Shame on You, Television Networks (a.k.a Party Down Deserves to Live)

I realize that Barak Obama is a busy guy, and we all appreciate the work he has done saving the world by gathering up all the nuclear weapons and throwing them into the sun, but there is another big issue in America that needs his attention.  The television studios have opened up a hole in the earth and are dumping quality television shows into it at an unsustainable rate.

I can’t even fathom how much time and effort and money goes into the shows that the television studios produce, but when you look at successful shows ripe with quality and social conscience, like Two and a Half Men, for example, you definitely see the artistic rewards being reaped.  Okay, maybe it is unfair of me to start poking fun at the shows I don’t like when I can’t really argue with the mass appeal of the show and therefore the success.  They make money on a show like that, so big pats on the back all around.

What I’m talking about is how much is thrown away.  The development deals that never go anywhere.  The pilots that are shot and scrapped without ever seeing the light of day.  The half season orders that are shot and then get through four episodes aired before being pulled.  This is the waste that I’m sure is enormous.

Now obviously not every show is a winner and sometimes you have to cut your losses.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained (thanks gramps!).  But there are so many shows filled with talented people and great ideas that get sent to the scrap heap when there is obviously an audience for them.

Think about it from the perspective of professional sports.  When a team decides that a player is not working for them anymore, that player is traded, not retired.  Just because the player does not fit into your lineup does not mean the player is not worthwhile.  And you can’t get hung up on not wanting the player to make the other team stronger and thus beat you – you make the best deal you can and move on.

So why can’t this system work with the television networks?  They are competing with each other (for viewers) and trying to put together a winning lineup.  So you can’t find a place for a show where it can perform the way you want it to – trade it to a network who thinks they can do better with it.  Why take all of that investment and flush it down the crapper?  How is that a good business model?

The plan is to have enough hits to support all the failures so you don’t have to be smart about your investments?  This sounds familiar.  Oh, right, this is the business model that has the record industry in a panicked decline.

Let’s be clear, though, I’m not offering these suggestions up in order to help the networks.  No no no, my motives are purely selfish.  We need to stop tragedies like Freaks and Geeks and Firefly.  You go ahead and have your Home Improvements and Desperate Housewives, just don’t take away my Dollhouses and Wonderfalls.  Don’t even get me started about Party Down, that wound is still too fresh.

Look at Battlestar Galactica.  No “normal network” would have kept that going, but it has successfully carried television episodes, miniseries, movies, webisodes, spinoff series and now is talking feature film.  There is a market for these “non mainstream” shows, you just have to be smart enough to find it.

Firefly is very much in the same vein (and way better, IMO) and was killed by FOX after 8 episodes airing in 2002.  For years afterwards the DVD set topped the Amazon charts.  Screenings still take place all around America every year, put on by fans and raising money for charity.  I could go on and on but the point is that this series has been “dead” for 8 years and still has a huge following that is keeping its spirit alive.  Ask Patton Oswalt.  Look at this thing that just popped up on my computer literally as I am typing this.  So I find it hard to believe that there was not a way for the series to have been kept on the air such that enough people made enough money to deem it worthy.  Just because FOX couldn’t figure that out doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have recouped some of their investment by trading it to another team.

Obama, think of this as a great training exercise.  If you can get the heads of the television studios to work together and create a non-wasteful system of co-existence where everyone is better off then you can use the same successful strategies to get all the world leaders on the same page and save the planet (again).  Then we can all sit around and enjoy the Joss Whedon network together.  It’s win-win.

Please post your favourite “fallen shows” in the comments.


About OneGoodMinute
Blogging about the fun and interesting things in life. Nerd stuff - movies, music, comedy, podcasts Social Media - Documenting my way through social media, blogging and online promotion. Learn from my experiences, mistakes and successes.

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