From Mediasharx.comWhat Do Networks Want From Us ?? (angel mention)
By Scott Nance
Tuesday 13 April 2004, by Webmaster
Right now, the thing I want most in the world is I’d like to find a TV network exec, take him or her around the corner, and —
I know what you’re thinking, but rest assured, no violence would ensue. I just want to ask them a simple question and get in return get an honest, straightforward answer: “What do you want from us?”
In other words, what do the network suits want from us fans to keep sci-fi shows on the air.
The most recent source of my frustration, of course, is Fox’s recent decision to cancel WONDERFALLS after just four episodes. The frustration is magnified because WONDERFALLS was a sci-fi show only in the most passing way.
If this is the fate of a series that is only sort of sci-fi (the talking cow creamers and such which were really just a gimmick) then we are in real trouble.
I realize I only recently sounded an optimistic note. I predicted the eventual death of reality TV based on the apparent beginning of its demise Down Under, reasoning that what’s happening there will eventually, god help us, catch up to us here. That demise, I said, will ultimately help revive sci-fi on television.
I still actually believe that will happen—eventually. But the premature death of WONDERFALLS and ANGEL-and the uncertainty of the future of ENTERPRISE-tells me that in the meantime, we fans are faced with a “long, dark teatime of the soul” with little, if any, sci-fi on television.
It’s a pretty sad time when the most we have to be excited about is the start of the run of DEEP SPACE NINE on Spike TV. There’s no doubt how great a series DS9 was, and is. But they’re reruns now, folks. There’s nothing new there.
But back to my questions at hand: What do they want from us? What do the suits want to keep our shows alive?
The obvious answers to my hypothetical network exec would be, certainly, that they would want us to watch the shows.
But we are. Ratings for ANGEL, for instance, have been higher this year compared to last.
Last year, ratings for Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY on Fox were actually higher than those for his BUFFY over on UPN. FIREFLY still only lasted a dozen episodes before the network effectively spaced it.
To get ratings, though, the show has to be on at a time when people will watch it. Fox actually seemed like they had actually learned something and acknowledge that fact when they moved WONDERFALLS from Friday to Thursday for its forth episode.
But then they killed it after just its first Thursday appearance — a broadcast which TV Guide told potential viewers was still on Friday, by the way.
As one fan posting on TrekWeb said, four episodes just isn’t a realistic chance for a show to develop the kind of viewership that Fox apparently expected for it.
And, as a another fan on TrekWeb noted, if Fox had treated X-FILES the same way as it did WONDERFALLS—X-FILES would have been shitcanned after just four episodes, too.
These series, admittedly, attract a relatively smaller audience than, say, SURVIVOR or LAW AND ORDER. But not every series is going to be a Top 10 series. Almost by definition, a network cannot fill its entire programming schedule with Top 10 series.
There ought to be, and needs to be, room somewhere for series that attract a moderately sized, committed viewership.
And we know the fans of sci-fi series are highly committed individuals. All you have to do to know that is to ask the guy driving the “Save ANGEL” mobile-billboard truck around Hollywood, or the people who fought so hard to bring FARSCAPE back from its early grave.
So is it a matter of expense? A famous knock on sci-fi series is that they are very expensive to produce, primarily due to their reliance on special effects. But we also know that the current budget on ANGEL is about equal to what the budget was for the first season of BUFFY. Somehow, back then the WB was able to afford to carry BUFFY as a “cult” show for a full season or two until it built a broader audience.
And, talking about expense, Fox paid $20 million for 13 episodes of WONDERFALLS. It broadcast four of them, but has no plans to air the remaining ones. If expense is so important, why are they willing to just eat all that cost by not even broadcasting the unaired stories they’ve already paid for?
No, something just doesn’t make sense here, which is why all I desperately want is to get Jordan Levin, Gail Berman, or some other network suit or another alone in a room. Just me, them, and a polygraph.
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