The Season 2 premiere of Episodes ended with the cast and crew of Pucks learning that the show's pilot had pulled in boffo ratings despite receiving largely terrible reviews from critics. But last night's episode revealed another key Hollywood truth: in television, success can turn to failure within the span of a single week.
Arriving at the Pucks offices -- Bev in her spiffy new car gifted to her by Matt, Sean in his beat-up vehicle since his male pride restricts him from accepting his star's generous present -- the duo are met by the dismal Nielsen numbers for Pucks' second episode. "Should we be concerned?" Bev asks, only to be answered by a phone call from Carol at the network. "I'm sure you've seen the numbers," she starts out brightly. "I'm just calling to say not to worry. We always expected them to go down in Week 2. It happens every time -- sophomore slump. We're not bothered by it, so don't you be." As she's lying through her teeth, Merc is standing quietly by the office window, practically doubled over in pain thinking about the enormous ratings drop. And, just like that, Pucks has gone from being the network's bright shining star to being an albatross around its neck. They can't pull it because they've got nothing to replace it with and leaving it on the air just means more weeks where it's walloped in the ratings by that infernal talking dog show. "That fucking talking dog," Merc barks. "We had that cocksucking dog, how did we let it go?" Turns out, he rejected the verbose pooch himself in favor of the British show that would become Pucks, which means he's the one to blame for his current plight. And there's no way he's going to fire himself... of course, if things continue to get worse, his bosses in New York will happily do that for him.
TV history is littered with shows that premiered to great ratings only to watch them erode the second week out. Just last season, ABC's Pan Am pilot booked 10.5 million viewers, but the series crashed to Earth in the subsequent weeks. Perhaps one of the most famous cases of sophomore slump was The Famous Teddy Z, a 1989 CBS show starring Jon Cryer as a mailroom flunky who winds up becoming a hotshot talent agent. The pilot received stellar reviews, but the subsequent batch of episodes failed to live up to that promise and the show was cancelled after a single season. Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip also crashed and burned in epic fashion in the span of a week as the dazzling wordplay of the pilot gave way to that amazingly terrible Gilbert & Sullivan number and viewers changed the channel faster than the characters spit out dialogue in the writer's patented walk-and-talks. So take heart, Sean and Bev! Pucks may be doomed, but at least now you can say that you have something in common with an Oscar-winner like Aaron Sorkin.
Truest Hollywood Lines:
"That's it?" "Pretty much." -- Morning introducing Sean to the concept of the one-night Hollywood hook-up, which ends with her sneaking out in the early morning hours with no breakfast.
"People don't give other people cars. No one does that." -- Sean to Matt, not realizing cars are handed out like M&M's in showbiz.
"Page 18. Will anyone know who Rudyard Kipling is?" -- Myra, giving notes to Sean and Bev on their latest script and displaying the limited cultural memory of most studio suits.
"Harry Zim has a cute pilot about a woman who gets divorced and has to move back in with her mother. It's called Not If I Kill You First!." -- Carol trying and failing to make the umpteenth pitch about someone moving back in with their parents sound fresh.
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