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CBS cancels 'The Will' after only one episode broadcast


By Reality TV World staff, 01/12/2005 

Setting a new record for weekend reality TV futility, CBS announced today that it has axed its new The Will reality series after just a single episode broadcast. A Cold Case repeat will air in its place this week, with details on the time period's new regularly scheduled programming to be announced at a later date.

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The Will, a six-episode reality series created by The Bachelor producer Mike Fleiss, featured ten friends and family members of Arizona multi-millionaire Bill Long competing for the inheritance rights to his so-called "prized possession," a huge Kansas ranch.

Despite receiving a heavy promotional push from CBS, The Will averaged only 4.2 million viewers during its 8:00-9:30PM ET/PT debut broadcast on Saturday, January 8. The performance placed The Will as CBS's lowest-ranked show of the week, ranking 79th in Nielsen Media Research's viewership rankings for the week ending January 9, 2005.

According to The Associated Press, The Will became the first television show since 1993's CBS South of Sunset drama to be canceled after only one episode.

The Will's sudden demise caps what had been a rather tumultuous development process for the series (a fact that perhaps should have served to as hint of things to come for CBS.) First announced in back October 2002, The Will was originally supposed to air on ABC. However, ABC appeared to get cold feet about the series after witnessing its similarly-themed The Family series bomb in the ratings and get pulled from the airwaves before eventually being burned off as summer filler programming.

Typically that would mark the end of a series, but nearly eighteen months after ABC's initial pickup, CBS -- the network that had positioned itself as the "gold standard" of reality programming (The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Survivor) -- announced that it had decided to resurrect the series for broadcast on its own network. Last month, CBS announced that the long-delayed project would finally premiere in the Saturday evening time period originally planned for its currently-airing The Amazing Race 6 series

The Will's failure reinforces the difficulty that television networks face with Saturday evening programming. As the lowest-watched night of the week, the major networks have struggled for years to attract viewers to their Saturday evening programming, with ABC, NBC, and CBS all primarily airing movie broadcasts and repeats of their other drama series during the evening. Other than CBS's 48 Hours Mystery, Fox remains the only major network broadcasting regularly scheduled original programming, typically winning the evening with its long-running Cops and America's Most Wanted series.

Believing that many younger viewers don't typically watch broadcast television on Saturday evenings, networks have attempted to air few first-run reality series during the night. Only Big Brother has shown any success on the evening, delivering ratings that place well below the show's two other weekly weeknight broadcasts, but still satisfactory (and more importantly for CBS, given the show's relatively low production costs, profitable.)

The networks have also attempted to schedule numerous other reality series for Friday evenings, however, other than CBS's Big Brother telecasts, the attempts have also generally proven unsuccessful. ABC's The Mole 2, and Fox's Playing It Straight, Forever Eden, and The Complex rank among the series that have failed to succeed on Friday evenings.

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