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SpoilerTV`s Weekly Round Table: 44th Edition

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Hello everyone and welcome to another WRT! A bloody and surprising week is behind us and a really exciting week ahead of us. This week SpoilerTV writers: Milo (MI), Patrick (PF), Beth (BW), Katherine (KM), Lisa (LM), Yon (SJ), Jessica (JN), Jamie (JC) & Jaz (JZ) share their thoughts on the biggest events of the pre-Upfront week. As always I hope you enjoy the read and feel free to join the discussion in the comment section down below.

1. #FoxBloodbath became an actual thing after the Network made some drastic and sudden cancellations. Was this a rating justified decision or did Fox go a bit overboard after them being so mellow about LIve ratings?

PF: Sometimes the powers that be just want to clean house and get a fresh start. You can't trust what they said before...they're TV Executives after all

BW: I think this was an effort to clean house maybe because of Disney pressure, who knows. Fox did renew some shows early as well that I like, but their bloodbath was very jarring.

LM: Fox definitely went overboard. Networks - especially the "smaller" ones are getting desperate for an increasingly small piece of the viewing pie. It is a business, so they have to ensure that the shows are cost-efficient, and sometimes, it's impossible to know all of what's happening in the background - who's up for contract renewal, for instance...

SJ: I think most of their decisions were justified. For a couple of seasons now Networks have been renewing 90% of their shows instead of pulling the switch, and that's left them all with a number of underperforming shows. Fox, in particular, people have been commenting for ages on how they needed to have a bloodbath at some point because their ratings are so bad and now they finally have. Lucifer may have the vocal online fan base but that hasn't necessarily translated into viewers who are watching live or on DVR. Last Man On Earth I don't know enough about to comment, The Mick had a really good debut season but this year was rather soft and of course Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It has an extremely passionate fanbase, a number of great storylines, and mostly through the fault of Fox the ratings haven't been so good so I can see why they pulled the plug and NBC rescued it. I'm honestly more surprised by some of the shows they renewed since they're very soft ratings and critics wise, but Fox obviously have some sort of plan for the time being at least.

JN: It’s hard to talk about the #FoxBloodbath comparatively, as the network has always trailed behind ABC, CBS and NBC when it comes to ratings. So when FOX decided to axe all of their underperforming shows, it was somewhat unexpected – this is a network that renewed Scream Queens for a second season – because suddenly the network seems to care about ratings. For me, I definitely think the network went overboard in cleaning house, as some of the canceled shows have very passionate fan bases, but I can’t say I’m surprised. This is the same network that canceled Firefly after one season and airing the episodes out of order. I feel like the network is desperate to compete with ABC, CBS and NBC, but it needs to realize it’ll always be relegated to fourth place, just ahead of the CW.
4)) If a showrunner knows there’s a good chance his or her series may be canceled, there are two plays: either end the show on a satisfying note or risk it all on some giant cliffhanger in the hopes the network will renew the series. With showrunners knowing series like Lucifer and Timeless are on the bubble, yet deciding to throw a curveball at the end of the episode, just shows poor judgment. Both series have passionate fan bases, so it really ends up hurting these viewers in the end, as they have stood by the show and want to see some sort of resolution. However, sometimes the gamble pays off in ways we don’t expect. Rob Thomas ended the third and final season of Veronica Mars on a cliffhanger of sorts, knowing the show could be canceled. However, if he had wrapped things up nicely, there probably wouldn’t have been a Veronica Mars movie seven years later.

JC: I think they bordered on overboard and cleaning house. At a certain point it did seem like all cancellations was coming from them but I think that's just because of how late the other networks were with theirs.

2. As some cancellation worries roamed the web, many tv critics and journalists started talking about how good some shows are and don`t deserve cancellations. Still, they barely post about those shows. Can online buzz help shows score viewers in this time of #PeakTV ?

MI: Consistent buzz definitely helps, but it's not the be-all-and-end-all. NCIS and The Big Bang Theory for example still draw in a lot of audience numbers and there's rarely any online chatter about NCIS in particular, which skewers to an elderly demographic.

PF: Those same TV Executives do pay attention. Or their assistants do and tell them what people are chatting/buzzing about and they oh so want to be cool so they don't want to possibly slaughter the cash cow so yes it does matter. Buzz is buzz.

BW: I don't think online love will matter until they overhaul the Nielson system. Those with the magic boxes may not even have social media and it doesn't matter to them. That system was smart all those years ago when the internet was not so prominent and they need to get with the times or execs and ad people need to restructure how they advertise putting more weight behind the streaming numbers.

KM: I do think that pimping shows and putting them out into the news more is helpful and, in this brave world where pretty much every channel seems to have something on, vital. I think the real problem is the Neilsen ratings, though. They need to really think about how that system works, then completely rebuild it. It isn't relevant in this new world of television, and they need to look at the other ways people watch television to start with. If I record "Timeless", I'm a viewer. I record it because I will watch it, not because I want to check how my recording device is working. Include me in your statistics. Simple, yet so complicated in the Neilsen world. They've lost their relevance and need to catch up. That being said, it's still important to get the word out on shows you're loving, particularly the press. People who blog should post about shows they love, too, especially if they have a strong readership.

LM: Critical buzz has almost never translated into audience buzz. However, audience buzz definitely helps to grow viewership. It seems like really good television rarely draws a huge audience - except for Game of Thrones!

SJ: Sorry to say this but I really don't care much for online buzz. For some of the shows that are being spoken about so vocally, all I can ask is where was this support all season? yes I'm aware not everyone has Nielsen and shows can do rather well Internationally compared to in the US, but the question is still the same. What is the point in campaigning so ferociously for a show to be renewed or saved, and when it is, no-one actually bothers to watch? All it does if the show is renewed is lead to a repeated cycle. We may not always agree with the decisions, but TV is a business just like any other commodity; people need to make money and if they can't, you're gone. I absolutely loved 2 Broke Girls and was sad it was canceled last year, but did I go campaigning for another Network to pick it up? Nope, because I knew the ratings had unfortunately been declining, it was a somewhat old show that'd had a decent run, and there's no guarantee if someone had rescued it that the response would've been any different. All seeing fans and critics so ferociously campaigning for a show to be picked up does is irritate me & basically want to mute half of my timeline.

JC: Online buzz definitely helps. Not only does it enlarge the audience (I started so many shows because of online buzz) but as we've seen with Timeless and Brooklyn Nine Nine, it can also revive a show.

JZ: No. Online buzz does absolutely nothing to gain viewers or renewal because networks can’t put a monetary value on a Hashtag, which is something networks have to consider when renewing a series. If fan demand came through, then Timeless would have had outstanding ratings and shows like TBBT would be cancelled. If people do take stock in online support I hope to see everyone who #Save99 follow through with their demands and watch the show when it counts.
For myself, I just don’t believe fan campaigns do anything except exploit people by using their upset as free press and marketing, which usually goes sideways but that’s another topic for another roundtable.

Unfortunately, I think what a journalist says about a show holds too much value in the golden age of television. Maybe there’s too much reliance, because people just don’t have the time to watch a show for themselves and use their own critical thinking to decide if it’s the right show for them. They’d much rather trust other’s “first impressions” than their own. In this case online popularism can help or hurt a viewership.

3. CBS picked up The Code with the intention to recast their two leads. How can a Network envision a show without casting its leads? Can a script/project be that convincing?

MI: If it's a good enough idea it could work, especially as Hollywood does it all the time with movies, announcing scripts first and casting later. The script doesn't have to be made for that cast too and different actors can easily come in and replace them if they fit the bill. It helps that we haven't seen what it would look like with the original stars - so we have nothing to base our comparisons against.

PF: No shock here. If two actors don't have chemistry or are going to be difficult... Bye bye. Recasting from pilot is a pretty common place. Again, if they think they can make money off of another military legal drama, then BAM, new cast.

BW: I will never begin to understand the casting process and how it comes together. What I will say is Dave Annable handled his recasting with a load of class and to me, that is what Hollywood and the world needs more of. People who set aside their ego and obvious disappointment and show grace and class.

KM: The whole concept of this confuses me. I suppose if you get a "name" who can carry the show and the script is strong enough, they could do it. If you haven't already filmed the pilot it allows the network to rely more and on the strength of the script and not something they've already seen brought to life.

LM: I think it is remotely possible that a script and a showrunner can be convincing enough together to outweigh the actors - but then it's also going to depend on who the actors are... Didn't we have the same discussion not that long ago?

SJ: When the pilot season starts casting, the people announced to join a cast is what can make or break a person's decision to tune in. So announcing that a show has been picked up, but the two leads are being recast? That can instantly make a person take the show off their watch list. I was extremely surprised by CBS's decision since Dave is somewhat of a big name. It's a ballsy move by CBS, sort of in line with how The Catch recast its two leads after the pilot because they wanted to take the show in another direction. Personally, I was willing to tune into the show because I have liked Bethany since One Tree Hill, and after the recasting, I completely forgot the show existed. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of other shows follow in The Code's footsteps, and it'll be interesting to see who exactly they cast instead and the type of reaction the show is greeted with. I'm also intrigued to see just how exactly this news is greeted by advertisers at Upfronts, and if CBS give an explanation for the recasting.

JZ: I have not yet read the script, but I think in the case of The Code, the ensemble focused cast and the concept itself is enough for the network to envision what the show could look like. It’d be interesting to hear why exactly these people were let go.
Replacing Dave Annabelle and Mira Sorvin isn’t really that big of a deal because the show isn’t solely based on their characters, and their dynamics as say a buddy cop drama, though I am sorry to see them go. That being said, the show’s remaining cast is brilliant and enough to keep an array of viewers interested.

4. Lucifer showrunner announced that the season ends on a cliffhanger upon the news broke that the show is canceled and Timeless is ending on one too. How irresponsible is it towards your fans in this time of Peak Tv to end a show with unconvincing ratings on a cliffhanger?

MI: Ending on a cliffhanger without being made aware of your fate is frustrating as hell. I can understand why it's done - sometimes the fact that there's an unfinished story could increase the likelihood of getting another season to wrap things up - but at the same time, it just annoys viewers to see storylines unresolved, and then fans have to either hope that another network picks their show up or a comic concludes their fate for them. But even then, having a tie-in comic isn't the same as having a show continue. I'd much rather shows went the Buffy the Vampire Slayer route - treat each season as it's going to be your last and hold nothing back.

PF: I don't think it's irresponsible at all. It goes both ways story wise. If its all wrapped up nice and neat and happy ending, cool, a story's over The End. But maybe the story wants to continue...maybe it could in animation, or web series, or go full circle and go back to the comic books. If people want it enough then they'll find a way to get it to them

BW: I really hate this. I am all for not interfering with the creative process of the creator and writers, but often times and in this case, I see things like 'we constructed it to end so crazy that it would force the Network's hand' that kind of thinking I will judge because it is unfair. This upfront season has taught us a lot and as much as I wish the rating system didn't matter as much as does, it still is a huge thing to the execs. If you know you are a true bubble show, I believe you should alter your plan and tie up most stories and maybe leave some threads that can go either way if you don't make it. Apparently, AOS and B99 have done this and I appreciate their understanding of the situation.

KM: This whole idea of telling people that the show will end with a particular season is fairly new. If you get a cliffhanger, that's what you get. Some shows, like S.H.I.E.L.D, have said that they are treating this season like a finale, and I think that's a great idea. Shows the bubble need to take this into consideration when they go into what could be their final season.

LM: Ending on a cliffhanger is one way to ensure that viewers will passionately hound the network for more of the show to finish off the plot. Some cliffhangers are more brutal than others. I didn't think the Timeless cliffhanger was all that cruel. You could mostly finish the story yourself - but they also left enough on the table to easily keep the show going.

SJ: This type of move is not only beyond irresponsible to me, but also extremely disrespectful to the fans. When your show has been sitting on the bubble for a long amount of time, to think you can leave it on a cliffhanger in the hope of essentially blackmailing the Network into giving you another season? It's just ridiculous thinking. Knowing exactly what the Lucifer cliffhanger is just rubbed extra salt into the wound, and Timeless? A show that was beyond lucky to pull off the surprise of last year by getting a stay of execution after it had been initially axed? You're really going to end the season on a cliffhanger, and then have the balls to ask the fans to campaign for another season? Like, really? Show's such as Grey's Anatomy can pull off this type of thing because it is a rating powerhouse, that'll probably keep getting renewed until Ellen decides she wants to leave the show. This type of thing may have worked eons ago, and the relentless fan campaigns may be enough to save the shows, but in the era of Peak TV where a show can be here one day and gone the next, showrunners need to be more responsible. It is really not that difficult to wrap 99.9% of your storylines and leave a crumb for where the show could possibly go if it is renewed. That way the fans who have been loyal to you get a satisfying ending that doesn't leave one feeling as though time has been wasted on a show, and both the showrunners & Network have an idea for where the show could possibly go if it does get a stay of execution.

JC: It has it's upsides and downsides. It sucks for the fans if things end that way but it's also in incentive for the fans to take charge online and maybe save their show. Still, I'd prefer if they kept the major cliffhangers for when their not in cancellation danger.

JZ: I think showrunners (especially Lucifer) taking this approach are egotistical and don’t care about the fans in these scenarios, they are in essence manipulating fans to drum up “outrage” support so they can keep their jobs safe.
With shows like Lucifer and Timeless, it was clear by the ratings that these shows were at risk of being canceled, it’s not like say Sense8, where it was a left of field decision where the writers had no time to prepare some sort of closed ending.

For me, I think it the humility that goes with acknowledging your show may be canceled speaks volumes to me. I’d respect these writers more if they had the integrity to write a closed ending over “going for broke” with a cliffhanger.

Hope you've enjoyed this edition and join the discussion in the comment section. Till next week. . .

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