Widowed too young? Seven's new revenge drama faces the scrap heap
The cast of Red Widow, includes Australians Radha Mitchell (front) and Wil Traval (fourth from left).
One of the Seven Network's new shows for the 2013 ratings year, the new American drama Red Widow, has made a lacklustre debut in the US.
Its poor showing in the US ratings leaves the show at risk of cancellation, and Seven in danger of losing a show it billed to media and advertisers last year as "the new Revenge".
Revenge become a ratings juggernaut for Seven last year, drawing more than 1.5 million viewers weekly. This year it is still a strong performer.
Red Widow, however, is not showing any early signs is likely to follow in Revenge's footsteps.
The US network launched it into the same time-slot occupied by two earlier shows - Good Christian Bitches and 666 Park Avenue. Red Widow failed to equal the performance of either, and both were cancelled after 13 episodes.
It also tied another new series, Zero Hour, as the ABC network's lowest-rated scripted series premiere ever. Zero Hour, which Seven also owns, was cancelled last week.
US trade media reaction to Red Widow's premiere was unenthusiastic. The Hollywood Reporter called the numbers "very soft". TV Guide called them "weak".
The only optimism came from Deadline.com's respected television reporter Nellie Andreeva, who pointed out there was very little audience erosion across Red Widow's two-hour debut episode. That, she said, could indicate a "possible future cult following".
Red Widow was singled out for particular attention in the US media because it had the biggest marketing campaign of the "mid-season" shows.
As part of that campaign, teasers for the series were screened during ABC's broadcast of the Academy Awards, to expose them to the biggest possible audience.
"For all that promotional blitz, the two-hour premiere of the mob drama fell short," Andreeva said.
The US television season runs September to May. So-called "mid-season" shows launch after January.
In truth, Seven's full-year strategy is unlikely to be impacted by the absence of Red Widow. At best it would have offered only 13 one-hour episodes, as mid-season shows debut with only half-season orders.
Plus, Seven's primary focus in 2013 is on Australian content, notably the chart-topping My Kitchen Rules, a renovation show based on the MKR format titled House Rules and a new marquee Australian drama, A Place To Call Home.
But if Red Widow is cancelled, as many US trade media outlets have suggested it might, it means all three of the new US series Seven announced at its 2013 sales launch last year have misfired.
Last Resort, which starred three Australian actors, Daisy Betts (Sea Patrol), Dichen Lachman (Neighbours) and Daniel Lissing (Crownies), was cancelled earlier this year.
Zero Hour, which stars Brisbane-born actress Jacinda Barrett, was cancelled last week.
Red Widow stars two Australians, Radha Mitchell and former All Saints star Wil Traval.