Why NBC Should Renew Awake

Awake (NBC) Not My Penguin Episode 6 (3)

Sadly, the writing is officially on the wall for one of my favorite new series of TV season. Anyone who has seen the ratings for the past few episodes of Awake knows we are pretty much done with Detective Britten, his wife, his son, and his imaginary penguin. The ratings are horrible and pretty indefensible, but I hope NBC chooses to take a closer look at the situation. If they really take a look at it, they will see many reasons to bring the show back. Today, I thought we should take a look at some of those reasons.

What else are you going to do?

NBC logo

All television critics have devoted some gigabytes to piling on the sad state of NBC. However, just because it’s the popular opinion doesn’t mean it’s untrue. When you go through the list of pilots slated to be in consideration for a fall slot, there is not a single drama that really jumps out at you. Now, I haven’t seen any of these pilots, but I can’t imagine them being able to match the character depth and engaging premise that Awake has given us these past 8 weeks. Unfortunately, Awake has not been seen by a great many eyeballs. This idea leads me to my next point.

It never got a real lead-in

Awake (NBC) "Ricky's Tacos" Episode 7 (1)

One of NBC’s major problems at the moment is that it cannot launch new shows. There are no big juggernauts to put new programming behind. They thought they had something when they stuck Smash behind The Voice, but they forgot the key point that Smash is terrible. Though it’s very hard to launch any show right now, Awake got even less of a chance than most. First of all, NBC decided to run it on Thursdays at 10. At the time, it was the only slot available once The Firm vacated that spot. Sadly, NBC doesn’t seem to realize that Thursday is no longer “Must-See TV.” Even though they trot out some really strong comedies on that night, nobody seems particularly interested to watch them. Sticking Awake in the dead zone of 10 PM behind another freshman series struggling to get viewers (Up All Night) gave Awake almost no chance to attempt to hold an audience that was a tonal match to their program. If you really enjoy the silliness that Up All Night revels in, chances are you are not sticking around to watch Detective Britten solve grisly murders. Though it doesn’t have a lot of options for launching new shows, NBC could have done a lot better by Awake then they did.

You should be in the Jason Issacs business

Awake (NBC) "Oregon" Episode 5

The entire ensemble of Awake does a nice job. Dylan Minnette is our payment for having to put up with the rest of the horrible teenagers on network dramas (I’m looking at you, kid from Terra Nova). B. D. Wong and Cherry Jones both play their parts exceeding well as Britten’s therapists. For crying out loud, even Wilmer Valderrama is competent in this show. I’ve had to rethink his entire ceiling as an actor watching this show.

Even though all of those guys are great, the person that really makes this show go is Issacs. In the hands of a lesser actor, this role could have easily been taken to an over-dramatic place, but Britten has managed to keep this character grounded. Also, watching a man struggle with the potential of madness is exceedingly fascinating. Issacs does a great job of portraying a man who questions himself all while trying to hold the very thing that may cause his madness together. It’s the question at the heart of the series: “Is this guy crazy?” and Britten does a great job of giving us no clues.

I could easily go on for days about the reasons why NBC should keep Awake. At the end of the day, I know that the outstanding effort put forth by the people who work on this show will go for naught. It will be sad to see it go. I will put in the file with Journeyman and Daybreak and always wonder what the heck was going on with Michael Britten. Still, I hope NBC finds a way to keep it around. I know they like the show. Hopefully, they keep it and give it the proper treatment for a show of this level of quality.

What do you guys think? Should NBC find a way to keep Awake? Sound off in the comments below.

The TV Czar

Follow me on Twitter @TVCzar

  • Marleenandlouie

    I really don’t even want to start viewing an NBC show because I simply know what will inevitably happen as always, they cancel it.  Let’s face it, they have idiots at NBC–they think that Jay Leno is God (yuck) and everything else is mediocre.  Awake it outstanding and NBC can’t see it.  The only other good shows they have are Grimm and Harrys Law and I’m scared they may delete those.  They (the NBC bigwigs) must have gone to the Obama school of stupidity and will soon bankrupt GE.  What a shame.

    • NBC did keep Friday Night Lights around for five season, about four seasons longer than the rating suggest it should have.  And do not be scared about Grimm, NBC already renewed it.  Also you may disagree with Barack Obama’s policies and can call him many different things, many that are warranted, but stupid is not one of them.  You do not graduate from Harvard Law by being stupid.  

      • Anonymous

        Political shots fired!  For the record, if NBC cancels Awake, they would have every right.  The ratings are really, really bad.  However, they screwed this thing up so bad with placement, lead-in, etc. that I think they should bring it back just to give it a real shot.

    • Davion9

      obama? Romney is the one who said he likes firing people and would have let GM go bankrupt.

  • Awake is a great show.  Furthermore, if it fails, it will discourage shows from taking risks in the future. Something as complex as Awake has been tough to pull off, so won’t it discourage new programs from thinking outside the box?

    • Anonymous

      I agree, Jordan.  What’s interesting is that you had a lot of good elements of a procedural cop show.  I wonder if Awake would have worked on CBS or Fox.  They did have a risky premise, but if you were someone who enjoyed the formulaic nature of cop shows, there was something for you as well.

      Bottom line: NBC can’t launch a new show right now.  I don’t know how they turn it around, but it’s a shame that Awake had to be a casualty of NBC’s inability to attract eyeballs to TV shows.

      • ptjackson

        Not on FOX – they are just as bad at canceling shows before they have a chance to catch on.

  • deaner77

    Very, very nicely put.  I hated giving a network show a chance because I’m disappointed every time but the talent involved forced me to give it a try.  I’ve loved every minute of the show and will, yet again, swear off network shows if Awake meets an untimely end.  I’ll never understand how a show with such quality in every aspect is treated so poorly and mindless “reality” shows dominate.  I don’t think I want to live on this planet any more.

    • Anonymous

      The reason for the favoritism of “mindless reality shows” is a simple math equation.  Nobody is watching the series.  Do I think people are missing out by not watching? Yes.  Do I blame NBC for cancelling a series that no one is watching? No.  You can blame NBC for screwing up everything else with this show, but if a show can’t produce ratings, it will be cancelled.

      That being said, the system of relying on ratings alone to determine a show’s future is antiquated and dumb.  Unfortunately, they haven’t figured out how to calculate a formula that factors in all the different ways we take in the television medium nowadays.  

      Sigh.  All we can hope for is a thrilling resolution to this season and be able to enjoy it as 13 hours of great television that we will have forever.

      • You have a real good point here (especially in your second paragraph).

        I think network stations (NBC, ABC, FOX, and CBS) should look more at the AMC and HBO models, who rely more on content than ratings.  There is a reason those shows are critically-raved.  I’m not saying network shows can’t find success (Lost is one example), but I just hate that they rely much more on advertising than content.  If AMC can make money off their shows without huge numbers (most of the time), then those other networks should be able to.  

        Hell, they have Sports and News on their side, too, something AMC doesn’t.

  • Anonymous

    They should’ve renewed Prime Suspect as well, but noooo

  • ptjackson

    When I watched the first episode of this show, it took me a while to become engaged. But, it has grown on me, and now I am sad to read it is being canceled.

  • Chari910

    NBC never had Jason Isaacs on any of their talk shows other than Carson Daly which was way too late. If he was on Leno, the viewers will be those who can stay up and watch Awake. I tried to get my friends/colleague to try but the most common complaint was that it was too late.
    NBC could go with the quality for once and don’t let the antiquated Neilson System dictate their decision.

    • Anonymous

      I think they did okay promoting.  I agree that Isaacs should have been a little more visible, but there were lots of commercials in plenty of prime spots.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe they even had a spot during the Super Bowl.

      That being said, I 100% agree that the Nielsen system is highly antiquated as a means of determining the buzz of a show.

  • crawfoc99

    I will be very sad to hear if NBC cancels Awake. I’ve been watching the show online from another country since it started. It’s an incredible drama. Far better than standard procedurals with great acting and production values. This show deserves a second series..

    • Anonymous

      I would love to see a second season myself.  Unfortunately, it seems that standard procedurals will continue to rule the day.  Network TV is not the place for deep-thinking dramas.

  • Jeanne_allen

    I LOVE this show.  It is creative, intelligent, challenging–I look FORWARD to it.  Please keep Awake!

  • Tone

    With a better time slot, maybe it will do OK. The show is finding it’s form now, and it’s some of the best I’ve seen come out of network TV. The promoting of the show also seems pretty random, at least for the last couple of weeks. They did their job creating a lot of buzz for it before it premiered, but then, they kinda forgot about it.  Except for posting the episodes, the NBC/Awake site has barely been updated since episode 4. If we want updated info about upcoming episodes (photos, previews, synopsis etc), we have to rely on external sites to get the info. Thanks to this site, and others I get the info. But I shouldn’t have to look around for it? It would be brave of NBC to give it a second season, and NBC would get a lot of cred in my book if they gave us that.

    • Anonymous

      That’s an outstanding point.  Given the methology of the show, they should have a regularly updated site featuring shrink interviews, red world vs. green world breakdowns, etc.  However, I imagine they stopped updating the site because of the ratings.  The fact that they haven’t bothered to update it seems like some pretty damning evidence.

      • Sue

        I love this show.  The writing is tight, the story line thoughtful, and Isaacs’s acting is wonderful.  I seem to remember that HILL STREET BLUES started slowly, and I loved that show, too.  If NBC cancels it, I hope one of the other networks or cable stations picks it up.

      • Tone

        I’ve got the same feeling. And I don’t understand how they think. It seems like they just looked at the ratings and just thought: “Well, whatever, that didn’t work either”. Instead of stepping up their game and do anything to make more people watch the show. At least that what I would have done if I had a show of this caliber.

        • Anonymous

          I’m a little surprised they haven’t pushed this harder.  By all accounts, NBC really liked the show.  Hell, they did everything they could for the pretty bad Up All Night, but they’re not willing to stick their necks out for Awake?  Definitely disappointing.

    • Shanna

      I think it might do better on a different network like Fox. What if they put it behind a procedural like Bones on Mondays? Bones is successful and has a pretty strong following, seven seasons and could be a nice lead-in to a show like Awake.

  • Laren Thompson

    I am so tired of NBC, ABC, & CBS canceling great shows like “Awake” in favor of slap stick sutpidness.  You can’t really invest in a program because you know in could very well disapear out of the blue.  On top of that, cable programming is turning out some pretty great original series like “The Borgias”, “The Big C”, “Magic City”, “Shameless”, & several others that arn’t being canceled after three or four episodes.  I really like “Awake” & I hope it DOES NOT get canceled.  But at the rate network TV is operating – it will SOON be all cable all the time.

    • Shanna

      The Walking Dead is another great cable show. Not sure it would’ve survived on Network TV.

      • Anonymous

        There are a number of reasons why these shows wouldn’t survive on network TV.  In any event, places like Starz, HBO, or Showtime don’t care about ratings all that much.  The money they bring in isn’t based on advertising, it’s based on subscriptions.  It’s why Nurse Jackie can continue despite drawing less than a million viewers per episode.  They love the critical acclaim it affords them, and they don’t have to worry about advertising being pulled because nobody is watching.

  • Shanna

    Awake is one of the best shows on network TV. They have quality acting (Jason Isaacs following up 7 amazing Harry Potter performances and over a decade of wonderful acting) is perfect for this role. B.D. Wong and Cherry Jones should never be overlooked. Wilmer Valderamma is definitely a chameleon, as he has now shown he can act in comedy and drama. I love Dylan Minette as Britten’s teenage son as well. A strong cast will make a show…usually.

    I feel the ratings system is broken in many ways, but I don’t think that’s a reason to cancel a show that’s so “out there” or high concept as this one. People are smarter than they seem. Successes like The Walking Dead and Lost have proven that.

    One thing that may really help this show is to move it to another network, possibly a cable one like AMC (The Walking Dead) or FX. That move was done earlier when ABC felt Monk could not succeed and decided it was better to begin with a USA Network pilot instead of an ABC one. This ended up being a great decision for the show, in which Tony Shaloub won at least 6 Emmys. The show ran for 8 seasons and still has reruns on Friday nights on USA. Why not transfer Awake (though it has already started) to a cable network where it might be more accepted?

  • Tim

    Wow.  You struck a nerve with me with your line: ” I will put in the file with Journeyman and Daybreak and always wonder…”. 

    Journeyman ranks #1 on my all-time list of best shows that never made it.  It marked the first time in my life that I found myself genuinely upset about a tv show cancellation.  I’m still mad about it.  That show was way too good to be treated the way it was.

    Daybreak also had me sucked in quick, if not quite at Journeyman levels.  Imagine my surprise when it was jettisoned after just three episodes in favor of reruns of The George Lopez Show.  Talk about twisting the knife!

    And, so now, another well done drama is following this unfortunate path.  I enjoy Awake tremendously, and find it far better and vastly more intelligent than the tiresome boilerplate crime dramas mindlessly cranked out by the CBS maschine. I hope NBC doesn’t axe this one.  Someone somewhere in the network with the power to do something must care about quality…  Right?  If nothing else, they’ve got nothing else…

    • Anonymous

      The Journeyman thing still upsets me too.  After McKidd joined up with Grey’s Anatomy, I tried to start the #FreeMcKidd movement.  Sadly, it gained no traction.

      As for Awake, it’s a very intelligent show.  I have some theories why these types of shows can’t gain traction in with the typical Nielsen viewers, but most of those theories would be insulting to those with Nielsen boxes.  It saddens me that we can’t throw a network’s big budget at a hyper-intelligent show.  Oh well, there’s always the low-funded but well done cable shows.  Let’s go see what Don Draper’s up to now.

  • Mimi

    Love the show! Its nice to use your brain when you are watching television for a change. Awake and Alcatraz are refreshing …. yes I am hooked. Of course, they are both on the chopping block because of it. 

    • ptjackson

       Truer words were never spoken!

  • Shanna

    I disagree with the comment about Smash being terrible. I will agree it is somewhat of a soap opera, but the acting is good. The story is believable. The singing is amazing. It’s all it’s supposed to be so far.

    Debra Messing does her best performance since Will and Grace and, if you ask me, she steals every scene she’s in. I think it deserves a renewal and it got one. Of course, it was after The Voice, but whatever. I still think it is being billed as a “grown up version of Glee,” when in fact it isn’t at all like Glee apart from the singing really.

  • Ehuertas

    Good show. Hope that Awake does come back.

  • JT

    Shop if off to cable where it will thrive.

  • Lire24

    This show is the next best thing and if NBC cancels it (which is sounding likely) it will have failed again… NBC- New Bland Cast, that won’t succeed.. How do they come up with these ratings anyway? people don’t watch commercials anymore, or even watch T.V live, so people that wake up at 6 AM go to sleep and watch Awake later in the week, like I do… This show has a Lost like plot, has very very solid acting, and is a Pretty good cop show, probably a notch or two below SVU.. ANY show at 10 behind up all night, won’t do good on ratings… Why couldn’t this show be on FOX? SMH! I usually have a pretty good idea about what shows should and shouldn’t be cancelled, and Chelsea def. should… Whitney has been solid enough to get another season, but SMASH is smashing the ratings? I gave that show a decent chance, don’t enjoy it AT ALL, it probably deserves another season, but not much more after that… I truly could see Awake going on 5-7 seasons, but it wouldn’t outlive that.. These shows with great and complex plots of unknowing always draw the fans in but drives them crazy and leads to frustration for moving forward (Lost).. So this show is not only a 2 year show, it could be upwards of 6, 7 years… Ill settle for one more… Oh, and this is better than Flash Forward, which I thought was decent and a bunch of people felt the same… For Gods sakes they cancelled Las Vegas, they’ll cancel anything.. No Loyalty, and a bunch of idiots that watch T.V… Ill watch Jersey Shore, reluctantly, as a comedy, but Drama’s are where its at… The calculator equation is Ratings = $$$, Actors = minus$$$, get regular people (cheap) to get high ratings ($$$)= Studio in love… You get a solid show, wouldn’t imagine its so expensive considering its not TOP Tier actors, but they def. are Very solid caliber… COMMON NBC< AWAKE UP! (pun intended)

    • Shanna


      I like Smash, but can’t see it going more than 2-3 years. Awake could go at least as long as Lost if they gave it the chance. But I’m wondering if they will.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with the 10 PM argument, but nobody is watching this show.  Clearly, the Live +7 ratings aren’t much better either.  Awake’s numbers aren’t even as good as Prime Suspect or The Firm.  I would love to see them try it with a new lead-in, a better time slot, and better promotion.  Still, I don’t think that would matter.  It’s clearly caught on with the “internet people” (as evidenced by this comment strand), but it just doesn’t have any mainstream buzz.

      I want to see it back, but at this point, it wouldn’t make sense for NBC to bring it back.  Sigh.

  • cmc545

    Late to comment, as I am just realizing Awake is being cancelled. I am so mad. That is a great show! I am so sick of network television and watch very little of it because anything I like and that has complex characters and plot lines gets cancelled– which just ends up pissing me off. Network TV has become a forum for those who like mind-numbing reality shows. Ugh. I am sick of them. I was looking forward to uncovering what really happened to Michael and how the heck he is living two lives. Good stuff. But alas the idiot monsters are in charge and need to crush anything that requires a person to think or allows them to be entertained. I agree with everyone…this show wasn’t well promoted and in a crap time slot. Shame on you. Wish a cable network would pick it up and keep it going…like they did with Southland and Law and Order Criminal Intent.  NBC if you’re listening, shame on you. And please don’t tell me you’re keeping that garbage show Smash…figures.  I give up on the whole network except for Grimm.

  • Avatar Roku

    Of course they should keep this show. This is the best new show NBC has come up with since Heroes and in terms of acting and cast Awake is far superior to Heroes. Something you didn’t mention but is a valid reason to keep Awake is that unlike Heroes or Smash or Grimm, Awake can win awards! This cast is so good the show could rack up awards for years. Does NBC not want to have a show that can bring credibility and respect to their network?

    And you are right that NBC cannot launch a new show in its current state. NBC is the only network to have more cancellations than renewals according to TVdonewright. None of the other networks were even close to the number of cancellations on NBC.

  • Anonymous

    I agree completely. Awake is one if the best shows I have seen. What is a shame is that this show, which keeps you on the edge at all times, just when you think the is becoming predictable they throw you a curve ball and you don’t know what will happen next. It is so well written and acted. The direction and editing are second to none. I got tired of
    Grimm because for me the story became meaningless. So he’s a cop that’s a Grimm, where’s the purpose and conflict. A compassionate monstet hunter. But Awake is a constant WOW and OMG show. I watched it on iTunes and started on the NBC website, but could never find it on TV. Ratings are not as significant as 50 years ago. Wake up NBC and realize AWAKE is a winner.

  • Awake is the best TV show I’ve seen since Lost. Amazingly well written, outstanding production, unbelievable casting and really strong performances, especially by Jason Isaacs. Yet NBC wants to cancel it!

    If the show didn’t do well is because NBC did a bad job with marketing and promoting the show, and
    also made poor management decisions regarding air day and time. I think they should
    change the day/time of the show or at least run it on one of NBC’s cable channels.
    But don’t get rid high quality entertainment just because of the ratings!
    Critics acclaim the show. People LOVE the show. Now is time for NBC to do their
    job and bring massive exposure to Awake.

  • Jenniverse

    This is definitely a show that should have been on the same night as Grimm.  One cop, two partners, two lives where the clues from one “life” lead him to answers in the other, and a high level police conspiracy with the main character at the center.  

    Using Awake as a lead out to NBC comedy night probably was not the best idea for a first season drama, since even NBC’s critically acclaimed comedies aren’t pulling in the numbers to support a new show.  This show is great and I wish the cast and crew would have gotten a better shot at showcasing their talents.

  • Lisamd72

    There is an audience that craves a show with depth and complexity, which Awake provides, masterfully. It needs to be aired at a better time and on a different night. Some of us don’t want to be merely entertained by just singing and dance shows.

  • The only NBC show I watch now and they canceled it-lost another viewer NBC-maybe you should listen to your viewers-might be up there with CBS-best new show Awake-most certainly worth watching and taping-what another disappointment!!!!!!!!!!!

  • what a disappointment-the only descent NBC put on-time to listen to your viewers-maybe you could be Like CBS and keep on what people actually enjoy-sorry done with NBC