An early draft of this column started out as a review of the new fall shows that feature women in main roles. These include “Prime Suspect,” “Revenge,” “Ringer,” “Pan Am,” “Charlie's Angels,” “The Playboy Club,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Whitney” and “New Girl.” But by the time I sat down to work on a second draft, “The Playboy Club” and “Charlie's Angels” had been canceled. One minute I'm questioning the authenticity of female empowerment on a show where a male voice on the telephone gives orders, and the next it's “sorry Charlie,” you're dropped. Over at “The Playboy Club,” the only revolution happening was apparently less about sexual equality and more about the right to turn the channel. Why did these shows fail?

An early draft of this column started out as a review of the new fall shows that feature women in main roles. These include “Prime Suspect,” “Revenge,” “Ringer,” “Pan Am,” “Charlie's Angels,” “The Playboy Club,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Whitney” and “New Girl.” But by the time I sat down to work on a second draft, “The Playboy Club” and “Charlie's Angels” had been canceled. One minute I'm questioning the authenticity of female empowerment on a show where a male voice on the telephone gives orders, and the next it's “sorry Charlie,” you're dropped. Over at “The Playboy Club,” the only revolution happening was apparently less about sexual equality and more about the right to turn the channel. Why did these shows fail?


Of course, I can't answer the question of why shows fail to excite viewers. One person's loyalty to “American Idol” is another person's devotion to “Breaking Bad.” But I will take a shot at why “Charlie's Angels” and “The Playboy Club” didn't work for me. The reason is: They were just OK.


My reaction to watching both series was just a plain “eh.” If “eh” is the majority consensus, a show isn't going to get a full season pickup. A series that doesn't elicit a response beyond a yawn means you had a nothing reaction. In today's crowded television landscape, a show, fairly or not, has a very short amount of time to make you feel something. And by something I mean more than a sleepy kind of non-caring.


“Charlie's Angels” wasn't awful, and “The Playboy Club” didn't offend me (unlike members of the Parents Television Council, Gloria Steinem and some sponsors who pulled their ads). So what's behind my “just OK” reaction?


Certainly, the plots on both series were weak. The Angels weren't involved in “CSI” type gritty crime, and their attempts at martial arts were more funny than fierce. Hef's bunny tales suffered from a lack of focus. It was soapy fun trying to be a mob drama with some singing thrown in. It had an identity crisis, and I wasn't interested in hanging around until it figured it out. But shows are allowed to have these problems, many series do. The successful ones however, figure out how to be just OK and ... something.


For example, “Hawaii Five-O” is a procedural that has predictable stories, but it sells the fantasy of the Hawaiian islands. The original “Charlie's Angels” understood this idea because it was as much about the fantasy of beautiful women as it was about the novelty of three female leads. “The Playboy Club” was a “behind-the-scenes” drama, but the thrill of peeking behind the curtain quickly wore off because the characters didn't entice me to keep looking. It's fine to say, “It's OK” as long as it's followed by, “But what I like is ... .”


Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned2011@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.