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March 21 2012

Is TV paying too much attention to fans? An article about how the web brings audiences and creators closer together talks to Chris Buchanan, one-time president of Mutant Enemy, about "the early beneficiaries of this new online fan-community model".

According to Christopher Buchanan, who served as president of Mr. Whedon's production company, Mutant Enemy, Whedon never let the desires and speculation of the fans influence the direction he wanted to take the show or individual characters.


But wasn't Angel supposed to be on the show for so many episodes and then be killed off? I read that because he was such a popular character he was kept on. If that's not letting fans influence the direction then I don't know what is.

I think something similar happened to Spike as well.
I get the impression that Spike and Angel are more examples of fans influencing network executives who influence creators than examples of fans directly influencing creators.
Didn't David Greenwalt or one of the other writers talk Joss into keeping Angel on?

I think the Spike thing was also more of an "it just happened that way" thing.
I think Mitholas is right.

And maybe one reason Joss agreed to Angel sticking around is because he came up with the great lost-soul arc.
I'm quoting Wikipedia (don't hurt me) so

Spike was initially conceived as a disposable villain to be killed off, but proved so popular with fans that Joss Whedon decided to merely injure him instead


Apparently that's explained on a feature on the Season 2 DVD.
I think Spike is very much a network push. He's a reason Angel even got a fifth season. Angel was just Greenwalt/other writers though.
Spike was the only reason I watched the last 4 seasons of Buffy and bought the DVDs.
I'm still pissed at the fans who complained about Derpy. She's not a negative portrayal of a mental disability. She's a positive portrayal of a mental disability.

Cool article, though.
Some creatives read online commentary and tweak the show based on elements people generally respond well to. To see what pops. (And what poops). But listening to what fans want to happen story wise is often a road wise not to travel.
Spike WAS originally a character that was going to be killed off according to commentary. But I'm guessing not only did he pop with fans, but Joss and the rest of the team as well. I mean how can you watch season 2 and not want to be able to use Spike more?
OMG. Can you imagine a "notes call" from a fan funded show?! If I was a Hollywood writer, that thought would have me running for the hills and far, far away from fan funding. Unless... I was obsessed with an idea I couldn't fund otherwise, in which case my sanity would probably run for the hills instead. ;-)

******

I especially liked this part of the interview: He believes that fans spend a lot of time searching for hidden meanings, especially in background characters. "The fans read into things that I never would have [seen] coming."

People's minds sure are amazing. Anything we don't understand, we spontaneously create a story in order to "understand it" and bring peace of mind.
BreathesStory, given how many voices go into a studio/network "notes call" - many different executives, some with conflicting views - it probably is pretty much the same as what a fan "notes call" would be. However, the meeting before that, among the fans about what should go into that notes call and trying to reach a consensus - someone should probably have the police Special Weapons and Tactics squad on high alert, right outside the door.
I doubt a network notes call is anything like what a fan notes call would be. The network gives notes primarily on what it thinks will sell/people will understand and do not tune out and so see the commercials. Fans would tend to just pitch their hobbyhorses.
Fan #1: Sorry Joss, but that Wesley guy has to go. He's so annoying.

Joss: But I have unexpected and dark places to take him and open up his...

Fan #2: We're sorry Joss but he's gotta go. Now, that one guy from Episode #45. He was really hot how about you..

Fan #1: Wait no, I didn't like that guy at all. He couldn't act and I'm way more interested in seeing that hilarious quirky girl from episode #66 being explored in more..

(The 2 fans then proceed to have a flame war of epic proportions and Joss can do nothing but face palm the entire time.)
Imo:

having real time audience feedback = good
content producers paying too close attention to that feedback = bad

How close is too close - everybody has a different tolerance level. Some people (like, I'd argue, joss) seem to have a very good handle on just where that sweet spot is, while many others don't have a clue.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2012-03-22 06:44 ]
I think to some extent, there is a version of fan funded series that already exist on television. I believe HBO, Showtime, and Starz are very close to that model because those subscriptions are tied to the quality of the programming. The advertising model of network needs statistics. The subscription model just needs you to be willing to open up your wallet.

As for actual fan funded shows... that might work short term, but even the Buffy fanbase will give you an idea why that wouldn't work long term even if you could get the money. When a show gets past a certain point, decisions have to be made as far as direction and fans never agree. Say toodles to half of your funding. To an extent, fan funded would probably take fewer risks (and bore me to tears.)

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