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December 10 2003

Joss Whedon Interview Joss speaks on a variety of topics from his son to his hand in Buffy merchandising.

This is a really intriguing interview for a various number of reasons.

Whedon related that "the network called up and said 'We piggybacked you on the deal for another show,' I'm like 'Okay, so what you're saying to my writers is that they weren't picked up when they thought they were and now that they are it was because of something that has nothing to do with them. Okay. Great. Stop calling."

That must have really hurt. And his trust in The WB must have withered when he found this out.

I was just really worn down as we came into the seventh season. Of course we tried hard to make it great, but seven years is a long time and I was tired. Now were in the fifth year of Angel and I'm in a situation where we've gotten to the hundredth episode and I feel like the show has...found it's place in the world."

Is he hinting something here about the future of Angel? Or am I reading too much into this?

Though I reckon there would be enough interest amongst fans for a CD which had Chris Beck's Buffy scores on it. I'd want one, that's for sure.
Could that billboard-sized ad in the middle of the first page be any bigger?! :o
Yes, Chris Beck music! I've been hoping for a CD of his scores for a while. I wonder if 'they' have any idea how much demand there would actually be for such a thing, 'cuz I'm sure there would be.
god, i can't believe the wb did that...

i don't think we'll ever seen a joss show on their network ever again

the other deal may have been 'fearless', and angel was going to be replaced by it come midseason if it didn't go well - but since 'fearless' was fully taken off the schedule anyway because it wasn't good enough, they then just gave a full season to angel

[ edited by aapac on 2003-12-11 05:19 ]
The sad thing about this is that Joss Whedon again put his faith in the system thinking he could trust the people who say "trust me" and they would've screwed him over again. I remember all the hype that the WB was dishing out when they decided to renew Angel for another season and all the words about how they wanted to honor this great show and let it finish out it's story. They wanted to capitalise on Buffy's ending and they seemed like they were definitely sorry for their part in losing Buffy and seemed to genuinely want to make up with Joss. So this is sad that yet again, the execs at a network slaps the hand that feeds them, so to speak. Look at all the money Fox and the WB have made off of Whedon's creations and they still don't appreciate it.

Is it understandable that he felt burnt out at the end of Buffy after the year he had had with Fox and the loss of his newest baby? And now he's still trying to find a way to continue Firefly and now the WB is pulling this kind of stunt? Yeah, I'm also a bit worried that he could be hinting at what could be the future of Angel if this kind of bullsh*t keeps happening to him.

I think Joss should just start his own network and create all his own shows. We could have "Fray, slayer of the future", "Willow the Watcher", the long awaited "Ripper" and of course "Firefly". I'm sure Joss could come up with a bunch of shows of different varieties with his background as a writer.
>>I think Joss should just start his own network and create all his own shows. We could have "Fray, slayer of the future", "Willow the Watcher", the long awaited "Ripper" and of course "Firefly". I'm sure Joss could come up with a bunch of shows of different varieties with his background as a writer. <<

oh that would be an awesome network

we could have all his shows during the prime-time hours, and then have repeats during the day along with the shows joss himself the ben stiller show (if he gets the rights to them of course)
Anyone else wonder why Joss never shopped Firefly around for syndication - I mean you have other syndicated shows that are not as good still on the air because they are in syndication, need I mention them here I think we all know what shows I'm refering too. That is usually where you find most fantasy and sci-fi anymore and guess what they flurish there and are given a chance to grow and develop.

Also where the heck was UPN on this deal - you'd think by now Paramount would know another Wagon Train to the Stars (for those who are not a trek person - that is how Gene Roddenberry describe the original Star Trek to Desilu executives) when they see's it.

Ok I wouldn't want it to go up against Angel and you know they would since they put Jake 2.0 up against it, which is produced by one Mr. David Greenwalt - somewhere that has to be a conflict of interest. (Small rant - and I think UPN is keeping Jake 2.0 on just to spite ME {not me personally:P} - cause they know it they cancel it the viewers would probably transfer to Angel.)
i thought joss covered everywhere in his effort to find the show a new home, and that probably would've included syndication

but firefly might've been too expensive for syndication though...
Joss did shop Firefly around for syndication (I remember him talking about how the SciFi channnel didn't want it). It was too expensive for syndication.
Joss should have waited until Buffy was over before starting Firefly. Both shows suffered because he was stretched too thin. I wonder what he's going to do if Angel is cancelled at the end of this year and the Firefly movie doesn't come through. He may finally have time to watch television.
I cannot even fathom Angel cancelled. Buffy ending was heartbreaking...but at least I still had AtS. Thank God for DVD's. But...I will not face the possible ending of Angel until I am forced to. Please, oh please...I grovel...give Angel another season!!!
I can't imagine ANGEL being _cancelled_. I know it's a possibility, and I know that it almost happened last season, but still -- BUFFY deciding to end is one thing, but _cancelling_ ANGEL? I just... couldn't deal with that. It would suck so much. FIREFLY was one thing: a show that never got a chance, etc. But ANGEL is one of the great hours on television, proved over four seasons. They can't cancel it. (Knocks on wood.)

I know I'm living in a dream world, but I stand by it: they cannot possibly cancel ANGEL.
Syndication is not the sci-fi channel, thinking about it I guess he could not sell it into syndication cause FOX owned it - not him - he needed a studio to back him and obviously FOX wasn't it, but FOX may have also priced it to high fot whoever wanted to buy.
Just want to say that I love that Joss mentioned "The Ben Stiller Show," if only because all 13 episodes of that unceremoniously cancelled classic were released on DVD just a week before "Firefly." It just goes to show that Fox still doesn't know how to market anything that aspires beyond the dreck of "Temptation Island". I'm amazed that "24" and "Arrested Development" are still on the air.

I now anxiously await the announcement of the availability of "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" sometime in 2004. Fox Home Video sure is cleaning up on the cluelessness of its parent company's network.

(Incidentally, I think that syndication was explored, but the cost-per-episode was prohibitive. It's a lot more competitive out there now than it was in the '80s when "Star Trek: The Next Generation" bypassed the networks. And while the stuff out there is bad, it's also relatively cheap, and really exists solely to fill time on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on a lot of schedules. "Firefly" deserved better than to be lumped in with that lot.)
Bottom line: Firefly was too expensive to produce.

That's why the reever suits humped it, even though it was shiney. =) Other shows make it in syndication because they're cheap to produce. Mutant Enemy could look into making special projects that are direct to DVD. Circumvent prime time television entirely. The Firefly Movie is a step in the right direction, but let's face it, conventional movie theaters and television stations are so 20th century. However, it might still be too soon to make any real money doing that too. In about five or ten years, direct to DVd may be more the norm.
blwessels, I'm with you on the Joss network. It's a common thing around here to envision such a wonderful channel. And let's not forget the 'BtVS Animated Series' that was originally planned. As well as movies that Joss may have had a hand in, or will be doing.. such as 'Toy Story'. Again, provided he can get the rights to such things.

I also agree his Angel comment seems quite foreboding. Say it isn't so, Joss!
Expensive shows like Firefly need startup cash until the revenue starts coming in, either in ad revenue, DVD sales, or streaming / download fees. And either direct to DVD or streaming options would be considered experiamental and hard to find the cash for.

There could be VC companies out there who could fund something like the online version, but it would be a tough sell. Once the BBC initiative to provide downloadable back catalogue content becomes a bit more of a reality, people will start seeing the light. Until then, traditional distribution channels will be the norm.
I also agree his Angel comment seems quite foreboding. Say it isn't so, Joss!

I really read the "Angel finding it's place in the world" comment as a good thing -- that, after wandering through the desert over the last few years of figuring out what Angel (the series) actually is about, Joss feels like they've really got a handle on it now.

I refer to some of his comments in the Joss Whedon biography about the first season of the show, where they had aimed it at being more stand-alone, less backstory and mythology (that's how they sold it), and then, when the WB wasn't happy (and apparently Joss and David G. weren't either), moved it to more emphasis on arcs. (That's the way I read it, anyway.)

Two additional comments:

1) Chris Beck score CD! Oh, please!!!!!

2) Am I the only one who feels a little odd refering to Joss as "Joss", and not "Mr. Whedon"?

Yeah, it's just me. This is what happens when you're raised on the Times.
"Anyone else wonder why Joss never shopped Firefly around for syndication"

I checked with a reporter friend of mine, and, as I had suspected, you need to have produced about 100 episodes for a show to go into syndication. If you just had 22 episodes, for instance, you would show the entire run of the show in just over 4 weeks...meaning about a month, and then have to start over. The thinking is that you need to go at least 4 or 5 months before repeating yourself, otherwise your viewership will be saturated with the show and will likely disappear, and thus your syndicated show is not profitable.

As noted, the Sci-Fi network gambit seems to have been not an attempt at syndication, but rather an attempt to sell the show to the network, just as it had initially been sold to Fox.

As to the proposed Joss Network (JTV?), hell, we pretty much have it in our house already, with all the Buffy and Angel DVDs and VCDs and VHS tapes...and Firefly is on the way!
RavenU, the Sci Fi channel passed on Firefly as well. If you go through the archives here back to whenever all of the shopping around was going on (someone else might better remember exactly when that took place -- it's slipped my mind), you'll see a period of weeks where people here were posting report after report of different networks turning down the offer to take the show.

Production costs were just prohibitively expensive.
I checked with a reporter friend of mine, and, as I had suspected, you need to have produced about 100 episodes for a show to go into syndication. If you just had 22 episodes, for instance, you would show the entire run of the show in just over 4 weeks...meaning about a month, and then have to start over

Chris, there are actually different kinds of syndication. What you're referring to is by far the most common, where a studio sells broadcast rights of repeats to local stations. This is how certain shows -- "The Simpsons," "Friends," "Seinfeld," -- air several times a day.

The other kind of syndication, and the kind that I think RavenU was referring to, is first-run syndication. Under that form, the show is still a weekly affair, running for 22-25 episodes a season, but rather than the studio selling it to a network that will have its affiliates air it, they sell it to the individual stations around the country. It works well, to a point, because as long as there is a sufficient number of stations willing to buy the show, the studio makes money and will keep producing it. It also gives individual stations more say in when it will air -- avoiding kiss-of-death time slots like Friday nights.

But it worked better when there were only a few networks and a lot of independently owned channels around the country, hungry for more original programming than repeats of network hits. Now, just about every station either has an affiliation with one of the networks (WB and UPN snapped up a lot of them in the last few years) or they're owned by a handful of corporations (including NewsCorp, parent company of Fox) that program them like mini-networks. That means cheap action shows or "reality" dating shows like "Blind Date" or "Fifth Wheel" -- and repeats of network hits.
Thanks for the clarification, longtimelurker...I did a little more research and got the straight dope on first run syndication here:

"If a program is initially made to be sold to programmers other than the major networks, however, then the program is known as "first run syndication." An example would be the weekly program, Star Search with Ed McMahon, produced by Television Program Executives (T. P. E.) and Bob Banner Associates. Similarly, Paramount Television's Star Trek: The Next Generation and other Star Trek spinoffs are produced for first run syndication. On occasion, a television program originally developed for network programming will be shifted into the first run syndication mode. This is the case with Bay Watch, a program that failed to attract a sufficient audience when programmed by NBC in 1989, and was canceled after a single season. It then went into production as a first run syndicated product and has become enormously successful in international markets."

Now I get it...!

[ edited by Chris in Virginia on 2003-12-11 21:41 ]
Exactly or ballpark what was the cost of making Firefly per episode, does anyone know? ST:TNG was around a million an episode starting out and close to 2 million by series end. Did Firefly exceed that? Also there are ways around the cost in syndication - you can move production location - like Xena or Hercules were filmed in New Zealand, like Farscape was. Or X-Files and Millenium was filmed in Canada there are ways to bring down the cost of a production without sacrificing the quality of the show. Syndication also allows the creator more control over the show - I'm surprised Joss didn't go that route in the first place. You would have thought he had learned that from FOX and the WB after the whole Buffy 5 th season squabble.
As long as we are talking about production costs...remember that there is also a franchise fee that Fox requires for a network to air a particular program...This was a paramount reason as to why The WB did not opt to pick up Buffy after season five (read: The franchise fee is outrageous!) I am willing to bet the farm that AtS franchise fee is quite expensive as well and will play a crucial role on whether or not it is picked for additional seasons...Additionally, it would help if "we" knew whether or not AtS has proved to be profitable (or profitable enough for network executives) after all of the associated costs of production, marketing, franchise fees, etc...And I think Joss was a little too enigmatic to read into anything concerning Angel...What you should pay attention to is what he didnt say, like: "The show is doing wonderful and we are sure to be here for many years to come!" Conversly, Joss didn't say, "Enjoy it while it last kids cause it's about over..."

[ edited by Simpleba on 2003-12-12 03:31 ]

[ edited by Simpleba on 2003-12-12 05:26 ]
Was anyone else taken by the comment 'I'm like 'Okay, so what you're saying to my writers is that they weren't picked up when they thought they were and now that they are it was because of something that has nothing to do with them. Okay. Great. Stop calling.'

How can you not know you are only picked up for a partial season with the option for a full season? What kind of producer doesn't know the contract they have with the studio or the network - isn't that part of their job to know that?
Yea..that struck me as strange...If memory serves correct "we" knew about the season extension option well before the season began...Either JW is seriously out of the loop or just a poor businessman...
What he was saying is that the full season option was picked up, not that there simply was an option to be picked up.
Well according to reports at the end of last season Angel was reported as being picked up for a full season, then somewhere along the way it was changed to a half-season with the option for a full but no solid commitment from the WB. My question was how does someone who claims this show is his number one priority not know this information. When we in the general public who are not associated with the daily dealing did. I know I for one was reading the overnights for every episode and trying to get a feel for the shows survival for the first 2 monthes or at least till the news came out that they were picked up for the year. No offence to anyone, I love Lucy Lawless but I was praying Trazan would fail cause I had a feeling it came down to those two shows, which ever got the better ratings would stay and other would be gone before mid-season. The first week Trazan aired scared me cause it did well but then it sunk and I was glad.

[ edited by RavenU on 2003-12-12 06:59 ]
Bookrats said: "Am I the only one who feels a little odd refering to Joss as 'Joss, and not 'Mr. Whedon'?"

I think we should affectionately call him "Woody."
Also there are ways around the cost in syndication - you can move production location - like Xena or Hercules were filmed in New Zealand, like Farscape was. Or X-Files and Millenium was filmed in Canada...

True, but potentially problematic. You've got a Los Angeles-based cast and crew and you announce to them, "Good news everyone! The show's still alive, but you've all got to pick up your lives and move them half way around the world for the next eight months, because we're shooting it in New Zealand now!" Not everyone is going to go for that. (Imagine this exchange: "Kaylee: Hey, Simon -- didn't you used to have a sister?") And while it might be possible to make it worth the actors' while to head down under, it wouldn't be practical to move the whole crew as well, which would mean hiring a whole new bunch of people, which would undoubtedly have an effect on the look and feel of the show.

First-run syndication just ain't what it used to be, either. "Star Trek: TNG" could have relatively high production costs because there wasn't anything else like it on the market, and because there WAS a market. What used to be syndication material in the late '80s and early '90s has become the stuff of basic cable in the early 21st century. And once you've tried to sell your creation to Sci Fi, Spike, USA, TNT, et cetera, and failed, then what are the odds that you're going to sell it to individual stations who know how desperate you are? They sure aren't going to pay the price you need to cover your costs, even if you shoot it outside of the US. Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE for "Firefly" to come back to TV in some way, but I believe it when *ahem* Mr. Whedon says that he tried every practical way to do it, and that would include syndication. I think the worldwide TV market just doesn't know what to do with a show like that right now. Bunch of bean counters.
Maybe it's not the money. Maybe it's the message.

Firefly is a story about existing in two extremes. First there's the Alliance which is this 'new world order' that alleged civilized organizations are trying to push only to reveal themselves to be rather power hungry, barbaric and ignorant of reality, and then there's the Reevers which have no easily discernable social structure and only seek to destroy everything the Alliance has created. One could equate Firefly's enemies with the warring factions we see today on CNN. Although which ones are the Reevers and which ones are the Alliance? Well, that's a debate for another time.

Firefly is not about heroes. It's about survivors. It's about the people living in between these two extremes, trying to make sense of it and find their place of safety amidst the adsurd nature of the 'verse they're forced to exist within. Take my love. Take my land. Take me where I cannot stand. ...You can't take the sky from me. Leave me in space - in nothingness, and I will still somehow survive. So long as I can keep flying.

We can assume the bean counters have shunned this show because they don't understand it, but I think the bean counters understand this far too well. It's not like Whedon's hidden his message or sugar-coated his agenda. I think Firefly is speaking not about 500 years from now but about the here and now. And I don't think the powers that be behind the curtain of corporate media conglomerates were very appreciative of Whedon's message. I think for them it was cutting too close to the bone. I think some powers that be, some (dare I say it?) alliance, in the political spectrum may be concerned that Whedon's Firefly doesn't just pit the Alliance against the Reevers in his little story - because it doesn't. The show measures the terrorists up against the ones who claim to be protecting the common man from terror, and the show determines that neither of these extremes is suitable for habitable life.

In a time of worldwide turmoil when the Alliance is fighting the Reevers? Investing in a program that sees little difference in the two extremes is not good propaganda.

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2003-12-12 23:11 ]
Hmm, interesting theory, ZachsMind. A bit more conspiratorial than I can quite sign onto, but you still make some thought-provoking points. I can't see direct political interference playng a part in the cancellation, only because the commercial considerations (i.e., lack of a large audience) took care of that as far as Fox was concerned. I can see a wariness of some complaint down the road, though, explain why they didn't fight very hard to market it and get that audience, and why it was a hard sell to anyone else.

"Firefly" didn't consist of good guys in white hats who always come out ahead in the end while imparting moral lessons along the way. While Buffy is a hero, absolutely and without qualification, and while Angel was once bad but is now good and striving towards redemption, the Serenity and her crew wallowed in a moral world of gray. While they had their Robin Hood moments, they spent most of their time scraping along and looking out for their own best interests. Generally, on most television, you might be allowed to like the bad guys, but you sure aren't allowed to make them the leads, no matter how fascinating they might be. I think "The Sopranos" might be the only show on right now that gets away with it, and you have to pay for the privilege of watching that.

As for the difference between the Alliance and the Reavers, I think the show did see one, but was wary that both were extremes that became dangerous and untenable over time. It's reminiscent of "Brave New World," with the difference between an all-natural existence that quickly descended into utter chaos, or a heavily structured one that deadened people by saving them the trouble of ever having to make a moral decision. But you might be right; just acknowledging that in itself is a kind of anti-propoganda.

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