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.
Since writing this post, I learned that the 2013-2014 season of How I Met Your Mother will be it’s last, which is sad because I really thought they were handling the Barney/Robin relationship well. My biggest fear for this show was that it would be ruined if Barney were in a relationship and it wasn’t ruined at all.
One of my favorite teachers ever taught me (and the rest of the class) that the best comedy comes from the “stumble to the alter” phase of a person’s life. He meant that other than “family” sitcoms, the best time for comedy in a person’s life is the time when they’re old enough to potentially get married to the time that they’re actually married.
This is why so many sitcoms have died or ended once it’s “single” characters get married. This is why so many sitcoms have kept their characters in a perpetual state of immaturity.
In an ensemble sitcom, you can of course have one married couple, but as the other characters begin to pair off, the sitcom will sooner rather than later come to an end.
This is the looming fear of How I Met Your Mother. The whole premise of the show is leading up to the moment when Ted gets married. It can happen at any time. Now, on top of that, we have Robin and Barney paring off. Soon, the whole cast will be married.
Also, when characters in a sitcom begin to pair off, usually the “drama” starts to increase and the “comedy” starts to decrease. This happened to Friends. It’s happening to HIMYM. However, it never happened with Seinfeld. Seinfeld was aware of where the comedy came from. He knew about the “stumble to the alter.” He never messed with it.
The 2012 winter finale of HIMYM was really good. Despite Robin and Barney being officially paired off, despite the ramped up drama. I don’t know why, but I really feel like HIMYM might just be able to break the mold and still be good after all their characters are married. With it’s continued quality use of flashbacks we can always get a good dose of Barney running a ridiculous scam from his playbook, or Ted getting into ridiculous circumstances.
HIMYM has had its ups and downs as its characters have aged. There were times when I was really pissed off at the show and on the verge of giving up on it (hello three episode arc about Marshall’s father dying), and yes it was in its prime during season 2 and 3 and hasn’t been as consistently funny since. But dammit if I wasn’t sold on the 2012 winter finale. I have hope that this show can do what no other similar sitcom has ever been able to pull off.