Debate of the Day: “Promising” to Air a Full Season of a Show

last resort

I just read a rather interesting article over at THR which asks a simple question, though one that hasn’t really been asked before.

What if a network promised to air a full season of a show before cancelling it?

“Yes. Make them a promise. I know that in this town, promises are basically lies told through handshakes or back-slaps, but in the real world you’ll have to stick to it. And really, what’s the harm in that? You paid for it. The costs are sunk and you’re going to eat them anyway and then burn off the damned show in the summer, so why not roll the dice and discover what could very well be true: If viewers know you’re not going to waste their time, they will be more interested in watching and more patient when they do.”

The idea is that if viewers know a show isn’t going anywhere, they’ll be more likely to tune in and give it a chance. This is what cable does, and it’s supposedly how we have all our great serialized dramas.

I can see the advantages, but I disagree with the central premise. I don’t think the primary reason people don’t tune in to new shows isn’t because they fear the show will get canceled. I have personally said I’m worried about getting into a new show not because I fear it might be suddenly killed, but that I’ll slowly discover that…it’s not actually a good show.

I think people don’t watch many shows simply because they’re just not that good. The Event was not that good. Terra Nova was not that good. V was not that good, even if it got picked up for a second season. When Revolution gets canceled next year (it will), it’s because it’s not that good. But the shows that last? A lot of the time they ARE that good. Sure, bad shows get picked up too, but there really aren’t THAT many examples of truly great shows that get canceled. Sure, you can name some, but it’s a very, very low percentage of the total number of shows that have aired. And this is assuming that networks know how to spot this small percent that have the potential for greatness.

Now of course we can all say “if they starting doing this ten years ago, we’d still have Arrested Development and Firefly on the air.” Yeah that’s great, but hindsight is 20/20. Networks would be taking a huge gamble by paying for an entire 20+ episode season of a show banking on the fact that it will be as good as its first few episodes.

I don’t know, I’m not sure I buy this concept, as good as it may sound on the surface. What do you think?

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  1. How about they air less episodes which would cut costs instead of cutting minutes each year to stuff in more commercials and making the product placement so blatant. This could also allow for better, tighter writing too. I do think this is a good idea for shows with a mystery or some long winded story arc that needs a finale.

  2. I’ve seen lots of Anime having a concept that they show you after the first episode a glimps of what is going to happen in the future in the show. Just a random scene of maybe the OP villain or our OP hero or someting. It kind of always gets me excited for the show, and then I can’t wait to see how it is going to happen.
    I think Heroes did something simmilar, when they showed glimpses of the future like Peter Petrelli having more super powers and stuff, but they sort of lost their way.
    And then maybe you hope that the writers have everything figured out and that the show isn’t going to be canceled after a few episodes.

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