The great thing about the ever-growing variety of programming choices available out there is that it gives us plenty of options, allowing us to be very selective when it comes to the shows we choose to invest in. There are just so many hours in a day so, naturally, people will only make time for those shows they connect with on some level. Be it the humor of The Big Bang Theory, the pathos of Grey’s Anatomy, or the tragedy of Law & Order: SVU, viewers will respond to what resonates with them and, while past allegiances may figure into the initial decision-making process (ie. If you liked CSI, you might enjoy CSI: Miami!), franchise loyalties can be as mercurial as a Tila Tequila on a group date. People watch what they like and they don’t watch what they don’t like. It’s as simple as that. My aunt, for instance, doesn’t watch SGU and, while I’d love to have her stick around past those opening credits, the series doesn’t speak to her and I’m fine with that (For the record, she didn’t think much of Atlantis either but loved SG-1, although I suspect that had more to do with her endless adoration of actress Amanda Tapping who was incredibly gracious and kind to her on her lone set visit. To this day, my aunt still speaks fondly of her). You can’t fault someone for choosing not to watch a show regardless of their reasons (be it a lack of time, a lack of interest, or hurt feelings). Such is television.
Still, a recent article over at scifinow (http://www.scifinow.co.uk/news/opinion-atlantis-fans-need-to-stop-punishing-universe/) raised some interesting points about Stargate ratings and the fickle nature of Stargate fandom….
1. “Tuesday nights are notoriously aggressive, with shows such as Dancing With The Stars eating up a huge share of the audience.”
Don’t we know it! To be honest, I was actually hopeful prior to the move, figuring that with more people home watching t.v. on Tuesday nights, we might benefit from a bump in those live +SD numbers. As it turned out, it’s the live +7’s that increased (no way to know about those download numbers but I suspect they bumped up as well). Why? Well, beside the juggernauts that are NCIS and the Dancing With the Stars result show, we also had to contend with the perfect storm trifecta of election results, world series baseball, and the Chilean miner rescue. I’m at the point now where if Elvis was to come out of hiding and announce his plans for a future album live at 9:00 p.m. next Tuesday night, I would NOT be at all surprised.
2.”Websites have even been set up purely for opposition to the show, which seems like a curious move for people who are supposedly avowed fans of the franchise.”
Yes, curious is one word to describe it. Oddball is another. After all, if presented with a show they don’t enjoy, any normal person would simply stop watching and move on. And yet, the aforementioned individuals expend so much time and energy obsessing over every aspect of the show’s minutiae, that one would almost think…and here’s the relevation that finally hit me only last week…they actually love the show! I know it sounds crazy at first blush but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Even though they’re outwardly critical of the series, their obsession makes it clear that, subconsciously, whether they’re willing to admit it to themselves or not, the show has become a crucial part of their daily lives. For their sake alone, I hope we get that third season pick-up.
3. “The franchise needs your support now more than ever, because if Universe fails, we might not see another series again.”
The franchise needs the support of fans, former fans, and first-timers. No need to discriminate. But as I’ve already stated on this blog, it’s pretty clear SGU’s audience is out there – they’re simply using alternate means of viewing the show. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: SF audiences tend to be younger and tech savvier, the ones most likely to make use of those alternate viewing methods. Of course, from a network standpoint, that’s all well and good but what have you done for me lately? And, by lately, I mean live+SD and live+3.
If you want a third season of SGU, the time to act is now. Petitions aren’t going to ensure a pick-up; increased viewership will. Get creative. Get the word out. Get your fellow SGU fans to get the word out. Pretend it’s the 1990’s! PVR’s have yet to be invented and the only means of downloading t.v. shows is illegal and you’re all law-abiding citizens! Tune in and watch it live!
And what if the worst happens and this does turn out to be our final season?
Well, from a personal standpoint, I won’t have cause for complaint. After eleven wonderful years on the franchise working with some truly great people, I can say with utmost certainty that my dogs won’t starve. And I can think of worse fates than moving on to work on some of the personal projects I’ve been sitting on for a while now. The cast and crew are immensely talented and I have no doubt that they’ll move on to equally great things. Nevertheless, ending things now would be too bad for a number of reasons:
For starters, and as I mentioned months ago, we already have the end of the series mapped out and it would be a shame to deny fans the awesome conclusion we have in store for Destiny’s crew. It’s momentous and shocking and ties in to all that has come before, paying off elements from all three entries of the Stargate franchise in a humongous way.
Secondly, recent obvious developments over the past week have increased the likelihood of the SG-1 and SGA finally seeing the green light of a production schedule. The biggest hurdle has just been cleared and the last thing we need is to stumble before we reach that finish line.
And, thirdly, this second season has been great and continues to get better. Looking ahead to what lies in store in the next four episodes leading up to the mid-season break:
#217 The Greater Good: Rush’s secret is out and things get very nasty – but, surprisingly, not aboard Destiny.
#218 Malice: A manhunt on an alien world leads one crew member to risk it all for revenge.
#219 Visitation: The crew members we left behind on an artificial world (Faith) make a surprising return.
#220 Resurgence: The investigation of a remote power source leads the Destiny crew to an encounter with a new Big Bad.
It was while I was writing up this blog entry that I received a comment from a Stargate: Atlantis fan who took the time to politely weigh in with her thoughts on fandom, the franchise, and the future of Stargate. She wrote. I responded…
KT writes: “I am hoping you do not dismiss me as some “hysterical” SGA fan, as, while I WAS upset that SGA was canceled and the ensuing PR nightmare that followed with regards to what I perceived as dismissive comments towards the age and gender of the existing fanbase, I understand that 5 years is a nice run (and more than a lot of shows get). Cancellation is always disappointing, but it happens.”
Answer: Hi, KT. Believe it or not, I welcome the input of all fans regardless of what opinion they may hold, so long as they do me the courtesy of expressing themselves politely – or, at the very least, avoid being obnoxious or confrontational. You’d be surprised how many fans have a hard time doing just that. Also, I agree with you that five years is a nice run and that cancellation happens, but you should also know that I was as disappointed as all SGA fans when the show ended. If you check out those early blog entries dating back to when we first heard word that we wouldn’t be returning for a sixth season, I think it’s pretty clear that the entire writers’ room (Paul, Carl, Martin, Alan, and I) was incredibly disappointed to learn we wouldn’t be coming back. In fact, prior to receiving the bad news, while I won’t say we were outright confident of a pick-up, I will say we were optimistic about that sixth season – to the point where we were even tossing out story ideas for the season that never came. Ideally, yes, given the choice, I would have jumped at the chance to pair a sixth season of Atlantis alongside Universe’s first season but, unfortunately, I wasn’t given that option. And, in retrospect, maybe it’s a good thing. If I’d had my way from the get-go, next year’s SyFy Friday’s line-up would look something like this: 8:00 SG-1 (season 16), 9:00 Atlantis (season 9), 10:00 Universe (season 3). I also agree that the PR following the cancellation could have been better handled. Pairing the announcement of the Atlantis cancellation with the Universe pick-up did make it seem as though one was replacing the other – which I can assure you wasn’t the case. The decision on Atlantis was made independent of Universe.
KT writes: “I personally chose not to watch SGU for two reasons: 1) the premise didn’t interest me and 2) I was genuinely offended that my demographic, as a 30 year old woman, was dismissed as unimportant.”
Answer: 1) Fair enough. Even though I hear great things about Gossip Girl, it’s not a show that appeals to me. Still, given the fact that you were a fan of the other Stargate incarnations, I’m disappointed it didn’t hold your interest but hope you’ll give it another chance. As I said earlier, things are picking up significantly in season 2. 2) Not sure what specific comment you’re referring to. I can’t recall anyone ever dismissing a portion of our audience as unimportant. There may have been interviews that emphasized a desire to bring in younger viewers, but that had more to do with an effort to broaden the franchise’s appeal and bring in a key demographic that the networks and advertisers – those who have a final say on the fate of our show – particularly covet (Coincidentally, a demo that makes the most use of alternate media platforms – but don’t get me started). The aim wasn’t to be exclusive but to be more inclusive.
KT writes: “All of that said, I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the recent blog post that quoted Brad Wright as saying the following [...] I will fully admit, when I first read this, I was completely enraged. I’ve not watched SGU, by personal choice, so I’m in no position to comment on the quality of SGU. I’m also not walking around with sandwich boards demanding that SGU be canceled, saying that no one should watch it, or saying disparaging things about the cast and crew.”
Answer: In which case I’m sure the comment wasn’t directed at you but those fans who are saying disparaging things about the cast and crew, saying that no one should watch the show, and demanding it be canceled. Hard as it may be to believe, they are out there.
KT writes: “Online fandom is vocal, and tends to take the initiative more often to interact with those such as yourselves, which attracts attention, but they do represent a tiny fraction of the viewing audience at large. I want to make it clear my frustration here is based more around feeling ostracized from the Stargate brand at large, and NOT specific criticism towards the existence of SGU.”
Answer: I’m well aware that online fandom is a smaller and much more vocal representation of the larger viewing audience which is why I’ve taken pains to establish a dialogue with them over the course of my many years with the franchise. That said, there’s a difference between listening to fan concerns and taking dictation. The squeaky wheel may get the oil but the loudest fans will not necessarily get the creative changes they demand. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to what fans have to say but, at the same time, remain true to your creative vision.
KT writes: “I don’t know what I’m hoping for here, aside from some acknowledgment of my frustration over the apparent contradiction in the importance of the online fans that has come to light now that the ratings of SGU are down.”
Answer: I’m well aware of the frustration many longtime fans have felt and I’ve made numerous attempts to try to clarify certain misconceptions (ie. the notion that Atlantis was cancelled in favor of Universe). I’ve also tried to be as inclusive as possible – always happy to welcome fans, both new and old, but always ready to call people out on rude or infantile behavior.
I think our audience is there but simply growing more diffuse. It would terrific if the television industry found a way to catch up with the modern media’s technological advancements, find a way to make sure everyone is counted in those ratings – but barring a major miracle, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The only alternative to ensuring a third season is to bring more viewers to Tuesday nights be they SG-1 fans, Atlantis fans, or fans of Celebrity Circus.