Monday, July 23, 2007

Hey ABC, **** You

Every now and then, I have to get up on my soapbox about something other than sports. I try not to do it all that often because, let's face it, the 150 or so people who visit this site on any given day are here to read about sports, specifically Michigan Hockey. But this is one of those times that I need to speak out on something.

I'm a pretty big fan of the show Traveler. I thought the concept was great, the pilot was wonderful, it was well-written, well-acted, I absolutely love William Sadler. The series finale aired on Wednesday. I just got around to watching it today, and I about flipped my lid. All along, we had been promised that the show would get its run and that our questions would be answered. Then, once again ABC flipped the bird to all their viewers, cutting the order of shows from 13 down to 8. Which would have been fine except for the fact that they informed the Traveler producers/writers of this as they were wrapping up Episode 7.

So we got our season finale alright. Except that final 6 episodes had to be crammed into 40 minutes of TV. And while there were a few answers, many more crucial questions were raised, never to be answered. Such as, is the FBI going to kill Kim? What happened to the Porter who didn't show up after about episode 5--and who was he anyway? What will happen to Agent Marlowe now that she knows Chambers was in on it? Did Carleton Fog die? What about Jay and Tyler--they're still on the run? Can Marlowe clear their names? Did Fried die in that carbomb or did he set it up? Did Will, Tyler, and Jay leave the evidence in the limo or did they keep it with them? How did Will get recruited? Why was the painting so important? What was the bigger plan that was referenced? Is it still a go? What the hell is the 4th Branch? What got Carleton Fog involved?

There was so much to wrap up, and when the limo exploded my girlfriend asked me, "How long is left in this show anyway?" I pulled up the info on the DVR and was like, "Oh. That's it."

So thank you ABC, once again, for a big case of TV Blue Balls. And what are they going to show in lieu of the 5 Travelers that they pulled the order for? The Nine. Yes, The Nine. As in, the show about the bank robbery that was FUCKING AMAZING but was canceled after seven episodes because it couldn't hold Lost's lead-in. They didn't try it in another time slot even though it's been proven that nothing can follow Lost. They just pulled it from the schedule one day, and now they're going to burn off the remaining 6 episodes.

Which is great except for the fact that 1) It's been like seven months since the show was canceled and 2) The producers of that show weren't expecting to get the heave-ho after 13 episodes, and no additional episodes were filmed after the decision, so basically we're not going to get any closure at the end. I'll watch, because I absolutely loved that show, but the ratings are going to be extremely small (they aren't running a recap of what has happened thusfar, so there's no way they're getting any new viewers) and quite honestly I'd be surprised if it makes it through this six week run of burn offs. And I'm going to be pissed off at the end because I want to know what happened in the damn bank.

Pretty much every serialized show that aired this season was pulled. My theory is that people aren't watching because they know the show likely won't make it and they don't want to get attached, only to be left hanging. There have been other shows (Daybreak and Drive to name two) that I thought looked interesting, but didn't watch for that very reason.

So what do you do about it? My thought is this: Shows like The Nine, Traveler, Daybreak, Drive....they're not shows that need to run for 4, 5, 6 seasons.

There's only so much that happened in the bank on The Nine. I read that the original plan was to have that arc completed by the end of the season and then deal with the effects of the situation in later seasons. It's unnecessary. The scenes in the bank were the best part. Tell that story in one year, maybe two, and be done with it.

In Traveler, you can only have Jay and Tyler on the run for so long. Once their names are cleared and the situation resolved, the show should end.

Why not design these shows--and market them--as miniseries more than actual shows that they're intending to keep around for awhile? Say "This is our show. We've got 15 episodes (or whatever) to tell a story. We think it's a great one. We think you'll really enjoy it, and ABC has committed to letting us film every episode, so even if the ratings aren't good, you'll get to see it in its entirety even if it's online. So all the questions the show raises will be answered in the end."

I guarantee more people would watch because they'd be sure to get the closure they're looking for and to find out what happens in the story. After all, that's the whole point of watching the show in the first place, right? The writers could concentrate on making one great season of the show rather than trying to leave things open for subsequent years (only to have those issues remain open when the show is canceled). They wouldn't have to worry about filler episodes. And viewers would know going in that it's basically going to be like a long movie. It'll entertain the hell out of you while it's on, but it's not something that you're going to see for years and years.

And even if the show was really enjoyable, and I was disappointed that there wouldn't be more, that would still be better than having a season/series finale that had to cram 5-6 episodes worth of information in...or having a show I love get canceled, brought back seven months later, only to leave me even more disappointed since nothing is going to get resolved. A great story told over 15 episodes is still something I'd watch and enjoy. And still something that I would buy the DVD of when it came out.

At least Standoff and Justice (two other very entertaining shows that didn't make it) were for the most part stand-alone shows, so I wasn't left hanging when they got the axe.

I'm honestly at the point where I'm seriously considering just DVRing every show that I'm interested in next season, then watching the ones that end up making it. Everyone is raving about Pushing Daisies, but why watch if it meets the same fate of the critics' darling of last year (The Nine)? I think New Amsterdam and Big Shots sound good, but if they'll be canceled six episodes into the season, why waste my time?

If the episodes aren't going to stand alone, then at least do your viewers the courtesy of getting their questions answered. Because otherwise, I just wasted a bunch of hours of my life. As much as I enjoyed Traveler, part of me wishes that I hadn't watched it simply because the main points of the show--Who is Will Traveler? and Do Tyler and Jay clear their names?--weren't answered.


Anonymous said...

What!? That's my family's favorite summer show! Why are they doing this to us? There's no way they can answer that many questions in such a short time. Man.

I hated when Justice got the axe, but like you said it didn't have an overall story that left you with a lot of questions.

But Traveler?

Packer487 said...

Yeah, sadly it's all over. So all those questions raised in the finale will never be answered on screen, including the two main premises of the show.

I read last night in a post by the show's creator (I think on IMDB) that ABC has taken notice of the complaints and there's a possibility at least that there'll be more (and in another dick move, ABC kept the actors under contract long enough for them to not be able to sign on to any pilots for the upcoming if they decided to bring it back, the actors would be available).

More likely though, it's over. We'll get some closure though. The creator of the show has a blog on TV Guide's website and he has sworn that he'll come on there and answer questions if and when the show gets the final death blow.

It just pisses me off because even if they had only given them the 13 episodes (and told them around episode 7 that they weren't going to be renewed) it still would've been fine. They would've had plenty of time to wrap the story up. But to give them basically a one episode notice is just a middle finger to the face of all their viewers.

They turned a really good show into a complete waste of my time since absolutely nothing got resolved.

Anonymous said...

Your concept was tried by ABC back when I was in college with Murder One. You knew going in it was going to be 1 season only and that's it. I'm not sure how it did ratingswise, but I really enjoyed it.

Packer487 said...

I just googled it and apparently the ratings were terrible, but it was opposite ER back in its heyday so that's not necessarily the show's fault (critics apparently loved it though).

My gf loved that show too. Said that I would really like it. I might have to track down the DVD.

I still think the idea of miniseries is a much better option than canceling shows halfway through the season constantly. If you're looking for a good way to piss off your audience and potentially lose future viewership, that'd be the way to do it.

I kept Drive on my DVR until I realized it wasn't going to make it and then I deleted it. Would've watched it if Fox was keeping it around though.

I'm really wondering if there's any reason I shouldn't do that with all the new shows I think will be interesting. Why waste my time...

I don't envy the challenges that the networks are facing, particularly with lower ratings caused by people DVRing shows (and subsequently skipping the commericals). Putting shows online is a very nice step.

I really do think that a network committing to a show would help the viewership, especially in light of how many shows (especially the serialized ones) have been axed the last 2 seasons. I can't possibly be the only one that feels this way (and reading TV Guide, along with several forums, I'm fairly sure that I'm not).