It seems that most of the big water cooler television shows are taking place on cable channels these days and it’s becoming harder for shows to survive on network television. I would like to take a network and rebuild in a baseball rebuilding way. This makes no sense right now, but it will, I promise.
Rebuilding can take a couple of years, but the payoff will be a perennial contender (for the playoffs) for the highest ratings. If I were in charge…
1. The first thing I would tackle is to rebuild the trust of the audience. Much of this idea is taken form an earlier post of mine, https://thehollywoodrant.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/tv-shows-trust/
Investing time in a show, especially a serialized show, that gets cancelled at some point during or after the season, leaves all the viewers with an unresolved cliffhanger. Repeated infractions like this has destroyed my trust. I’m to the point that I won’t even watch a new show until I know it’s successful and will return for a second season. To rebuild the trust, I will promise the audience a 1 or 2 hour movie to wrap up the hanging plot threads of all cancelled shows.
2. Many AMC, cable-type shows divide their seasons in half. While this does give us a long break in the middle that we might not want, it gives us fewer reruns. Some shows even go straight through the half season with no reruns. This is great for me because reruns ruin the momentum of a show. Having a mid-season finale and a mid-season premier gives the viewer more “holy shit” episodes per season. So here I would put all shows on this format and have no in-season reruns.
3. Instead of in-season reruns, I would build in four live episodes. These would be placed one week before the season premier, mid-season premier, and 1 to 3 episodes before the season and mid-season finale. These episodes will be like the Talking Dead. Almost a complete ripoff. There will be a live audience and a panel of actors from the show, as well as a host. They will recap what has happened so far, answer questions from callers and the audience as well as tease what is to come. There will be behind-the-scenes information, stories, and clips. This will give current viewers something more exciting than a rerun as well as bring newer viewers up to speed.
4. Fear the Walking Dead bridges the gap between seasons of Walking Dead. More of this! Obviously this can’t be done for every show, or even a few of them, but doing it for the network’s biggest shows (1 or 2 max) is a good idea.
5. Finally, the reason this should compare with a baseball team’s rebuild: patience. Give a few years to slowly build back that audience. Look at the Chicago Cubs, whose rebuild began four years before their Wold Series Championship. You have to allow time for the audience’s trust to grow. Allow the good ideas to build an audience, and give them more seasons.Don’t be so quick to cancel a show that shows promise. Give shows like this a bit more time to grow. Even Seinfeld wasn’t a big hit in its first season. The Grinder was a good idea, and a funny, unique sitcom. There was a cult audience out there that loved this show. It was not the next Seinfeld, but it could’ve definitely grown bigger.
This was my final post at my old blog (thehollywoodrant.blogspot.com) and it’s an issue I’ve always been passionate about. To me, there’s nothing worse than investing my time in a television show that gets cancelled without any closure. Having this happen to me way too many times, I’ve found my trust int networks to do right by me slowly dwindling to the point where I’m not willing to give any new show a chance until I’m sure it won’t be cancelled.
As I age I become more hesitant to watch anything new that comes on my television. Work, love, family; these are just a few real-life factors that force us all to have less time for TV as we get older.
But there’s another factor at play here: TRUST. Years and years of withering trust in the shows I watch to give an ending to building story-lines has made me very unwilling to give a new show a chance. Why should I waste my time on anything if they’re not going to finish the story?
I don’t stand alone here. There’s not a single person out there who hasn’t had this happen to them on multiple occasions. It usually happens in the form of struggling shows filming a huge, game-changing finale, complete with cliffhanger ending, all in the hopes of drawing enough interest to save said show. Then the show gets cancelled. This is infuriating, but usually some time passes, the weather heats up, trips to the beach are taken, and I’ve quickly forgotten about it.
Problem is, that’s all fine and dandy the first few times it happens, but sooner or later, trust in the television industry to do right by me and all of the people who invested their time falls apart completely.
For some reason, when a show is cancelled a few episodes in, it feels even worse. Maybe it’s because there’s no summer to wash away the hurt, I don’t know, but it feels worse nonetheless. Recently, a coworker invested her time in Zero Hour, and I begrudgingly invested my time in Do No Harm. Both of these shows were cancelled after only a couple of episodes. We can quickly and easily look back at the two, three hours we wasted and think of all the things we could’ve done instead, or all the other shows we could’ve put our time into instead. I still have four episodes of Shameless to catch up on. Damn, wish I would’ve done that instead.
I believe all of this is causing anger amongst the fans of television, and I’m pretty sure this is playing a role into lower-than-expected ratings for some of the network’s biggest debuts. The networks were expecting big things from the previously mentioned Zero Hour and Do No Harm as well as the earlier debuts of 666 Park Avenue and Last Resort. All of them failed. But even in failure, at least 10 to 20 million different people invested some of their time in at least one of these shows, and stuck with them past their first and second episodes. That adds up to a lot of pissed off people who want to know what happens next.
To solve this problem, I propose that television networks do the following: first, if a show has failed in a prime spot in your schedule, burn off the remaining episodes on Saturday instead of four to six months later in the summer. Second, if a show gets cancelled without a chance to wrap up story-lines, allow the show to film a two-hour TV movie to please the fans and give them some closure. There is no third. This is simply about building that trust back, and if these two steps are followed, the fans will again have trust that their time won’t be wasted because the stories they decide to invest in will be guaranteed to have an ending.