Fox cancels 'Lone Star' after two episodes

Well-reviewed drama becomes first casualty of season

The first casualty of the broadcast season is one of the best reviewed new shows of the fall: Fox is pulling "Lone Star," its acclaimed drama about a con man leading a double life, from Monday nights.

The third season of procedural drama "Lie to Me" will take its place starting next week.

Though the fate of "Lone Star" has preoccupied the media since its dismal debut last week, there's several other shows that are also endangered after only one or two episodes.

ABC's Wednesday night legal drama "The Whole Truth" (4.9 million viewers, 1.5 adults 18-49 rating) pulled only 15% higher than the premiere of "Lone Star." ABC's Thursday ensemble soap "My Generation" (5.2 million, 1.6) was likewise modest.

The second episode of NBC's "Outlaw" (4.9 million, 1.1) laid an egg last week, even by the humble standards of Friday night. And a return to the civilian format of "The Apprentice" (3.8 million, 1.4) is struggling on Thursdays.

"The Apprentice" represents an delicate situation since NBC is shooting "Celebrity Apprentice" for midseason and the network has a longstanding relationship with Donald Trump. It would be unusual to yank a well-established competition reality franchise before all the episodes have aired (the entire civilian edition was shot months ago, so production cost is not a factor), especially a title that's expected to continue on the air next year.

Though remaining in its premium Thursday night slot is increasingly unlikely, the question may hinge on whether NBC can find a suitable place on its schedule to burn off the show while maintaining a livable number.

As for "Lone Star," despite a praise-filled 77% score on Metacritic, the show's first two episodes were Texas-sized bombs.

Only 4.1 million viewers showed up for the "Lone Star" premiere. More crucially, the show drew a 1.3 adults 18-49 rating, making it the lowest-rated show on a major broadcast network that night.

Fox gave "Lone Star" a second chance last night, but viewership sank to 3.2 million viewers while its demo rating fell 23% to a 1.0.

Combined with a sizable drop for "House" this year, the shows gave Fox a 60% lower average rating for the first night of the season compared to last year.

From the beginning critics wondered if "Lone Star" could draw a broadcast-sized audience. The show best resembled the sort of nuanced character-driven dramas seen on basic cable networks like FX and AMC. But Fox expressed high confidence, with entertainment president Kevin Reilly telling critics the only reason shows like "Mad Men" pull such low numbers is because they're not on his network.

"The only reason those shows aren't watched by more people is they're not on Fox," Reilly said. "The [basic cable networks] don't have this [promotional] machine.