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|08-28-2002, 06:31 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 09, 2001
"State of Grace" producers claim ABCFAM treated show as "problem child"
"State of Grace" has fallen from it at ABC Family
By Gail Pennington
Post-Dispatch Television Critic
Fans of "State of Grace" are stunned by news that the nostalgia comedy - one of television's best half-hours - has been canceled by cable's ABC Family channel.
If it's any consolation, so are creators Brenda Lilly and Hollis Rich.
"We're still trying to figure this out ourselves," Lilly said last week from the "State of Grace" offices in Los Angeles. She and Rich had felt confident that the series would be picked up for a third season - right up until ABC Family president Angela Shapiro announced the cancellation.
In retrospect, however, the warning signs were there. "State of Grace," set in 1960s North Carolina and telling the story of 12-year-old friends Hannah (Alia Shawkat) and Grace (Mae Whitman), premiered to great critical acclaim in June 2001, when the network was still the Fox Family Channel. The series was particularly popular in St. Louis, where it earned some of its biggest ratings. After Disney bought Fox Family, some even predicted that "State of Grace" would move to ABC - which certainly could have used it, and still could.
Instead, the series suffered from time-slot changes and lack of promotion in its second season, delayed from January, where it had previously been promoted, to February and then to March. Fans had trouble finding the show in its new 7 p.m. Friday slot, confusion that was compounded by the network's name change. And rather than helping, a belated move back to Mondays, made with little fanfare, only disoriented viewers further.
"Even members of my family couldn't find it," Rich says. "They asked me, 'Is your show canceled?'"
Lilly says, "Some people thought it had moved to ABC. They didn't even know what ABC Family was."
Not surprisingly, ratings slipped. Still, Lilly and Rich say they didn't know the show was in trouble.
"We would call and ask about the ratings, and we'd be told that the ratings were fine," Lilly says. "Or we'd be told that it was cable, and ratings didn't matter, especially because our show was one that really drew advertisers."
The feedback they got wasn't coming from Shapiro, who took over as network president under Disney. Instead, Lilly and Rich say they felt strangely cut off.
"During her whole tenure as president of the network, we've only had one incredibly brief conversation with her, and that was four or five months ago," Rich says. "We would have been completely open to hearing her ideas. We're used to having a dialogue about these things. But we were never asked to fine-tune the show or to make any changes."
As a result of the lack of communication, Rich says, "We didn't know we were a problem child." Until the ax fell.
Cast members were equally shocked and saddened by the cancellation, which they learned about in personal phone calls from a network executive.
Whitman, who has been acting since age 3 and appeared in "Independence Day" and "Hope Floats" before accepting the role of Grace, reacted as any 14-year-old girl would. She cried, says her mother, Pat Musick, who grew up in St. Louis.
"We were just crushed," Musick said by phone from Los Angeles. "This is a real heartbreaker."
Like the producers, Musick blames confusion over the show's time slot in the second season.
"A lot of people didn't even know where it was any more," she said.
The "State of Grace" cast, including Dinah Manoff and Michael Mantell as Hannah's traditional Jewish parents, and Faye Grant as Grace's free-spirited mother, Tattie, was "like a second family to Mae," Musick says.
Shawkat didn't just play her best friend; the girls became best friends in real life.
"Nobody felt as if they were going to work on that show," Musick says. "They were going to hang out with people they love."
The cancellation is especially painful "because the ratings were so great the first season," Musick says.
In pulling the plug, Shapiro said in a statement that "State of Grace" had not been "able to establish a strong enough audience to justify producing a third season." Viewership averaged 1.4 million per episode in the first season; in the second, according to Daily Variety, that figure dropped to 874,000.
But "State of Grace" brought both honors and passionate viewers to a network struggling to find an identity. In addition to continuing critical praise, the series received two 2002 Humanitas nominations - the only TV show to get more than one nod - and was singled out by the Parents Television Council for family-friendly content.
"Our demographics go from young children to grandparents," Rich says. "We know that families were watching together. Disney says it has a mandate to produce smart, quality family programming, and that's what we were doing."
On a hopeful note, the "State of Grace" sets have not been dismantled, and Lilly and Rich have hopes of getting another network to pick the show up. The cast, "to a person," has expressed interest in continuing, Rich says. They're currently pitching the show to "any network that would be supportive," she says.
Musick says, "Everybody has a dream it will go somewhere else. Nostalgia is very big this fall, and it seems a perfect time for a show like this."
What can fans do? Not much at this point except to join a petition drive being run by a "State of Grace" fan site, stateofgrace.topcities.com. You can also read other fans' comments on the show there.
But for those who'd like to share their feelings directly with ABC Family, here's the address:
ABC Family Channel
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, Calif. 91521.
ABC Family will air "State of Grace" reruns at 3 p.m. weekdays beginning this fall.
|09-28-2003, 01:57 AM||#4|
Join Date: Oct 29, 2001
Location: The Golden State
Oh man, this sucks. I really liked this show. It would be cool if ABC family showed re-runs.
|12-24-2003, 09:55 PM||#5|
Join Date: Sep 20, 2003
Location: Wishing I was in CA with Carol Burnett
I loved this show I can't belive ABC Family cancled it they suck!!
I'm so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh or sing a song, seems we just get started and before you know it comes the time we have to say..so long. Good Night Everyone!
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