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February 23, 2007

Deja Vu - Why Do TV Viewers Frakking Suck?

Imagine a critically acclaimed show that has legions of hardcore fans, but cannot get mainstream appeal despite moves to different nights and times. Ah, Arrested Development. AD sweated every season that the networks would abandon their show for "Skating with Celebrities" or "American Idol" or whatever crap Fox replaced the best written show on TV with.

Well, the landscape isn't that different for Battlestar Galactica. BSG got picked up for Season 4, but there is some reservation. I am telling you all this because it would suck to cut short the series before it hits 100 and ends up in syndication and has a chance to complete their story line.

For a while, things looked iffy for "Battlestar Galactica." After the Sci Fi Channel last month moved the third-season drama about a human resistance movement against an occupying race of robots from Friday nights to Sunday nights in an attempt to goose ratings, viewership remained stagnant. The network has ruled, however, that the show won't live by numbers alone: The Sci Fi Channel is expected to announce Tuesday that it has renewed the series for a fourth season. At least 13 new episodes will be produced this summer for a premiere next January.

The show's audience has always been modest, especially when compared with those for basic cable's "The Closer" and "Nip/Tuck," which typically reach double or triple the audience of "Battlestar Galactica." Since moving to 10 p.m. Sundays, the science-fiction show's episodes have averaged 1.7 million viewers overall and 1.1 viewers ages 18 to 49, the key demographic targeted by advertisers.

But "Battlestar Galactica" stands as one of the most critically acclaimed series on television. It also won the prestigious Peabody Award and was counted among the American Film Institute's top 10 outstanding TV programs two years in a row. Critics often describe the show in lofty terms, referring to it as a multilayered allegory for a post-9/11 world that raises questions about the ethics and politics of war...

Stern also pointed out that 510,000 additional viewers in the 18-to-49 demographic are watching the show on digital video recorders. They bring the total demographic average closer to 1.6 million, the show's highest numbers since Season 1. Advertisers, however, do not yet pay for the playback ratings because the general assumption is that viewers watching recorded programs fast-forward through the commercials. It could be a crucial point for the channel, and Stern is hopeful that the business model is shifting...

Bringing back moderately rated, critically hailed series has largely been the privilege of subscription-based networks such as HBO and Showtime [why do their names pop up and why does that always spell trouble], which don't make money from advertisers. The Sci Fi Channel acknowledged that "Battlestar Galactica" is the network's most expensive original series, but costs are also offset by strong DVD sales (more than 1 million discs of the show have been sold).

STOP TIVOing THE SHOW AND WATCH IT LIVE (and to a certain buddy of mine STOP DOWNLOADING IT OFF OF BIT TORRENT OR COPYING THE DVD's FROM YOUR BUDDIES). I spoke with my friend and we will refer to him as Mr. E (a reference to Mr. F from Arrested Development) who explained how evil corporations are and that movies and music and software should be free and copyleft and open source and so on. Then he pops in a pirated copy of the best sci-fi drama on TV at the time (and now it is in a tie with Heroes in my book). We watch the pilot mini series and I am hooked. He offers to burn me the DVD's. I went out and bought them the next day (from Walmart which will really piss him off) and explained that I believe purchasing products and watching advertising as repulsive as it may be is how they fund the development of the series and how they choose what to keep on the air. If I don't buy the DVD's and watch the show live, my voice is not heard and the shows I like will go off of the air. [inside note to Mr. E, I am only throwing the bomb of Walmart, corporations, and open source out there for you because we are heading north to ski sometime soon and we need something to pass the time between PHX and Summit]

I don't watch a lot of TV, but the shows that I will not and cannot miss include AD, BSG, Heroes, It's Always Sunny, The Office, Earl, Family Guy, and Futurama. Note how AD, BSG, Family Guy and Futurama all had the exact same stories written about them. Scary stuff.

Posted by Justin at February 23, 2007 11:21 PM