From 2004, when Fox canceled Wonderfalls:
Well, Fox has done it again! I have been a loyal viewer of the Fox Network for years, mainly due to their edgy comedies and “non-stuffy” dramas. Of course, my loyalty has been tested for the past couple of years, as Fox seems determined to become the “bad reality TV channel”. I enjoy a lot of their footage-based reality shows like World’s Wildest Police Chases and World’s Stupidest People Caught on Tape, but some of the “original” reality shows they offer – like Who Wants To Marry A Gay Midget Millionaire? and When Animals Attack Magicians – just push the envelope into bad taste instead of edgy television.
So anyway, Fox recently canceled the new drama Wonderfalls. I liked the show well enough and I was hardly crushed when they canceled it. But then I started thinking. Thinking about how many shows Fox has hyped to no end, only to cancel after three or four episodes. And it made me mad – DAMN MAD! Sure, it’s their network and they can do what they want with it. In fact, I’m sure some bean counter at Fox can even mathematically prove why it’s better for them to show a crappy Oliver Beene marathon on Thursday night instead of a show they’ve already paid for but cancelled… like Wonderfalls. And what’s worse is that two of the only other shows I really care about on Fox – 24 and Arrested Development – are firmly in the “maybe” column for renewal next year. I can understand Fox wanting shows that draw viewers – after all, more viewers means higher ad rates, which means more money for Fox. But 24 and Arrested Development are two shows that carry critical acclaim, which is a prestige in and of itself. To me, having two critically acclaimed shows with fewer viewers is better than showing endless “encore presentations” of American Idol or Forever Eden. Regardless, without 24 and Arrested Development, I’m left with only The Simpsons and That 70’s Show. While there have been some great moments so far this season, The Simpsons has been going downhill for ages. So has That 70’s Show, but that show is going away after this year because Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher decided to end the show so they could do more on the big screen.
So what are we left with? Crap, that’s what. But where does Fox get the information with which they make programming decisions? Fox unceremoniously dumped Family Guy – which went on to become the best-selling TV show on DVD ever as well as a huge hit for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Although another dumped show – Futurama – hasn’t done as well, it still sells well on DVD and is still a big hit for Adult Swim. Keen Eddie pulled down some decent numbers for Fox – who paid for 13 episodes and only showed 5 on its network – and now it’s still pulling decent numbers on Bravo, who’s now showing it a couple of times a week. I just don’t get it. That’s why I sent the following letter to Fox:
April 16, 2004
Fox Broadcasting Co.
P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900
Attn: Programming Director
To Whom It May Concern:
Please be advised that I have finally “had it” with Fox. I am typically not a “whiner” – in fact, this is the first letter I’ve ever written to a television network. But words can hardly express my anger, frustration and righteous indignation with you due to your cancellation of the great show Wonderfalls. Once I heard the news of its cancellation I sat at my computer and thought about every other show that you broadcast that had potential but was axed by your lack of foresight:
Andy Richter Controls The Universe
The Ben Stiller Show
Space: Above and Beyond
The Lone Gunmen
Greg the Bunny
And (ironically enough) Family Guy
Why? Why bother even generating interest with us viewers, only to axe a show just as it’s starting to get legs? I remember laughing when I read of your “surprise” at Family Guy’s success on Adult Swim and on DVD – I knew it was an incredibly funny and popular show. It made me wonder what data you were looking at that made you think otherwise.
Perhaps a braver network will pick up Wonderfalls – just as Bravo did with Keen Eddie, which I still watch weekly, thank you very much. It’s your network. You can run it your way. Feel free to keep junk like Tru Calling on the air. But I won’t be watching.
I’m not crazy am I? Isn’t it Fox that’s crazy?? Or is it the whole “network” system breaking down? In some aspects, the networks are at a huge disadvantage compared to cable networks. After all, there’s no way in hell that ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox could ever show The Sopranos or Oz on network TV. But people watch those shows for the very realism that the networks cannot provide. How many movies have you seen on network TV that have been edited to show tough gangsters say something like “by golly! Let’s get this crumbum the heck outta here!” ?!?!?
Then again, networks seems to also tied themselves to the “season” system for no good reason. Unlike HBO or Bravo – who can roll out a new show whenever they feel like it – the networks have created the brutal “season” system which forces them to have X number of hours of content to fit their schedule. If a show doesn’t seem to be catching on after a couple of episodes, programming directors are under unbelievable pressure to replace it with something with higher ratings. Of course, the problem with such a system is that it’s a drain on talent. Studios have several shows lined up for the season – the ones they think we want to see, as well as others in the “maybe” column. If the shows they think will be winners tank, they’re left with even worse shows to replace it with. Honestly, how many replacement shows can you think of that went on to become hits? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Northern Exposure? The Prisoner? Can you name another??
It’s all a big mess. With longtime hits like Friends and Frasier going off the air after this season, the whole network TV road map looks pretty barren. And Fox especially so.