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Late last week NBC quietly cancelled Best Friends Forever – and the TV world was changed forever!

Okay, I’m joking! Let’s be honest BFF couldn’t have made less of an impact, dumped into an early Wednesday night slot with barely any publicity, the show’s last episode managed just 2.65 million viewers, even worse than the wretched Are You There, Chelsea?

But Best Friends Forever isn’t alone. This year has been a truly terrible one when it comes to mid-season shows. ABC had high hopes for The River but the supernatural saga flopped in its debut and was totally DOA by the time of its finale. Likewise Missing, the network’s Ashley Judd thriller which is doing okay in total viewers but rating so old that’s it’s a sure thing for cancellation. And even GCB is struggling to hold onto the low audience it inherits from Desperate Housewives.

NBC meanwhile had both BFF and Bent – both of which came and went in less than 3 weeks. Then there’s Awake, a critical favorite which has become the latest casualty of NBC’s Thursday at 10pm slot. And let’s not forget Fashion Star and The Firm, which despite a starry cast has been exiled to Saturday nights to finish off its ridiculously long run.

Over on The CW we’ve had Remodeled, the network’s latest attempt to duplicate the success of America’s Next Top Model – and another flop for its unscripted department. And just last week The CW debuted The LA Complex, a Canadian series which scored the lowest rated drama debut on a broadcast network ever (ironically the repeat did better than the premiere!) Even Fox isn’t immune – Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch started strong but is now dangerously close to the cancellation zone.

Okay so not every mid-season show has totally bombed. Scandal is doing okay for ABC and might return in the Fall – though that would be largely due to the star power of its producer Shonda Rhimes. And NBC’s Smash, though far from living up to its title, has found a core audience and has already been renewed for a second season.

But overall it’s been a pretty terrible mid-season. But why?

Well for starters many of these shows look and feel like dregs. The NBC comedy pair, Bent and Best Friends Forever, didn’t exactly feel like top tier shows that deserved a starry Fall launch – so it’s not surprising they were largely dumped by their network. The irony of course is that both shows received surprisingly positive reviews – certainly more so than the likes of the critically reviled Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea.

The NBC duo also received only cursory network promotion and the same is true of The LA Complex on The CW. Clearly the networks had already given up on them. But in this day and age it’s almost impossible for a show to find an audience without a pretty hefty ad campaign. Just look at Smash. It’s a hit – just – but imagine how the show would have fared without the many millions NBC spent on promoting it (not to mention that very helpful Voice lead in) That said the likes of Touch, Fashion Star and The River all received pretty splashy launches.

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One problem these shows might be facing is that by mid-season viewers habits are pretty much set and they just have a lot less time to try out new shows.  If you’ve already committed to the likes of Once Upon A Time and Revenge in the Fall you’re going to be a lot less open to a new series come February. Plus bear in mind that there’s now even great competition from cable – as witnessed by the terrific ratings enjoyed by The Walking Dead. Why would viewers bother with The River when they’ve already got a horror themed show on the go (the fact that The River sucked didn’t help the soggy saga)

And of course there’s the fact that broadcast TV has been on a slide for a long time now. It’s been years since any network has launched a Desperate Housewives style hit. The 2011 – 2012 season’s biggest new show is arguably ABC’s Once Upon A Time, which averages around 10 million viewers a week and a 3.0 18-49 rating. That’s good – but hardly earth shattering. And generally depressed levels of viewership provide lower lead ins to new shows. And the cycle continues…

Plus not helping matters is another key factor – viewership levels traditionally fall in the Spring anyway. So if your show hasn’t launched by March you’re already facing an uphill battle. Poor Best Friends Forever – it never stood a chance!

But what do you think? Have you checked out any of the above shows – and what do you think of them? And what show do you think deserved a better shot at success?