Monday, November 17, 2008

Heroes or Villains?

Well, I'm back from Sheffield and I've been considering a rather scary trend that came to my attention today. It's been reported (and The Guardian ran a feature on it in their media section today) that TV execs are trawling blogs, websites and forums immediately after a show has aired in order to get instant feedback. Not so bad you'd think ... after all, actors and directors have agonised over their reviews for decades. But what's changed is that blogs, websites and forums are stuffed full of people suggesting how they want the TV series to proceed ... and the execs are paying attention.

"There's a danger with the instant feedback you can get from the internet," admits Camilla Campbell, drama commissioning editor at Channel 4. "We have had Hollyoaks fans posting about how much they really love an actress, and you end up saying [to the writer], 'You'll have to write her more scenes'." However Campbell goes on to say that, "Ultimately you cannot have the writers being dictated to by the internet. And, actually, I don't think fans want to see a drama that slavishly follows their ideas."

Oh really? One man who may disagree is Heroes co-creator Tim Kring. When fans lambasted the show's second season, the third season was hastily re-written and long-time contributors Jesse Anderson and Jeph Loeb were sacked by NBC. "It was interesting that (Kring) was prepared to stand up and say what he got wrong", says Danny Cohen, controller of BBC3, "But for all that, do the people who watch Heroes want to see a show written by the fans or one written by Tim Kring?"

There is an upside to viewer power. Family Guy and Futurama were both cancelled because of viewing figures but were brought back by popular demand. And BBC3 commissioned the series Being Human (about a vampire and a werewolf flat-sharing in Brighton ... and finding that the flat is haunted!) after an online petition grew and grew following the airing of a one-off drama.

I like the idea that TV execs listen to their viewers ... but it would worry me if their decision-making was significantly coloured by the viewers. After all, if the figures are to be believed, all the British public want are soaps, reality shows and celebrities dancing, skating and eating kangaroo scrotums. And there are shows that take a while to 'bed in' as the writers are just a little bit ahead of public tastes. The Prisoner, Star Trek and Red Dwarf - to name just three - are all shows that made very little impact when they were first broadcast. They were slow burners. But aren't we glad that they were given the time to develop and grow?

Public opinion is important. But not at the expense of originality and innovation.


Anonymous said...

That's all good and well, but I think there should be more "I see faces" on your blog. The readers demand it.

Well I'd like more please sir.

doctawho42 said...

A world without Red Dwarf would be a much poorer one indeed.
And I agree with your point.

While I know that RTD has a caramel cheese centre, but I can't help feeling that Rose's return was somehow brought about by all the warbling by the fans.

And now they're saying how shoddily it was done, how they never really wanted her back anyway.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Rob - I'll post some more soon. Promise. Have a look at the Master's I see faces over at Dave Gorman's blog. It'll make you titter.

Docta - Yup. My point exactly!

chris hale said...

Is it scrotums or scrota? I suppose it doesn't make a vas deferens either way.

Debby said...

I'm demanding an update on how your book is doing.

Rob, I rather think that he missed the point of your internet demand. Let me be clear here, Stevyn. We're your readers. We control the content of your blog. We control you, my friend. Now you just set yourself down and start giving us what we want.

PS: We're doing this for your own good, friend. We all think that you've got the makings of a fine television writer. You simply need some training. We're here for you, brother.


Anonymous said...

I went, I looked and I tittered.

justsomethoughts... said...

stevyn, its all a question of the bottom line ($). every exec has his own way of going about it. as the german saying goes, "the way one makes ones bed is the way one sleeps". some writers will doggedly persue their own view of where when and how, and others will be coloured by viewers opinions. i guess to them i say, be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - I guess that, technically, it's scrota. So is the plural of forums 'fora'? And if Tweedle Dee changed his name to Tweedle Dum, would we have a pair of Tweedle Da?

Debby - The book is doing okay. I'm still hovering somewhere around the 100 mark in the UK book charts. I expected a slow-ish start as my book was released along with about 2000 other books during that first fortnight in October (in time for Christmas and the Frankfurt Book Fair). But I am informed that now the celebs have all finished their rounds of interviews and TV appearances, the shops will be hunkering down to shift as many books as possible ... and that means pushing the £10 stocking filler market. The trade magazines pipped my book as a Top Tip so I'm expecting a big old sales drive as we move into late November/early December. Watch this space!

Oh, and it's my blog. So ner ner.

Rob - I'm pleased you did. I had a good titter myself.

Justsome thoughts - Wise words. Let's hope they do exhibit real wisdom eh?