“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” goes Leo Tolstoy’s famous opening line from Anna Karenina. The same applies for successful and unsuccessful shows: For those that work, the reason is always the same — all elements magically came together. For those that don’t, there is a usually a host of factors for each individual demise. But there have been a slew of ill-fated broadcast dramas recently that shared one thing — an unlikable antihero at the center. Two of the biggest flops of the past few years, Fox’s Lone Star and NBC’s Do No Harm and The Playboy Club, had that in common. That also applies to Fox’s newest drama entry Rake, which has been doing poorly, opening low and sliding to a 1.1 in its third airing last Thursday, despite solid reviews and a likable star in Greg Kinnear.
The Shield‘s Vic Mackey and The Sopranos’ Tony Soprano ushered in the era of the antihero, which has dominated cable ever since with such series as Showtime’s Dexter, Shameless and now Ray Donovan, AMC’s Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and FX’s Rescue Me and Sons Of Anarchy. Most have been commercial and critical successes. (more…)