ryan Jenkins
There's been a slew of reality-show blunders over the past decade. But it's pretty tough to beat failing to uncover in a background check the disturbing criminal history of a man cast on a VH1 dating show who ended up murdering his wife. Ryan Jenkins was a contestant on two series produced by 51 Minds Prods., "Megan Wants a Millionaire" and "I Love Money 3" (the latter he supposedly won). Jenkins was then charged with the murder of his spouse and took his own life. The shows were canceled, and the casting process for reality shows is undergoing heightened scrutiny.
6. Dumping Jay Leno from NBC's "The Tonight Show"
Jay's new primetime show is like New Coke: A product nobody wanted replacing a product everybody liked. There are many reasons why NBC moved Leno to 10 p.m. to honor an agreement to give Conan O'Brien "The Tonight Show." But none of the explanations add up to a convincing excuse for ousting a talk show host who dominated his time period every night.