Screen shot from Caveman TV seriesAs the movie studios and TV channels and production companies contemplate the writers union’s demands, they might want to take a serious look at the lackluster performance of this year’s film releases and the horrible ratings for the current season’s new TV shows.

The latter are simply disastrous and aptly reflect the lackluster quality of most of the new series. Although the new season has brought a continuation of the gradual increase in moral seriousness of new shows evident during the past few years, the tone of the new programs has been exceptionally downbeat, and viewerships have dropped rapidly after the first couple of weeks when viewers sampled the new shows.

As the L.A. Times reports,

On Tuesday night, fresh episodes of three programs — the ABC comedies "Carpoolers" and "Cavemen" and CBS’ dynastic soap "Cane" — plummeted to their lowest numbers yet among viewers ages 18 to 49, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

Each of those shows earned only a 5 share of the crucial young-adult audience, a figure that just one or two seasons ago would probably have meant instant cancellation. By comparison, ABC’s drama "Private Practice," one of the top-rated new series, last week earned a 9 share.

"Cavemen," one of the fall’s most talked-about shows, finished a distant fourth in its time slot, barely beating CW’s "Beauty and the Geek" among 18- to 49-year-olds and netting just 4.9 million overall viewers.

Overall, viewership is down about 4% compared with last season, even taking into account delayed viewing on DVRs. With the exception of ABC’s comedy "Samantha Who?" and CBS’ vampire drama "Moonlight," every new show has seen steep declines since its premiere.

Samantha Who?, as we noted in our earlier writings on the show, has a fairly positive atmosphere and strong, laudable moral stance; Moonlight has strong ideas and a positive moral outlook, although I found its pilot episode to be marred by murky visuals and weak scriptwriting and performances. Perhaps it has improved in those areas.

As the L.A. Times story notes, "it’s hard to argue that, strike or no, viewers are continuing to reject the fall offerings. Instead, they’re turning up for familiar favorites. CBS’ "NCIS," the solid but unsexy military drama, rounded up an enormous audience of 18.2 million viewers Tuesday — its second-largest total audience ever.

Although the moral tone of the new series is laudable in many instances and largely acceptable overall, the prevalence of downbeat topics and "dark" tones has undoubtedly impeded audiences’ enjoyment of these new shows. Let’s hope that the producers and studios learn the right lesson from this season’s poor performance and correct this problem when their writers return to work.