This was originally posted to someoftheanswers, but I stumbled upon it again, and I feel it’s worth repeating.
A few days ago, Farscape was cancelled.
I’m loathe to pick up an episodic series in the middle, because it makes me feel like I’m always missing something, so I’ve been watching the shows, in order, as they’ve been released on DVD. And it’s great. I have more than two years to go, but I still lament its passing. I love sf, I love sci-fi, and I love sf/sci-fi television. And I’ve watched as show after show has been ruined. Sometimes it’s by straying from the original concept in an attempt to pick up a wider audience, which always results in the original audience that made the show popular fleeing as fast as they can. Sometimes it’s just not understanding what the fans want.
So, I’ll lay it out for you:
1. Put the show in a timeslot, and keep it there. We, the public, are busy. We like TV, but we don’t have time to check your often-wrong website to find out when the shows we like will actually be on. Moving shows around does not successfully introduce them to new audiences, it alienates the old ones who knew when and where to find it and now no longer do. It’s disingenuous to run a show for three months without running any two episodes in the same slot in a row (or at all), then decide that people didn’t like it and kill it.
2. I have a pet peeve about pre-empting regular shows for long-running sports events, because I don’t watch sports. I understand, however, that some people like sports, and advertisers like to pay money for those slots. If you have to bounce a show, then you should do two things: 1) apologize at least a little bit to the fans of the show and 2) air the show in its entirety in some other timeslot. “We join XXXX already in progress…” is not acceptable, especially for a first-run show that may never again be aired uncut.
3. Keep your website up to date and easy to navigate. If it’s Saturday, don’t make us look for your Sunday shows in “next week’s lineup”. Post prominent notices that shows have been moved. Make it easy for us to find the shows we like. Make the listings correspond to what’s actually on. Make this part of your syndication contracts.
4. If your show is watched by hordes of intelligent fans who are drawn to your multi-season plot arcs, interesting characters, and politcal tension, don’t suddenly turn the show into “Kevin Sorbo’s Action Hour”. Television action cannot compete with the movies for long periods of time. It just ends up being boring and repetetive if you focus on it.
5. Hordes of intelligent fans are drawn to multi-season plot arcs, interesting characters, and political tension. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your fans, and don’t play down to the lowest-common denominator – raise the bar! Your viewers are smart. Treat them that way.
6. Make the plot dependent on earlier episodes, and make it possible for people to see them. Either rerun them in order on a periodic basis or make them available on VHS/DVD (but not VHS-only). Make this part of your syndication contracts.
7. Invest in good writers. Ply them with caffeine and chocolate.
8. Ensemble shows can work very well, if they’re balanced.
9. Don’t cancel a good series in the middle to try out something slick and shiny where the show is just a vehicle for a main character who is a desperate loner trying to find (his wife’s killer | his killer | the people who stole his memories | the people who stole his identity | aliens).