There have always been exceptions to the case of myopic TV networks, which only serves to bolster my case. Cheers is one of the highest profile examples to this point. In terms of ratings, it ranked really low in its first season and ran the risk of being canned. But NBC stuck with it, and soon enough it moved up to the top of the ratings. In those crucial initial years, it helped for the show to have the support of the TV executives at NBC, it also didn't hurt that they won a lot of critical acclaim and a couple of Emmy Awards..
On today's TV landscape, I would point to an intelligent comedy like 30 Rock which competes with, and only manages half the ratings of, the really mediocre new comedy $#*! My Dad Says. Critics have always liked 30 Rock, it was even voted the best comedy show of the decade (2000-2010) by Newsweek. Furthermore, it was nominated for 22 Emmy Awards in 2009, the highest number ever for a comedy show. The show is a high quality program and as such holds on to its loyal base of fans. It is certainly heartening to see a network both recognize such quality and allow the show to continue even if it doesn't deliver the highest ratings.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same about a lot of other networks. TV networks do hold on to great power in our times, and with it inherit some responsibilities as well. They are the ones who decide on the creative content for the masses and provide incentives to the creators of TV shows. I do not believe it would be fulfilling to live in a society which ends up with creatively bankrupt entertainment and where there is no incentive to be innovative.
The TV networks need to give non-formulaic shows a chance, and maybe heed a little to the critics who, though they may not represent the general public, can certainly rate the creative merits of a show. Shows like Lone Star certainly deserve better.