VH1 has finally said no mas to its detractors: the remaining three episodes of Atlanta-based “Sorority Sisters” are being burned off three in a row this Friday night.
How badly does VH1 want to put this show into the grave? The final episode will start at the odd time of 11:10 p.m. and end just past midnight. Plus, it’s not even being repeated later that night for West Coast consumption. And Friday tends to be a relatively low TV consumption night.
This doesn’t mean the show has been officially cancelled. VH1 rarely makes such announcements when a show is killed anyway, but no network with any intention of bringing a show back would make a move like this. It’s not a stretch to say it’s over for “Sorority Sisters.” (UPDATE: VH1 has not responded to me but told AP a few hours after my story posted that the network hasn’t made any official decision to renew the show. I wouldn’t bet any money on it.)
“Sorority Sisters” has been attacked for denigrating the history of African-American sororities by tying these well-regarded Greek names to the silly stereotypical drama that is part and parcel of many of VH1’s reality shows. The formula is now well worn: cattiness, jealousy, name-calling with the occasional fist thrown for good measure.
Last summer, when a trailer of a version of “Sorority Sisters” leaked out, critics tried to stop the show before it even aired, sending protest notes to VH1 and a petition online.
But VH1 taped an entire season, then quietly announced the debut air date four days before the actual debut, the shortest promotional window I’ve ever seen for a TV show. When I wrote about it Dec. 11, I wondered if the VH1 executives really had any faith in the show. Why bother airing any show with almost no lead time?
Then the crap really hit the fan. Social media was brutal when the show debuted Monday Dec. 15.
In an essay Dec. 18, my colleague Ernie Suggs wrote, “This show is doing everything in its power to destroy the legacies that these sororities have been building for more than 100 years. And it offends me.” Former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson’s daughter in law weighed in soon after, saying she was “outraged by the exploitation of our sisterhood.”
VH1 for a time held fort but it also began airing two new episodes a night starting Dec. 30, not something it has done in my memory for a show it wants to keep around long term like, say, “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.” It aired a special last week where the ladies on the show defended themselves, saying their critics were lobbing death threats at them.
Ratings for “Sorority Sisters” on Monday nights weren’t bad, averaging about 1.2 million, though it did benefit from a strong lead in (“Love and Hip Hop”).
The problem ultimately wasn’t viewers. It was advertisers. The Greek organizations successfully pressured many advertisers to request they not show up on the program. That is probably what is forcing VH1’s hand: money. Or lack thereof.
(I haven’t reached anybody at VH1 yet for comment though I doubt the network will say much of anything beyond a vanilla statement.)
VH1 over the years has endured plenty of bad publicity and equally bad juju over its edgier shows (e.g. “Flavor of Love,” “Love and Hip Hop,” “Basketball Wives,” “Mob Wives,” et. al).
But if advertisers aren’t willing to support a show, it will die. That’s economics, pure and simple.