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On Tuesday April 17, the first season finale of The CW’s ‘Ringer’ aired, and many have doubted if the series will live to see a season two. Despite premiering to a strong figure of 2.8 million viewers in September, the ratings have been in a steady and ultimately precipitous decline to the point where just 1.16 million viewers watched Tuesday’s finale. The fate of the series is now in serious question.
This all marks quite a contrast from this time one year ago when ‘Ringer’ was one of the most buzzed-about and eagerly-awaited new pilots. It marked star Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to series television after an eight-year break following a seven-year run on the critically-beloved ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, and brought together an eclectic supporting cast including Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd and ‘Lost’ star Nestor Carbonell.
Originally developed for CBS by ‘Supernatural’ writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, the series features Gellar in a dual role as twin sisters Bridget and Siobhan. In the pilot, Bridget, a recovering drug addict and former prostitute, was set to testify against a murderer when fear for her own life prompted her to contact her estranged, not to mention extremely affluent, sister Siobhan for protection.
However, once reunited, Siobhan faked her own death for unknown reasons and Bridget in turn assumed her sister’s identity in an effort to escape from her predicament, but consequently placed herself in even more danger due to her sister’s own problems.
The plot itself is perhaps indicative of why ‘Ringer’ failed to connect with a mass audience. From the first episode alone, ‘Ringer’ featured a convoluted story and a multitude of storylines. As the season progressed, further twists were introduced including, but not limited to: affairs, kidnappings, murders, corporate blackmail, faked assaults, and a paternity mystery which was not resolved until Tuesday’s finale.
With every twist, ‘Ringer’ became more and more of a plot-driven series which relied on sensationalism and shock-value as a means of compensating for its under-developed characters and rushed narrative developments.
Add this to the fact that ‘Ringer’ was paired on The CW’s schedule with the younger-skewing ’90210′, and that it aired opposite heavyweights ‘The Voice’, ‘Dancing With the Stars’, and ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ which cumulatively attract upwards of 35 million viewers, and it becomes clear that ‘Ringer’ was not in the position to come out of the gate with an intricate premise which depended upon undivided attention from its audience from the get-go.
To make things even more challenging for the creative team behind the series, The CW placed ‘Ringer’ on a nine-week hiatus in the middle of its season, meaning that production on much of the second half of the season went on without any audience feedback.
Once ‘Ringer’ returned to the schedule at the end of January, it was too late to make any changes, and all The CW has been able to do is to sit back and watch the ratings drop in a year where almost all of its other series have been in significant ratings decline.
‘Gossip Girl’, ‘Nikita’, ’90210′ and newcomer ‘Hart of Dixie’ are all hovering around similarly low levels, but none had the expectations of success that ‘Ringer’ had, nor did they have the spectre of Gellar’s cult-classic ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ looming over their heads.
Now with its season wrapped well before May sweeps, a renewal for ‘Ringer’ is looking less and less likely. Even if The CW did consider giving it a last-minute pick-up, the new season would not premiere until September, meaning that the series would be off the air for at least five months, a break twice as long as the one ‘Ringer’ already went through this season and which already proved detrimental to any ratings momentum ‘Ringer’ may have had in its early weeks.
It would take a giant leap of faith on the network’s part, and an even larger creative restructuring behind-the-scenes for ‘Ringer’ to live to see another season.