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April 03 2004

Prognostication from Rolling Stone columnists on Wonderfalls' chances. Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman briefly show their love for Buffy, Angel, and ::sniff:: Wonderfalls. (¶ 6)

Was the writing so clearly on the wall, or is it just a safe bet that clever programming will be cancelled?

I think because it was Fox people expected it. People were talking about it being cancelled before it even aired. I can't say I was surprised, disgusted maybe, but not surprised. Nothing surprises me with what happened with Firefly getting the axe. I don't expect quality shows to last very long any more. The networks are all too impatient and only want shows they consider instant hits. Shows like Cheers and The X-Files never would've survived their first season if they were to have premiered now. They had very slow starts and took awhile to find an audience.
The television industry desperately needs to overhaul its system of ranking shows. I honestly believe that more people watch shows like Wonderfalls and Angel than the networks can see in their overnights.

Taken a step further, the industry should rethink its approach to production and distribution of shows. FX, for instance, runs The Shield and Nip/Tuck for shorter seasons, but airs them without (much) interruption. If cost is such a factor for networks, then they should make fewer episodes per show per season, and show those episodes contiguously to keep viewers interested. Maybe not all shows would work well in a shorten season format, but certainly shows like Angel and Wonderfalls could be profitable—and still succeed artistically—in a compressed season. Tim Minear made comments that seem to support this opinion:

"I can promise that if we only ever get to 13, it’ll be worth it and you won’t feel cheated."

Networks, heed this warning: Your business model is doomed to fail if it involves the increased alienation of your customers’ affections for the sake of short-term ROI.

"One thing is pretty obvious in these days. If the clergy went on strike, society would soon learn to live without them."

[ edited by Ubqtous on 2004-04-04 08:35 ]
Agree with blwessels, and would add another example - Seinfeld. The now-coronated Best Sitcom of All Time took years to build up its audience.

But I'm not sure if there's an overall trend in network response to slow-building shows. It might be that Wonderfalls, Firefly, and Angel were all costly and relatively fx-heavy. When you're paying to animate a space battle or a set of talking lawn flamingos, you, as a network, probably want some performance out of those things, soon. Why shell out money to animate some spaceship if you can toss that same money to ugly women, pay for their surgery, and get them to participate in a beauty pagent? The latter show is going to get more buzz and more viewers.

But there was a chance for Firefly, after a year or so, to become a major sci-fi phenomenon - another Xena, or maybe even Dune. Even if they're not doing it with greater frequency, networks are proving they won't coddle a phenomenon unless it appeals to the lowest common denominator, be it with midgets or with Eliza Dushku's body.
I understand that it all boils down to business decisions, but I think there are smarter ways to go about making money. The networks are making no long term investments (Seinfeld) and are instead banking on "ugly women, pay for their surgery, and get them to participate in a beauty pagent" to get their collective quick fix.

It's all shallow roots and I hope a storm is coming.

or with Eliza Dushku's body

She's alright, but Caroline Dhavernas is the bees knees!

[ edited by Ubqtous on 2004-04-04 23:19 ]
Ubqtous - I had to laugh at your "Bees knees" comment! I haven't heard that saying in a LONG time! Caroline is a cutie, though. A damn shame we won't see her on the tv.

Agreed on the comments about audience-building time. WHAT is with network tv these days? It's like if it isn't "insta-hit", axed it gets. Not all of us have the attention span of gnats. And damn the Nielsen ratings. If *every* one of us had one of those stupid Nielsen boxes, maybe then you could get an accurate picture of what "America watches", but as it is, it's a highly UNscientific and highly biased way of seeing what's popular. Who are these people with Nielsen boxes anyway?? The Stepford friggin Wives?!
cubiclesatan, I was contacted by Nielson just last week. They said they want me to be part of their "Family". They are supposed to call me. Haven't heard from them yet. I did get excited thinking I might be able to help save Wonderfalls. But alas...

I am interested, if they do contact me again, to find out what that will be like.
I am interested, if they do contact me again, to find out what that will be like.

electricspacegirl, I did the Nielsen thing a couple years ago. It was the paper journal for February sweeps; they called me, asked me the usual bunch of politely nosey personal questions (age, profession, financial earnings, etc.) and then sent me a box containing the journal and some written instructions. It's fairly simple to fill out, but annoying in some ways because the way each page is set up, you have limited space and if you change channels frequently, as I do, it gets a little complicated trying to make sure everything is laid out according to the correct order you watched everything in. Whatever you do, fill in the journal as you watch. Don't be lazy and then try to recreate it later, unless you're really unconcerned with being accurate (sort of pointless if you want to have a valid effect on the data). You include any time you watch at least fifteen minutes of something, as well as any shows you tape or otherwise record -- I made sure to note that I watched and taped the first-run AtS episode that week, as well as all the 'Angel' and 'Buffy' reruns on the weekend.

The paper journals are used for giving the local affiliates in your area specific demographic information that they use to determine their advertising dollars, from what I understand. At the end of the specified week, there's space in the back of the journal where you can write comments about anything you want. I used up all the space in the journal to tell them how much I wanted 'Angel' renewed for a 5th season. I don't know if it made a difference, but I definitely felt good about having a voice to support 'Angel' at a time when it was seriously looking like it wasn't coming back.

Oh, and they do pay you to do the journal -- I believe I received the princely sum of two whole American dollars. ;)

Edited to wonder if I'm now on the Nielsen hit list for revealing their secrets.

[ edited by Wiseblood on 2004-04-05 09:05 ]
I had to laugh at your "Bees knees" comment! I haven't heard that saying in a LONG time!

I think she's absolutely gorgeous and enchanting, but wanted to choose less drooly and more reverential words to say so ;)

...wonder if I'm now on the Nielsen hit list for revealing their secrets.

I read an editorial not too long ago from a former Nielsen-ite who said as much, so I don't think you're in danger.

Looks like Nielsen is angling to do away with the paper journal any way.

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