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Sunday, May 19

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In a recent USA Today article, FOX announced that its hit show Prison Break would finish its initial 13-episode run in late November as planned. But in an unexpected decision, the network announced that it wasn't going to air the remaining 9 episodes until May. Scheduling chief Preston Beckman insisted, "The appeal of creatively bringing it back later in the year and keeping it on in the summer outweighs the disruption it would cause."

FOX has a reputation for making, shall we say, "interesting" choices when it comes to programming. Because it shows pennant races and the World Series every year (Go Sox!), its fall season usually debuts in late October, weeks after the start dates of its competitors. This year, however, FOX decided to debut its new shows in August. It was a calculated risk — get a head start before other networks but also know that any momentum would be interrupted by four weeks of baseball. One of those was Prison Break. It was always understood that the freshman series would be shifted elsewhere to make room for veteran 24 in January. I know FOX has to unleash the juggernaut that is American Idol (ugh), but what about those of us who don't give a crap about Simon, Randy, Paula and pre-chosen flavors of the month? OK, singing flavors of the month. Why must Prison Break pay the price?

Sometimes FOX'S gambles pay off. The O.C. bowed in 2003 during the wasteland of late summer. It garnered huge ratings and an avid fanbase. New summer episodes had worked for the similarly soapy Beverly Hills, 90210 more than a decade before, and now other networks regularly offer new shows after May sweeps. These days it's mostly cheap reality fare, but still. (I'm not including premium or cable series in this assessment; Sex and the City, Six Feet Under and Nip/Tuck all premiered during the summer months).

However, FOX is also notorious for canceling shows after short runs; this year's victim was the Chris O'Donnell comeback vehicle Head Cases, which got a pink slip after only two episodes aired. In 2002, the lowercased girls club received similar treatment, and 2003's Skin managed to eke out a third episode before getting the boot. Sure, none of those had much critical acclaim or high ratings, but neither did several shows that went the way of the dodo.

Perhaps the best recent commentary on FOX's propensity to hit its own DELETE button was on Family Guy. The controversial animated series ran on FOX for three seasons, from 1999 to 2002. But due to a combination of repeat airings on Adult Swim, robust DVD sales and an ardently vocal fanbase, FOX made the nearly unprecedented decision to bring back the show for a fourth season in 2005, three years after its original cancelation. The first new episode, which aired this May, came out swinging.

Peter: Everybody, I've got bad news. We've been canceled.

Lois: Oh no, Peter! How could they do that?

Peter: Well, unfortunately, Lois, there's just no more room on the schedule. We just gotta accept the fact that FOX has to make room for terrific shows like Dark Angel, Titus, Undeclared, Action, That '80s Show, Wonderfalls, Fast Lane, Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Skin, girls club, Cracking Up, The Pitts, Firefly, Get Real, Freaky Links, Wanda at Large, Costello, The Lone Gunmen, A Minute with Stan Hooper, Normal Ohio, Pasadena, Harsh Realm, Keen Eddy, The Street, American Embassy, Cedric the Entertainer, The Tick, Louie and Greg The Bunny.

Lois: Is there no hope?

Peter: Well I suppose if all those shows go down the tubes, we might have a shot.

I'm no network executive, but if I had one of the few breakout hits (no pun intended) of the 2005 season, I wouldn't shelve it. The attention span for TV viewers is notoriously short; there's always something else on, and who can be bothered to remember intricate plot details half a year later? Why not air Prison Break on Friday nights? It's one of the slowest nights on television, but remember a little show called The X-Files? The low-rated Reunion isn't pulling in many viewers on Thursday nights; pair Prison Break with The O.C. Or reshuffle the Sunday night comedies to add the drama at 8pm. Prison Break would be up against Desperate Housewives, but there's a show that can't keep up its current momentum.

My main point: How is a gal supposed to survive six months without new footage of Wentworth Miller? Sure, David Boreanaz is nothing to sneeze at, and Keifer Sutherland has a certain appeal to those who like rough hewn blondes. But to deliberately deprive us of Miller and Dominic Purcell — to say nothing of taking pride in the local backdrop of the non-prison scenes and wondering how and when the inmates will escape — is cruel. Damn you, FOX!

Note: I'm not the only annoyed viewer. The overwhelmingly negative response to FOX's announcement has the suits backpedaling. The network now claims a final decision has yet to be made. That's right. Who's the Prison bitch now?

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at

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