Thursday, February 03, 2005

Grounding the Enterprise: I get frustrated when I hear people say things like, "The franchise has run out of steam."

It's simply not true. The fact that American soap operas can go on for month after month, year after year, decade after decade, with plots they've largely recycled from themselves shows that even the most banal, repetitive stuff can have staying power.

People should just face up to the truth. If a series is getting low ratings, somebody didn't do their job. It may have been the advertising department. It may have been the writers. It may have been the directors. It may have been the actors. But somehow, they weren't effectively producing mass media.

Notice I didn't say they weren't producing quality media. I recognize that good shows get canceled all the time. But either somebody wasn't making TV for the masses, or somebody wasn't hyping it right.

Which was Enterprise? Beats me. I never watched the show, except for the first two episodes and Spiner's guest shot. So it could be the show itself didn't draw me in, or the commercials didn't draw me back.

I will say, though, from the commercials, that it looked like they were pulling a lot of "stunts" that only Trekkies would understand ("Tonight, on Enterprise, we're going to feature a race of aliens that is often joked about in Trek clubs, but which will just look odd to regular viewers"). That's part of what's hurting comic books, too.

You don't build viewership or readership by focusing more and more laser-tight on a smaller and smaller group of people. You figure out what larger group you're reaching for, and find a way to bring them all in.

But you don't go too large.

Sherwood Schwartz was right when he said the guy he named the USS Minnow after ruined television. Before, the advertiser would pick programs it thought were quality and would reach solely it's intended audience. Then it would pay the station for its time. Minnow changed it so that the network decided the programming, and the ultimate goal was to get everybody, from every demographic, to tune in to every program.

But not to worry! We'll be back to the old way soon. With the rise of the internet and super-fast connections, I think we're going to see the end of traditional TV. Instead of waiting for Sunday night to watch the Simpsons, you'll just go to the Simpsons website, and it will be Butterfinger Presents The Simpsons. You'll be able to watch any episode you want, whenever you want.

And instead of the networks, power will shift to the web portals, like Yahoo!, AOL, and Google who will have the review columns and web guides that point to the quality shows and content.

And I think, in that scenario, the content will just get better and better.

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