Just what did in the WB’s ‘Just Legal’
Drama skewed much older than its audience
October 7, 2005
The WB’s Just Legal was an experiment, a test to see if the WB could lure viewers who regularly watch lawyer dramas on the Big Four networks. It was an utter failure.
Yesterday Legal became the season’s second casualty, following Fox’s Head Cases two weeks ago. The WB canceled the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced show after just three outings in which it averaged a 0.9 among the network’s target 12-34 audience, ranking 112th out of 119 shows.
It was the fourth-lowest-rated new show among households behind only Head Cases, the WB’s Twins and UPN’s Sex, Love and Secrets.
A WB spokesperson told Media Life late yesterday that the network has not decided what will permanently replace Legal in the Monday 9 p.m. timeslot. A repeat of new Wednesday drama Related will air there this week.
The biggest problem with Legal wasn’t necessarily its execution but rather its conception. The show starred Miami Vice veteran Don Johnson as a shady lawyer who partners with a 19-year-old legal prodigy, Undeclared’s Jay Baruchel.
Don Johnson’s irascible charm as a boozing, bottom-feeding barrister occasionally elevates this hour above its mundane legal jockeying, writes Variety’s Brian Lowry.
The problem was the WB’s core audience didn’t remember Johnson well enough from his glory days to get the joke.
The quirky series strayed too far from classic Bruckheimer, with a crime, an investigation and an arrest, to attract the usual legal drama fans who had no patience with Legal’s forced setup.
The show also skewed too old to ever survive on the WB even as it courts the upper end of the 12-34 demo. Legal viewers’ median age was 48.2 years old, making it by far the oldest show on the WB.
And younger viewers simply weren’t interested in a show that lacked the comforting elements of the WB’s usual family-focused teenage angst shows.
Another problem for Legal was that its lead-in, Seventh Heaven, is way down this year in almost every demo, showing natural erosion for a 10-year-old program. Even so, Legal was fumbling more than 50 percent of that lead-in among 12-34s.
The WB does have one new show that’s working, the 9 p.m. Gilmore Girls lead-out Supernatural. The network said yesterday that it’s given the program a full-season order after a promising start in which it’s held 85 percent of Girls’ audience in key demos.
As for what new shows will be gone next, the best bets are UPN’s Lies, which has already shut down production, or NBC’s Inconceivable, whose third episode was bumped from tonight’s schedule.
Last year the fall’s first cancellation didn’t come until the third week of October, but many shows premiered earlier this year, giving the networks more time to evaluate their performance. Last year programs were still debuting in mid-October.
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