Networks are in the business of putting hits on the air -- and taking off flops. Their executives have to be cold and calculating. But when they explain their decisions, they can sound as if they had to shoot Old Yeller.
This is most likely to happen on a press tour when the show in question is one that TV critics have admired. The executives can't deny they killed the show, but they want to sound as if they felt bad about it.
For UPN, the subject was ''Kevin Hill,'' the drama starring Taye Diggs.
Here's UPN President Dawn Ostroff's explanation: '' 'Kevin Hill' was a real heartbreak for us. 'Kevin Hill' was a show that we all believed in. And we all felt so passionately about having Taye on our air. The entire cast was fantastic.''
Then the slashing started: ''The show just floundered as the season went on, and creatively it lost its way. The ratings weren't as strong as we really hoped that they would be. It lost around 40 percent of its lead-in audience. ... When you look at where their season started and where they ended up, it really spiraled down versus a show like 'Veronica Mars' that ... started down and really ended up.''
Apparently not convinced yet that Old Yeller was rabid, a reporter asked Ostroff once more about the creativity issue. ''I think the show creatively struggled, yes, and the viewers never really embraced it,'' she said.
For The WB, ''Jack & Bobby'' got the heartbreak treatment. Literally.
'' 'Jack & Bobby' is the most heartbreaking experience this network went through last year and, personally, that I've been through, I think, in my entire career,'' said WB Entertainment President David Janollari. ''We loved the show. We thought it was exceptionally well executed on every level. Week after week, the quality was consistent. ...
''The heartbreak of it all was the episodes got better and better ... and at the end of the day, we couldn't find a single piece of potential positive, ongoing forward traction that would have really suggested that there was a big hit potential in the show.''
Thank you, Tommy Kirk.