Monday, May 4, 2009

Chuck: Chuck vs Corporate Crap

It is with great frustration that I'm about to share with you a belief I've come to embrace about the 'renewal process' of network television where it pertains to 'on the bubble' shows.

Ready for it?

There is no bubble.

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You hear it every year, the list of shows "on the bubble". The idea is that these are shows that the networks aren't really sure about cancelling or renewing. Shows with creative flare, loyal audiences, but shows which the Neilson ratings (a sham in and of themselves) 'prove' aren't getting enough viewers to elicit the almighty advertising dollar. These are shows the networks act pained over, as though losing one might mean for them the equivalent of a more human figure losing one of their children.

Well, that bubble? It's a load of crap.

The bubble is like the spoon, it's just a construct of our minds. Or rather, the greedy good-for-nothing producers of Hollywood's minds… and I don't mean Producers of television shows, but the same jerks who – when faced with a writer's strike – chose to cry like little bitches over handing the writers a 2% increase in their paycheck from the BILLIONS they take in from the writer's work.

Maybe it used to exist, this bubble. Maybe at one point in time the producers really did struggle with these decisions. Do you let Farscape have another season, or do you decide you want to use that money to steer clear of Science Fiction shows with spaceships and launch a bunch of different Stargate shows instead. Give James Cameron a shot at a third season of Dark Angel, or create Reality Programming that will pave the way for 'cheaper' (read: dumber) entertainment.

I don't believe they do anymore. The fate of a show is decided at the drop of a dime and if the knee-jerk cancellations of shows these past few seasons isn't proof, maybe this will be: Shows like Chuck, that are marked as 'On the Bubble' shows, probably generate more new viewers and, more importantly, more new dollars once they are given that label than some other 'certain renewal' shows (like House, or Lost) generate in a full season.

Let's consider the existing audience. For Chuck, season two's average ratings were approximately 6.5 million viewers. Factoring in the 2+ million who probably DVR, TIVO, Download or Livestream from NBC at a later time, that gives Chuck – on a night with plenty of competition (especially from the well-seasoned 'House' on Fox) – about 8 million viewers, which actually isn't too shabby for a show that defies having a genre label slapped on it and isn't paid much attention to by the media.

Seeing that this is a show about, let's face it, a nerd who gets superpowers, a lot of that audience is plenty savvy with a keyboard and mouse, and, they're fiercely loyal. Maybe not Whedonesque loyal, but they're close. And when they hear that their beloved show is 'on the bubble' they spring into action coming up with rescue plans to execute against the network to 'convince' them not to cancel this show. Any one of the following options starts to sound like a good idea.

- Buy a Footlong sub on the night of the finale
- Buy 'Nerds' Candy to mail in to the network
- Buy paper/ink/markers/envelopes to make banners/cards to mail
- Buy season one of Chuck to share with friends
- Buy Chuck merchandise from the NBC website

That's a lot of purchasing that goes on because a show might get cancelled, and three large advertisers being lured towards the network (Subway, Staples, and Nestle). Not to mention the web campaign that brings attention to the NBC website itself, something that generates more dollars for advertising. I rarely buy merchandise for shows, but I found myself seriously considering handing over $35 for a "Buy More" Polo, and probably will by the end of the week.

Then there's that media. The media that was like, "Oh yeah, there's a show called Chuck. It's on at the same time as House or something." CNN (otherwise known as 'Obama Central') ran a front page headline story about the fan's urgent quest to save their favorite shows from cancellation, highlighting the NBC show Chuck, and other websites are making the fight for Chuck front page news. Front page news garners attention and attention gets more viewers.

And suddenly it starts to seem like a good strategic decision to label a show not only 'on the bubble', but to then withhold the news of a renewal or cancellation just a bit longer than previously announced. It's a cruel game to play with a show a network intends to cancel anyways, but they know that as much as a person may say, "If they cancel my favorite show, I'm NEVER watching their network again!" they won't; but if a show's fate has a silver lining, the situation is win-win and worth the very frustrating fight.

4 Responses to “Chuck: Chuck vs Corporate Crap”

Casey said...

I was thinking this when NBC first announced the delay too. It's totally just some cruel test to see just how much the fans really want Chuck back and how much free publicity they can get out of it.

The worst part is that it's such a damn big catch-22: fight the network's nonsense and give them what they want, or make no noise and they have no reason to renew our show.

Caroline Carter said...

Well, okay. But "Pushing Daisies" was arguably a bubble show six months ago, and it got cancelled. I have a different theory that I'll post sometime.

mysticxf said...

Caroline, Pushing Daisies was going to get cancelled. Period. I could have told you that when it started. That's what I'm saying. When they say "Bubble", it's the deceiving way of saying, "We've decided, we just want to see what you'll do about it."

They should have pitched PD to USA Network, I always thought it would have made a great companion peice to Eureka.

Anonymous said...

@mysticfx:
Perhaps you mean SciFi? (Or, excuse me, Syfy, which, *barf*) Because that's Eureka's home. Love the show.