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'The Unit' gets cut from lineup

Production executives say show's departure is a result of falling viewership

Posted: May 31, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Crews keep busy while filming and episode of 'The Unit' in February. The military drama, filmed at Santa Clarita Studios' sound stages and at a variety of other locations in the Santa Clarita Valley, has been canceled and will not be appearing on the CBS fall lineup.

After four seasons of Santa Clarita-based production, the popular military drama "The Unit" is not being re-upped by CBS.

The network released its fall lineup last week, and the show based at Santa Clarita Studios did not make the cut.

"We're not happy," said Jason Crawford, the city's economic development director. "‘The Unit' was a great show out here."

He praised the relationships the production company has fostered with local businesses and residents.

Starring veteran actor Dennis Haysbert - President David Palmer of Fox's "24" - the series focused on a fictional, elite military counterterrorism team called The Unit, similar to the U.S. Army's Delta Force.

The show was produced by 20th Century Fox and licensed by CBS.

Filming was done at Santa Clarita Studios' sound stages plus a variety of locations in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Numerous scenes were filmed on the sprawling acres of the Newhall Ranch property on the west side of the valley. Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Saugus stood in for locales including Indonesia, Paraguay, Europe and Afghanistan.

For the first three seasons, a Newhall neighborhood stood in as Midwest military housing.

Network officials typically look at one of three factors when deciding whether to renew a show for another season, said Chris Ender, senior vice president of communications for CBS.

Decisions are generally based on the quality of the show, ratings or executives' belief that a new show could perform better in the same time slot, he said.

"This definitely was not a case of quality," he said. "‘The Unit' is a terrific show (that) fell victim to the numbers game."

Last season the show averaged about 10 million viewers in its 10 p.m. Sunday time slot - 19th of CBS' series, Ender said. That was a drop from the third season, when viewership averaged 11.2 million, albeit in a 9 p.m. Tuesday time slot.

By comparison, "CSI" averaged 19 million viewers last season, according to information provided by CBS.

Ender said the network came off a strong season overall, and added: "We needed to find space for some new series.

"It's a tough time of year," he said. "Cancelling a series is probably the worst part of a network programmer's job."

"Cold Case" will move to Sunday at 10 p.m., and Ender said the new medical drama "Three Rivers" will take the aforementioned show's 9 p.m. Sunday slot.

Ender was unsure Wednesday what, if any, CBS shows might find a local production home, and said those decisions are still being made.

If there's a bright side to the cancellation of "The Unit," Crawford said it's the fact that ABC is about to start production at Santa Clarita Studios on two shows within the next few weeks.

"Ten Things I Hate About You" - based on the 1999 film of the same name - and "Make It or Break It" are both sitcoms and will be locally based productions, Crawford said.

Mike DeLorenzo, owner of Santa Clarita Studios, could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.

The cancellation of "The Unit" did not come as a surprise to crew members but it's still unwelcome news, said Dave Altenau, who was the show's visual-effects supervisor for all four seasons.

"It seemed like the show was on the bubble every year," he said.

The Valencia resident is president of The Outfit Visual Effects, based in Burbank, and said "The Unit" represented about 50 percent of his company's business.

The Outfit also works on shows including "Nip/Tuck," "Monk" and "Big Love."

"It's why you need to (work on) more than one show at a time," Altenau said. "You can't get too comfortable. You just roll with it."


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