AngelHow The WB Cancels Joss Whedon’s Shows
By Andrea Clarke
Monday 23 February 2004, by Webmaster
Whedon vs The WB
Fans of Angel are still wondering why the WB chose to axe one of it’s most successful shows at a time it is losing the battle for ratings. The official line is that the cost of making the show far outweighs any gain by the giant network but many refuse to believe this. There certainly is no love lost between the Buffy and Angel creator, Joss Whedon and the WB network after the two came to blows after Buffy the Vampire Slayer was axed from the network after five seasons.
As the five year contract for Buffy drew to a close on the WB, things turned rocky. Fox were spending $2 million per episode producing the show but only received $1 million per episode from the network but the production were expecting a large increase in its fee. This is normal for television business. Production companies typically sell their shows for less of the production costs, making a difference with the international and syndication sales for their hits. And with large increases in fees at the five year renewal point.
While this is typical for the television business, it isn’t typical for the WB, which at the time Buffy came up for renewal, was a fairly new network which was losing $50 million per year and had never before had a show reach the five year mark. During the negotiation process for a sixth season of Buffy, the man running the WB, Jamie Kellner took a hard line and refused to pay over $1.8 million per episode. Despite the show defining the network, he downplayed the importance saying it was a niche show that appealed mainly to teens and certainly was not "irreplaceable."
Whedon was furious and publically said, "For Jamie Kellner to call it a teen show and dismiss his own product angers me. It doesn’t breed love." Whedon felt disrespected and sent Kellner a stern letter complaining about his remarks.
Ultimately, the WB lost out to the UPN who offered $2.3 million per episode. Whedon blamed the loss squarely on Kellner. "Jamie said "I won’t budge and inch,"" said Whedon, indicating that other top WB Executives supported Buffy.
Although the shows star Sarah Michelle Gellar was dead-set against the move to UPN, she later retracted a statement where she said she would not continue playing the Slayer on any other network other than the WB. After the move was announced, Gellar announced that the UPN had been wonderful.
At a Television Critics Association Press tour the following year, witnesses were surprised to see Jamie Kellner approach Whedon and shake his hand. Whedon accepted the gracious attempt to put their differences behind them particularly as Angel was still being aired on the WB.
But was the love still lost? Well yes. Whedon said, "You know, I didn’t like the way the business was handled. I don’t like doing business because I tend to take things personally."
After the season five finale, The Gift was aired on the WB, the program ended with a shot of Buffy’s tombstone which faded into black and a message appeared, "Five great years. We thank you." For a split second, Whedon was moved until realisation kicked in. "The WB decided to pretend the series was ending," said Whedon. He even went so far as to describe it as "cheesy."
A WB spokesman, Paul McGuire said it was "a shame" if any Buffy fan had been misled. In the end, Whedon said, "They’re just tring to protect their network and not help the other guys."
Is history repeating itself? Well, the WB is no longer a new network and has in fact renewed some its shows after five seasons. Charmed has been renewed for a seventh season despite the show drawing in the lowest amount of ratings on Sunday nights at 8pm. On the 22nd February, the show only drew in 3.1/5 million viewers compared to the CBS’s 9.5/15 million who watched new drama, Cold Case which aired in the same time slot.
If cost really is the issue then the WB will start to question the series, Smallville which is only two places ahead of Angel in the overall ratings battle. One has to imagine how much the special affects cost to produce for the show about Clark Kent’s alter ego, Superman growing up in a small town.
Whether the real reason for axing Angel is cost or something far more sinister, one thing is for sure, the fans will go on asking questions. In the meantime, the army of loyal and dedicated viewers of the show will continue to campaign until they know for sure that Angel has no chance of being picked up by another network. Online petitions and a postcard campaign have given them hope that they may see a sixth season of their favourite show. The fans are not done and neither are the production crew and the cast of Angel. Following Buffy’s transition to UPN, we went on to enjoy two wonderful seasons of our much loved show. We wouldn’t mind seeing history repeating itself. Season six and seven of Angel anyone? Yes please.
By Andrea Clarke at Buffy-vs-Angel - 23 Feb 2004
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