Mon, 1 August 2011

So many TV programmes are being cancelled nowadays, it's not worth getting into anything.

Oh, some of them are dire fare and deserve to go the way of the bin, but some of them look OK and should get a chance. The problem is that the market is saturated with similar programmes and the viewers are spreading their opinions between so many different shows that it's hard to keep up.

Personal example: CSI. One concept, three different programmes to watch. For the last 4-6 months Anne and I have been watching any CSI we can get our hands on. That's Original CSI, CSI Miami and CSI New York. Channel 5, FiveUSA, Universal, SKyLiving and some other channels all show CSI almost constantly (FiveUSA's "CSI Sunday" means that very little gets done at the weekends any more). 

Then there are the other shows that are on before and after that one might just catch a bit of and say "hey, that looks good too". NCIS, Cold Case, Law & Order etc. That's between six and eight shows (if you count all three Law and Order series) each day. That's a lot of time. No-one (who can afford cable tv) has enough time to watch eight shows per day.

And that's the problem. Because every genre now has several shows that fit into its viewership demographic, people have to pick and choose what programmes to watch. The others can't be recorded because then there would be no time to catch up on the programmes that were missed. Out one night? Record all the programmes and then you need 16 hours the next day to watch everything.


But US TV networks still use viewership figures to dictate the programming schedules for the coming season. They pour squillions of dollars into producing them, make about four different programmes a year for each genre and then expect the demographic to be able to watch them all. Ain't gonna happen.

Today I found out that No Ordinary Family and V have been cancelled. I'm not pleased about No Ordinary Family, because I watched the first 6 episodes to see what it was like and I really enjoyed it. After sitting through Heroes and being dismayed at a programme that took itself too seriously, it was great to see a real family show about how having super powers would affect the everyday life of, well, an Ordinary Family. It was done well. It had heart and it had action and it had Julie Benz in it (and Michael Chiklis, but I have to mention the ladies first or people might get worried about my attraction to bulk bald men).

So why did it get cancelled? People seemed to like it, and even at the death slot of 10pm it gained a good audience. Like I said, it's a saturated market. There are no original ideas left for television. No Ordinary Family was unique in that it was a weekly series about a family of superheroes, but compare it to the movie world, where you have The Incredibles and Meet The Robinsons and you see that it's another "clone". It was done well, no doubt about that, but against the sheer number of options in today's hundreds of channels, it had no chance.

V was doomed from the start. V in the 80s was a fantastic miniseries (I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the full series) and addressed some lingering fear from world war 2 in bringing a nazi force to Earth from another world.

New V was doomed - the original concept was watered down so much that there was no sympathy for it. It was just bland sci-fi. And that put it in the same boat as the rest of the sci-fi fare out there, thus it was lost in the starfield. Just another program to flick through as part of the weekly viewing choice.

V and No Ordinary Family (and a lot of other programmes today) suffer from the methods that cable channels use to show them too. Series often have linear storylines with a progressive arc through the series. Cable channels tend to show them at random, often with episodes from multiple series being shown on the same night. Universal Channel is bad for this with CSI. That takes some of the shine off, especially when you sit down for your nightly vigil and find it's one you saw only the previous night.

So is it any wonder people are turning off these shows and watching something else? Market saturation is bad. Making twelve new shows a year is bad, especially when you cancel all but four each sweeps season. People don't want to start watching something and get into it for it to just be cancelled in the middle of a story. It's like buying a book then getting halfway through it and finding the other half of it is blank.

I think TV networks and producers need to start thinking a little differently instead of pissing off the viewers. Here's a job for you. Go find petition web sites and count how many petitions there have been for bringing cancelled shows back. Then count up all the signatures. I bet there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of signatories. That's a small number of the people that are pissed off by this cancellation culture that the entertainment industry has now adopted.

Why not approve and fund a series for a year then make sure there's enough money/funding/stuff left over for a two-episode finale if the show gets cancelled. That way the producers and creators can wrap up any outstanding storylines and at least make some effort to make the viewers happy.  It's not perfect, but it's still better than the dozens of unfinished stories that are currently sitting out there.

  • Knight Rider 2008
  • Bionic Woman
  • Firefly (ok, Serenity closed it off, but still...)
  • No Ordinary Family
  • V
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Caprica


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