HOLLYWOOD—If there’s one thing people should know about a good television series it has the ability to reinvent itself, but what do you do with a show that is under-performing?  For starters, you have to develop characters that the audience connects with.  Not only do you want audiences to love or hate these characters, you want them to embody a unique characteristic that makes them stand out.  For example, take the character of Sue Sylvester on “Glee.”  Sue is vicious in her attacks on students and the faculty at McKinley High, but what makes Sue so exceptional is there is a vulnerability to her character that only audiences get to see.  So even though she is evil, she has a large amount of good in her; she’s a complex character that audiences gravitate to.

If you have characters that are one-dimensional, a great way to draw the audience back to a series is to reinvent a character.  What does that mean?  That’s when you have a character goes through a crisis that alters their personality.  A great example of this is the character of Annie Wilson on the CW’s “90210.”  The first season of the show introduced audiences to good-girl Annie, but by at the end of the season Annie committed a horrible crime that changed her character forever.  In the second season, audiences were treated to a massive shift in the character.  The good girl was slowly fading away and she found herself in a dark downward spiral that was a hoot to watch.  “90210” got a huge boosts in ratings because of its shift in character personalities and its amazing storylines.

Now personality shifts won’t always breathe life into an under-performing series, but having a life changing event will.  Take a look at what happened with “Grey’s Anatomy” this past season.  The hostage situation at the hospital was an amazing storyline that had audiences glued to their seats.  Sometimes you have to shock viewers in a way they never expected to grab their attention.  Not only were the lives of several main characters placed in serious peril, some became casualties in the aftermath.

The same is likely to occur with NBC’s “The Office,” a major character isn’t being killed off, but Steve Carrell is leaving the show.  When a central character leaves it creates a void in a series that allows a door to be opened for a new character.  “Desperate Housewives” is hoping the introduction of a new housewife (Vanessa Williams) on Wisteria Lane, will intensify the drama.  Much detail about the character has yet to be disclosed, but expect Williams to create some tension amongst the ladies.

Another possibility to regenerate a series is to change the linear course of time.  With most shows they tend to follow the same straight path, but having hiccups or massive jumps in time can truly change a series.  Most critics would agree with me that typical high school dramas or comedies are done after high school concludes.  It’s just rare for all of these characters to go to the same college or stay in the same town, but a few shows may learn a lesson or two from “One Tree Hill.”  The series decided to fast-forward a few years for the fifth season, introducing audiences to their favorite characters as adults.  That time shift proved to be a huge success.  I can honestly say this show became 20 times better with this shift, allowing a variety of storylines to come to the forefront.

A final tactic that can help revive a monotonous series is to have a major character bite the dust. “Private Practice” took that leap when death came to visit Dell in the season finale; it was unexpected and a total shock to say the least.  “Smallville” has constantly pushed that notion with some of its season finales, where characters perish or viewers are made to believe they have crossed over.  Death or near encounters with death affect the psych of people in an odd way; we’re forced to re-evaluate life as we know it.  Of course, it’s television, but we identify with it on a level that is so surreal.

Most television series won’t bounce back by utilizing one of the tactics listed above, but using some of them will revitalize energy into a series and intrigue viewers.  The success of a series is determined by three things: character depth, storylines and surprises.  Making adjustments to the following things overtime can significantly extend the lifeline of any television series.