‘Boardwalk’ Corners Buzz In Quiet Fall For Scripted Cable Series

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After a sizzling summer that saw the
launch of more than 10 new scripted series,
cable networks will cool off during the fall,
as broadcasters launch their season of new
and returning series.

A handful of original scripted shows and an
off -BBC series are scheduled to launch on cable
over the next three months. But TV critics
say that shows such as FX’s drama series Terriers,
AMC’s horror-tinged Walking Dead, HBO’s
glitzy drama Boardwalk Empire, TBS’s comedy
series Glory Daze and BBC America’s Luther
have a chance to break through the clutter and
become ratings hits, despite debuting in the
teeth of the marketing and promotional onslaught
of the new fall broadcast-TV season
beginning Sept. 20.

“The show I’m being asked about the most
isn’t a network series, its Boardwalk Empire, so
HBO has certainly broken through the clutter,”
said TV Guide senior TV critic Matt Roush. The
epic series from The Sopranos executive producer
Terence Winter and acclaimed film director
Martin Scorsese, which chronicles life
in 1930s Atlantic City, N.J., at the dawn of Prohibition,
will bow Sept. 19 — right in the teeth
of the broadcast-network launches.

Roush is also high on AMC’s zombie thriller
The Walking Dead. The six-episode series
—based on the Image Comics comic book by
Robert Kirkman about life following a zombie
apocalypse — will launch on Halloween
night, which Roush said gives the show a perfect
opportunity to draw viewers outside of
the traditional TV schedule.

Walking Dead is not a mainstream series
at all,” Roush said. “It doesn’t matter when a
show like that airs because it’s just going to be
so weird, different and horrifying to so many
and appealing to others. It’s got cult series
written all over it and it’s going to make a big
noise — it could end up being AMC’s Dexter
or True Blood.”

St. Petersburg Times
media critic Eric
Deggans said FX’s Terriers, which stars Donal
Logue (Damages) and Michael Raymond-
James (True Blood) as an ex-cop and his best
friend who are partners in an unlicensed private-
investigation business, could struggle a
bit, because the crime procedural is the most
similar in format to traditional broadcast-network
shows. Deggans said he thought the early
start date may give Terriers an opportunity
to build an audience before the broadcast onslaught.

And if viewers do tune into Terriers, Melanie
McFarland, TV editor for movie and TV
website IMDB.com, says they’ll be watching
one of the 10 best shows of the fall season.
In fact, Boardwalk Empire, Luther and The
Walking Dead
occupy the top three slots in
McFarland’s “Shows To Watch” list this fall,
ahead of such highly touted broadcast series
as NBC’s The Event, Fox’s Lone Star and CBS’s
Hawaii Five-O.

While unique and niche-targeted cable
series can find success launching during the
fall, Deggans said more mainstream general-
entertainment networks like USA Network,
A&E Network and TNT have chosen
not to compete head to head with the broadcast
networks during the period, even though
both TNT and USA successfully premiered
two series last fall in Men of a Certain Age and
White Collar, respectively.

With those top-rated networks aiming for
the same 18-to-49 and 25-to-54-year-old viewers
as the broadcast networks, Deggans said
they sensibly might not want to introduce new
shows at the same time as their bigger rivals.

Roush, though, believes fall is no longer off
limits for cable networks and new series. “Depending
on the show, there really isn’t any off
time for a cable network with an established
brand, a strong following and good sense of
who they are these networks to launch new
shows. I don’t think that they are scared of the
fall like they would have been before.”