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April 11 2003

A Clue to Joss' Recent Fortunes in Hollywood? This article explains the secret process by which Hollywood projects are hyped and/or killed using "tracking boards" (i.e. private insider-only databases and web forums).

Read this if you've ever wondered why Firefly was killed while crap shows continue to be green-lighted by the truck-load.

"This business runs on fear," she says, "and the tracking boards give that fear a voice."

Wired... is... the bomb.
Wow, it's pretty disturbing how arbitrary it all is. I shared the article with an aspiring screenwriter friend of mine and I think he's crushed now.
I have to wonder if anyone from ME has an account on the tracking boards.
The article didn't mention TV, only movies. But I s'pose there's probably TV boards too.

Sigh.
VI: Score mightily for yor badself. That's a great article. I have added "studio exec carbetbaggers" to the list of folks up against the wall, come the revolution.

The list rarely gets smaller, you know?
I've been thinking, though, that these boards couldn't possibly have affected Firefly's fate. Firely *was* green-lighted; it *was* made. Problem was, no one watched it. If the ratings had been good, then it would still be around. That simple. And certainly no one's suggesting that these boards affect what Amercans actually *watch*.

Not that it isn't a great article, and very depressing, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with Joss Whedon or the fate of Firefly.
I beg to differ with the opinion that Firefly failed all on its own. I believe the same fear/herd mentality mentioned in the article is what helped bring about the end of Firefly. Fox meddling with Firefly severely undercut its chances.

1) There was some sort of bad prepress before the first episode even aired ... which got out ... maybe on one of these tracking board things.

2) They gave it the timeslot from hell, where many series before it have failed, and where it is least accessible to its target demographic.

3) Possibly because of this "bad press" Fox made them air "Train Job" instead of the intended pilot, "Serenity" this is when the audience was at its highest. Serenity was a much better episode and was the intended introduction.

4) After the third episode I never saw any ads for a new Firefly episodes.

5) It was preempted for a several weeks at a time. The first time I believe was after its third episode.

6) Episode continued to be shown out of sequence.

7) Perhaps somewhat the fault of ME & Co. but after all the calamity they started airing the “really good” episodes. ‘Jaynestown’, ‘Out of Gas’, ‘Ariel’, etc. etc.

8) Fox ordered three more episodes (never before aired) instead of renew it for the whole season, after much prodding from fans who had struggled to see the show despite never knowing if it was going to be on or not.

9) Then they cancelled the show, of course.

In the same environment of network fear and reality tv garbage after failing without a full season no other network would even think of touching it. It's true that it had a huge budget, it did not put out great numbers, and it may have failed even with the best promotion and strategy. But Fox never really got behind it. They could've promoted like they do 24 and run repeats on FX. After they scrambled the order and gave it a crappy timeslot. the odds were stacked against it. When it did not produce spectacular numbers out of the gate, they simple let it run without any attempts to help it, despite a great deal of fan response.
I'm not a fan of network execs at all, but to blame Joss' recent lack of fortunes on tracking boards seems a bit... much. Not to mention conspiratory a la The X-Files...
I think the tracking boards are just a concrete example of the herd mentality that controls Hollywood. Are the tracking boards alone responsible for killing Firefly? Hardly. But they offer proof that one negative opinion whispered in the right ear can kill even the best projects.
I doubt it happened by way of anything that can be tracked. The demise of Firefly was much more untraceable. Based on the actions that occurred last year, summarized fabulously above by ascii_102_117, I think what happened is this. Fox Executive One made the agreement with Mutant Enemy to buy the first season of Firefly and broadcast it. Fox Executive One may even be a fan of Whedon's other work, in either an obvious or subtle way. However, Fox Executive One didn't realize how expensive Firefly was going to be, compared to how uninterested many of Fox's regular advertisers were going to be. Fox Executive One showed the early results of Mutant Enemy's efforts to a Fox Executive Two, who may or may not have had more power and influence than Fox Executive One. Fox Executive Two looked at Firefly and didn't get it at all, and didn't see why Fox Executive One agreed upon spending so much money on something that their advertisers wouldn't spend as much money on.

However, Fox Executive One made the agreement with Mutant to air Firefly, and Fox Executive Two didn't have enough clout to say no to the contract. However, Fox Executive Two did have enough clout to do everything he could to insure that Firefly didn't last. He had it put on what is historically the worst time of the year, purposefully returned the pilot asking for it to be 'improved' so all the shows were played out of order, allowed the series to be pre-empted at every opportunity, and spent as little money as possible on ineffectual publicity for the show.

Naturally whoever's responsible for all this isn't going to admit to it. Still, it's readily apparent that Firefly was sabotaged. There's just too many things that happened to dismiss it. The guilty party however will probably never be found.

But hey. Who knows? This same thing happened to Star Trek back in the late 60s, and over 25 years later it worked out pretty well.

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