You know I like the show Constantine, right? You know I have to rant about the unfairness that is NBC cancelling the show and releasing all of its cast and crew from their contracts, right? Right. Just so we’re under no illusions as to what this post will be about.
Let’s start at the beginning. Imagine you have the rights to make a show based on a comic book. Now imagine that this comic cook has a long-standing, loyal fanbase. Imagine those fans have access to a TV and a cable\broadband connection, and in all likelihood subscribe to some kind of entertainment package to watch whatever they want on said TV. How much of a stretch would it be to imagine that these fans might want to give your new show a go, and if they approved, would talk about it non-stop on social media and to their real life friends?
So you make the show. You do a bit of market research and find that there aren’t that many shows on telly these days that would fall into the same category. One of the copyright owners, WB, turns out to have a show somewhat similar in appearance but completely different in actuality, on one of its subsidiary channels, the CW. You have a think and decide that, because of the time and effort everyone’s put into bringing the show to life - not least of the all the excellent cast including, some would say, the real life embodiment of the main character himself - you’ll bury it in the ‘graveyard’ spot (so named because shows get put in that time slot to die).
The first episode gets mixed reviews; you feel disappointed. So disappointed, in fact, that you order the season to be cut from 23 episodes to just 13. After all, you have to mitigate your losses, right? So the viewers and fans are upset. Who cares? What matters is that you’ve just ensured you lose less money that you’ve projected. Now you sit back and watch the ratings, week by week. But you don’t advertise the show, you don’t go out of your way to boost these ratings in any way. It’s almost like you don’t want to do the job you’re paid to do, and certainly looks exactly like you want the show to fail.
But the fans. Ah, those irksome fans. They get together on Twitter, on tumblr, on Facebook. They conspire to get the name of the show, and the fact that everyone needs to ‘save’ the show, trending. And it doesn’t stop there - cast and crew join in, because hey, why not - it’s only their jobs, their livelihoods, after all. Ratings increase episode by episode. Not dramatically, but enough to convince everyone that it’s worth more than it’s getting. So you change the time slot, bring it forward an hour, without advertising it. That’ll confuse the viewers, right? I mean, once they tune in and find out they’ve missed it, they’ll just forget all about it, surely.
You’ve forgotten streaming, my friend, and the revenue you get from it. Now you have to factor that into how successful it’s becoming, not to mention all those secondary ratings from people who hear about it through someone doing a tweet-along and then get snared as viewers too. Damn those social media platforms.
Then you find that someone in Marketing has done for that show what they do for all your other shows; they’ve gone and made some merchandise. Granted, it’s only two shirts, and granted, they’re only for men, but look at how many they’ve gone and sold! Idiots. Now you have to stop any more merchandise being produced lest you generate income from that, too. Who wants the merchandise to become popular so that you end up not only making money from it, but advertising the show as well? It’ll have to be stopped otherwise you’ll never get this show cancelled.
Did I say cancelled? I meant buried.
Now then, knowing that the (shortened) season is coming to a close, you keep a steady eye on the ratings. Once they’ve out-performed several other shows across rival networks, then you can announce that they just weren’t high enough, and give everyone a good reason to cancel the show. But to forestall any fan fury, you just say that the show has been put on the back-burner, that you can bring it back at any time - say, if the new Autumn shows don’t attract high enough ratings before the Christmas break. That will keep the fans happy, right?
Sigh. Obviously not. The fans keep writing in - taking the time to use actual pens and real paper - and they’re emailing, and calling network executives, and they’re sending in weird things like the nine of diamonds playing cards and red ties. It’s all very weird. Basically they don’t seem happy about the show being caught in limbo. But who cares - you can cancel it next week anyway.
And you do. It gets canned. Cast and crew are freed from their contracts. They go their separate ways, like good little soldiers. The network is happy - they’ve got rid of it at last. Now they can concentrate on the shows that will make them money. Because making money out of your shows is how you survive as a network.
But make sure there’s no merchandise to sell, lads. Can’t have us making money out of a show we’ve already cancelled. Wait - who sold it to Amazon Prime and iTunes? Idiots - now people can spend money on it to buy the series. Now even more money will come in. Oh but wait a minute - make sure you don’t, whatever you do, produce or sell a DVD or - gasp! - a blu ray with extras on it. Got that stopped? Phew! Good work, troops. We very nearly ended up receiving more revenue from this show through very little expenditure.
Done imagining all that? Wow - you have a very vivid imagination, and one to be proud of, not to mention good concentration.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine, because that’s exactly what happened (well, mostly). And here’s why I’m angry:
At any time, NBC, you could have realised that you’d made a commitment and thought about actually backing that up with advertising, with an effort to promote the show and get some good beginner’s ratings. At any time you could have decided that you no longer wanted the show and cut yourself free - by selling it to another network or one of your subsidiaries. The CW wouldn’t have been a perfect fit but it would have been a start. AMC would have been perfect, seeing as they’re currently still enjoying a ratings hit with The Walking Dead. HBO would have turned the show into more of its comic book origins and less about toning it down for the audience - great. Netflix would have grabbed that ball and run with it so fast you’d regret letting it go. But hey, you failed to back your own show and you failed to sell it as a going concern. But see, it wasn’t just your loss - it was the fans’, too.
I shall add the back story of this show to the shelf with the others - Farscape, Firefly, 17th Precinct, the Dresden Files. Perhaps it’s just me - perhaps I have a unerring ability to pick out shows destined to lose, and then invest in them emotionally until they are actually pronounced dead and buried. Perhaps I should watch all the other shit that keep the networks afloat. Then again, maybe I should just ignore NBC and their banal, bland offerings of entertainment and stick to the things I like. Yeah, think I’ll do that.
The funny thing is, that show I mentioned on the CW? Yeah. Supernatural was in danger of being cancelled so many times over the years, and yet it’s now prepping for its eleventh season. The amount of merchandise and fan support is astronomical. Guess where all that money is going? Yes, NBC - not you.
That’s it; I’m done. I’m not even close to over NBC deliberately trying to make no money out of its own show. I’m not nearly over the way they’ve left the end of the season hanging and now we’ll never find out what happens next. I’m not even remotely thinking about forgiving them for letting this show go.
This is one you can’t just let go. It’s not the time.