Uh-oh. The future of Once Upon a Time isn’t looking good.
While the show has been a consistent success for ABC for six seasons now, thanks in large part to its growing roster of cameo characters from popular Disney cartoon movies, things are looking a bit shaky as we await season seven.
It’s clear that someone at ABC believes that the show’s formula has gotten stale – Once Upon a Time has lost several of its key actors in a big reshuffle that seeks to reboot the entire premise, telling the same story all over again with a bunch of new characters and a fresh Seattle inner-city setting in place of the sleepy smalltown vibe of the original show.
This is enough to set off warning bells by itself – a reboot this late into the show’s run normally suggests that a network is grasping at straws, trying desperately to recapture the magic of earlier seasons before everything got complicated, and win back lapsed viewers who got bored of the initial story.
What’s worse, though, is that ABC has moved Once Upon a Time into the dreaded Friday Night Death Slot, the worst night of the week for television ratings, and often a precursor to cancellation.
The examples of this trend are myriad, across all networks. If a show’s ratings are starting to slip, or if executives aren’t keen on it in some way, it can end up moving to Friday nights. This slot all but ensures lower ratings, because fewer people watch TV on Fridays, and before long, the show gets cancelled.
ABC has pulled this trick time and time again, constantly using Friday Night as a way of delivering the final blow to an already dying show. As such, seeing Once Upon a Time fall to this new broadcast slot is a worrying sign, especially when combined with the upcoming story reboot and the loss of so many core cast members.
There is some sliver of hope, though. If there’s one audience that does watch TV on Friday nights, it’s families, coming together for child-friendly entertainment as kids get to stay up a little later before going to bed.
Once Upon a Time is very clearly a show that appeals to children, with its use of Disney characters and other fairytale heroes, albeit in sometimes bizarre new ways. It could be that the Friday Night slot will give the show the opportunity to connect with an audience that is looking for something fun and ostensibly family-friendly, even if we’ve been promised that the next season will be a little darker.
Things could be worse – ABC could have moved Once Upon a Time to Tuesday nights, where competition from other networks practically ensures a less popular show will die. Friday at least gives Once Upon a Time a fighting chance to grab an audience of children and parents who are looking forward to the upcoming weekend, and happy to spend a little longer in front of the TV.
Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that this move doesn’t spell the end of Once Upon a Time – there’s still plenty of fans of this show who are eager to see what happens next, and it wouldn’t feel much like a fairytale ending if the story is cut short before its time.