Saturday, November 05, 2005

"Over There" Cancelled After Faltering With Iraq War Weary Public

Lightning does not always seem to strike twice. Stephen Bochco's great "NYPD Blue" came to and end last year, as Bochco sought new creative avenues. "Blind Justice", while a good offering, quickly faltered. But the biggest disappointment to Bochco had to be the decision by FX last week not to renew the excellent Iraq War drama "Over There".

"Over There" had to be one of TV's greatest jewels. It was a wonderfully written, produced and acted program that dealt with the ongoing Iraq War. It was a gritty program, with harsh language, extreme and realistic violence, and shockingly graphic storylines. It was Emmy quality for sure. It started out with a strong 4.1 million viewers in the premier episode, but slowly faltered down to an audience roughly one third of what it once had. What went wrong?

It was an interesting experience watching a weekly war drama based on the ongoing war in Iraq. "Over There" was very realistic and extremely well done. Yet my opinion is despite the excellent quality, much of the public has become weary of the Iraq War on one level, and watching it unfold weekly as entertainment just couldn't hold an audience over the next weeks. Subconsciously, the war is wearing the American public down emotionally, it is not yet years removed like WWI, and even those who love war dramas tended to shut it out emotionally. Watching a young soldier shockingly losing a leg from a roadside bomb in one episode, and the slow recovery was emotionally painful for the audience to watch. It was too realistic of drama. It might have been well done. It provided weeks of a returning story line for a cast character. But it was hard on the viewer to stay drawn to it each week. Other FX programs like "Nip Tuck" where sexuality, personal and medical drama is a big drawing card, seem far more escapist by comparison, and continues to hold up good ratings. "Over There" just seemed too real and painful for many to watch.

And some programs on Cable such as "The Dead Zone", "Kojak", "Monk", "The Closer" and "Wanted" ran their series during the summer months or mainly during the months of network reruns, which gave them the advantage of a season not in direct competition with the prime new shows of the networks, who spend much time on promo ads during other programs to insure a heavy advertiser pleasing audience. "Over There" started during the summer months, by then continued to run head to head with the new prime network programs. This diluted the ratings. Yet another FX program, "Nip Tuck" has been able to buck this trend somewhat, and continues good ratings, so this is not the entire problem with the sagging ratings for viewers for "Over There".

And unlike WWII, characterized by large scale and dramatic battles, the Iraq War is like all slow simmering conflict in the MidEast. While "Over There" tried to speed things up somewhat, it still played out at somewhat the pace of all MidEast conflict. There are no Normandy Beach invasions that would make for a "Saving Private Ryan" in Iraq, only the slow grinding down of the American public will and appetite to accept the Iraq War with the steady drip of American blood through roadside bombs or other fairly random acts of violence.

WWII was heavily compacted in years of extreme violence between 1939-1945. By comparison, MidEast conflict started between Abraham and Hagar in the Old Testament. It resurfaced again in Middle Ages' crusades against Muslim control in Europe. And again resurfaced with the Ottoman Empire up to WWI, and left Britain with control in MidEast areas like Palestine, Egypt and the artificial state of Iraq, created from remnants of defeated Turkey and the old Ottoman Empire, pulling together three ethnic groups, the Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Muslims with nothing in common after a younger Winston Churchill drew up a conquest map in hotel room for British troops to occupy this MidEast region. It's pretty difficult to take such a slowly unwinding area of conflict and make it comparable to the huge and dramatic conflicts in WWII, but "Over There" did a fine job. It deserved far better than the untimely end it came to. It will be greatly missed.


At 11:39 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

I loved this show. I agree that it was indeed one of the hidden jewels of tv. Excellent script, excellent portrayals, and excellent job by a bunch of "unknowns" in pulling it off.


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