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Kickoff Curse Claims Another Victim... And Look Who's Next: CW's "Hellcats"
September 9, 2010  | By David Bianculli
Melrose-Place-Sydney-Amanda.jpgThe Kickoff Curse has done it again. Each fall, it targets the first new series to premiere each fall from a broadcast network, and predicts that the show in question will not live to see a sophomore season. Last year, the Curse -- which I invented, by the way, decades ago -- fingered CW's Melrose Placefor extinction. And hey: Look what show isn't back for 2010...

melroseplace43a.jpgThe Kickoff Curse has now correctly predicted four freshman losers in a row: Melrose Place last year (despite the midseason publicity injection by Heather Locklear, star of the prime-time soap's original 1990s version), NBC's America's Toughest Jobs in 2008, Fox's Nashville in 2007, and Fox's Vanished in 2006.

The last series to defy the Kickoff Curse was Fox's Prison Break in 2005. But overall, the Curse has a fairly high degree of accuracy. In 35 years, only six Cursed shows have survived. And the new show on the chopping block? That would be CW's Hellcats, which premiered earlier this week. It has one year to succumb to the Kickoff Curse... or to defy it.

Most prominent among the survivors are the CBS sitcom Alice in the '70s, ABC's newsmagazine Primetime Live in the '80s, Fox's sitcom Roc in the '90s, and, in the current decade, the aforementioned Prison Break.

And except for a pair of fairly recent sitcoms from the now-defunct UPN network, Girlfriends and One on One from 2000-01, those are the only survivors of a curse that began way back in 1975, during the Gerald Ford administration.


The most famous victims of the Kickoff Curse include ABC's fabulous 1994 teen drama My So-Called Life, starring Claire Danes; 1984's Call to Glory, an ABC drama starring Craig T. Nelson that explored the Kennedy-era 1960s the way Mad Men is doing now; and 1990's Hull High, the NBC series that was the last show to attempt a weekly high-school musical series until the current Glee.

For the record, and for your amusement, here's the complete list of shows that faced the Kickoff Curse, along with their respective fates. Only shows which are underlined survived the curse.

Remember any of these? If most of the names don't ring a bell... well, that's the point.


2010.....CW.....Hellcats (fate unknown)
2009......CW.....Melrose Place
2008.....NBC.....America's Toughest Jobs
2005.....Fox.....Prison Break
2004.....Fox.....North Shore
2002......WB.....Family Affair
2001.....UPN.....One on One
1999.....UPN.....Grown Ups
1998.....Fox.....Holding the Baby
1997.....UPN.....Good News
1996.....Fox.....L.A. Firefighters
1995.....Fox.....The Crew
1994.....ABC.....My So-Called Life
1993.....Fox.....Front Page
1992.....ABC.....Covington Cross
1990.....NBC.....Hull High
1989.....ABC.....Primetime Live
1988.....NBC.....Baby Boom
1987.....NBC.....Private Eye
1986.....CBS.....The Wizard
1984.....ABC.....Call to Glory
1983.....NBC.....We Got It Made
1982.....NBC.....The Powers of Matthew Star
1981.....ABC.....Best of the West
1980.....CBS.....Ladies' Man
1978.....NBC.....Dick Clark's Live Wednesday
1977.....CBS.....The Betty White Show
1975.....CBS.....Big Eddie




Hugh said:

Here's to Betty White for persevering after her 1977 setback!

[Hey, that's REALLY funny! Good catch. It only took, what, 32 years for her big comeback? -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 9, 2010 9:42 AM

Chris C said:

Hey David,

Melrose was a 1990s soap :).

That said--and I didn't watch it, so I'm part of the problem--I have a feeling that Hellcats won't do any better that Dick Clark's Live Wednesday or North Shore.

(I loved just reading the titles of the Cursed Shows...it's a great list of Titles.)

[My, how time flies. Better go fix that. Thanks, Chris. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 9, 2010 10:54 AM

Sarah said:

Wow I've been predicting the first to go for a couple of years and can't believe that I am just now learning the term, where was I the past two years? Anyway I am not surprised by the choices and just realized that Melrose didn't make the cut for a new season(I have to admit I gave it a try)but also knew that it was a bad idea and not sad to see it go.

I love the list and I think I only watched one of those and this year I have to agree with Hellcats. If the show doesn't even interest me there's a good chance it won't last (most of the time).

Looking forward to seeing if you're right once again.

Comment posted on September 9, 2010 3:02 PM

shauna said:

But to be fair, don't most shows get canceled either after or during their first season? If not then why does it seem that way?

[Fair? Why ruin the fun by being fair? Yes, more shows get cancelled than survive -- and if a show is given an early premiere date, in hopes of getting a jump on the starting gun, there may be reasons for that as well. But still... the track record, over the decades, IS impressively accurate. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 9, 2010 4:21 PM

Len said:

How come you didn't include "Pink Lady and Jeff"? Surely you didn't like that, did you??? [Very funny. No, that was record-bad horrible -- but it wasn't the first to bow that year. Nice to hear you're still thinking about some of TV's most memorable shows, though -- even if on the other end of the spectrum. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 9, 2010 6:13 PM

Eileen said:

And here we are 21 years later, and Primetime in one configuration or another is still here. Amazing. Of course, shows like 48 Hours and 20/20 and Primetime were the granddaddies of today's "so called" reality shows. Only done better, actually educational and so classy.

[And Primetime Live, in the beginning, WAS live! -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 9, 2010 7:42 PM

Eileen said:

Not on your list, but John Walsh was being interviewed on Fox this morning regarding tomorrow night's "America's Most Wanted"; it's the beginning of their 24th season. John, as always, was a great guest and laughed how law enforcement thought the show would never last, let alone lead to any arrests. Over 1,000 and counting...

John is a truly amazing person who turned a personal tragedy around, and has been such a remarkable advocate for families and children. I met him years ago at the Christopher Awards in NYC. The Christopher Award honors excellence in programming and the human spirit; John was there to see the tv movie "Adam" honored. He and his wife couldn't have been nicer or more dignified examples of how to live your life.

So, John, Happy 24th to everyone at "America's Most Wanted" -- keep up your wonderful endeavors. And many more...

Comment posted on September 10, 2010 10:43 AM

Tausif Khan said:

David I was wondering how you made your picks. I can see why a person could think that Hellcats would fail. The show looks very expensive and the ratings for any WB/UPN/CW show has ever reached that of the main four networks. Therefore because of cost I can see The CW canceling the show.

However, two of the executive producers of the show are Tom Welling (who has provided WB/CW with 10 years of Smallville so he knows how to pick a winning project and seems integral to the creation of a CW brand) and Kevin Murphy who apparently wrote the script to Reefer Madness and wrote for Desperate Housewives. The most interesting part about Murphy is that he was chosen to be the show runner for the second half of Caprica's first season run. I have heard nothing but positive things about the second half of Caprica's first season run. This demonstrates to me that The CW did not skip on quality when deciding to pick up this show.

Therefore I am wondering did you pick Hellcats because ratings/expense or do you think the quality is so bad that it is doomed to fail?

Remember Joss Whedon, Jason Katims and Ryan Murphy all had struggling shows about high school children on the WB and look where they are now.

[Uh, oh. Let me make this clear, in case it was lost in translation. I don't PICK any shows for the Kickoff Curse. I just notice which new series is the first one out of the gate each year, and say that one is cursed BECAUSE it's the first new show of the fall. My guess, actually, is that Hellcats will, for CW, do just fine. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 10, 2010 11:46 AM

Hoppy said:

Wow! You can pick losers. Big deal. Let's see how you did with a similar list of your pick for the best new shows of each season.

[OK. Last year, Modern Family. The years before that, I isolated, as the best new shows, such series as 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, and Lost. That's just for starters -- so yeah, I've got a good track record there, too, smart guy.

And your sarcasm comes off bitter and petty in print, Hoppy, so to explain the playful place from which you're coming, I should "out" you as a close friend.

Well, "close" may be pushing it.

For that matter, so may "friend"...

But if you can dish it, I presume you can take it.

And about my gift for picking losers? I found YOU, didn't I? -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 11, 2010 8:55 AM
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