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What Has Fox Got Against Its Own Sci-Fi Shows? 753

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-still-miss-you-firefly dept.
brumgrunt writes "Dollhouse. The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Fringe. Three science fiction shows that Fox commissioned, put on the air, and — in the case of at least one of them — has won rave reviews. But why does it seem that Fox is trying to kill some of its own shows with crazy scheduling decisions? How can Fringe survive after being pulled for two months, and what hope is there for Sarah Connor and Dollhouse on a Friday night?"
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What Has Fox Got Against Its Own Sci-Fi Shows?

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:23AM (#27149951)

    Fox is NOTORIOUS for not sticking with their series (and have been for at least 15 years now). I can name a dozens of great shows just off the top of my head that they've abandoned over the years (usually after moving them around, not promoting them, etc.). In the new millenium, they've gotten even worse. They will cancel series now before they even finish a full season, even if they have the season already "in the can" (Firefly and Wonderfalls are two prime examples). Basically, if you agree to do a show for Fox, you better go into it knowing that it's probably not going to last long (count yourself lucky if they don't pull the plug after just a few episodes have aired).

    I once heard an explanation of why networks do this sort of thing. There is a lot of executive turnover at networks, and when a new programming exec comes in, the first thing he wants to do it to advance his own projects. You see, on his own pet projects, he gets to take full credit for them if they succeed. But if one of his predecessor's pet projects succeeds, he doesn't get to take any credit for it. That means that incoming execs have every motivation to kill off all their predecessor's projects (no matter how sucessful they may be) to make room for their own. So they will often take a show that is successful and start fucking around with it, just so they can justify cancelling it. You take your predecessor's big show, move it around to a shitty night, force a bunch of stupid "notes" down the show-runner's throat ("Hey, can you bring in a sassy robot? How about a cute, wise-cracking kid?"), and then don't promote it at all. Bingo! The show's ratings tank, and you get to go before the studio president and say "Gee, look's like my predecessor's show didn't have any legs. Now let me tell you about *MY* great new show..."

    Judging by how much this happens at Fox, apparently they have a *LOT* of turnover.

    Oh, and a special R.I.P. to my beloved "Strange Luck," [wikipedia.org] cancelled after just 17 episodes.

    • by Blinocac (169086) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:29AM (#27150051)

      Seems this would be a good opportunity for some bright young exec to step up and run with some succesful shows that are already in place, and get himself some recognition as the guy who didn't kill the good shows. But then, we don't have time for rational solutions.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:35AM (#27150159)

        Do we have time to make a batch of Torgo's Executive Powder?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Tetsujin (103070)

          Do we have time to make a batch of Torgo's Executive Powder?

          Torgo's busy, taking care of the place while The Master is away.

      • by coren2000 (788204) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:53AM (#27150443) Journal

        This is fox remember... there is nothing rational or thoughtful about it.

        It is fair and balanced however.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by DudeTheMath (522264)

          "We distort, you deride."

        • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @12:15PM (#27152033) Homepage

          Fox, cancelling more sci-fi? Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rue C Koegel (1448549)

            i hear ya.... personally, i think one of the reasons the executives cut so much good programing is because of the messages they carry.

            firefly came off as a fairly anti-christian, anti-government, pro-confederate, pro-crime TV sci-fi/western.

            FOX's focus seems to be mainly on entertaining, not educating, and certainly not on encouraging intellectual conversation.

            ps: i'm currently watching FF for the first time.

            • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @03:09PM (#27155341) Journal

              Alright I took time to read the article, and I think it's just a lot of FUD. After all, Terminator and Dollhouse have not been canceled yet. And Friday is not automatically a death slot:

              Millenium - three year run
              Sliders - three year run on FOX plus two more on SciFi
              X-Files - a little known show of moderate repute that lasted 11 seasons

              Now granted FOX is known for canceling scifi and fantasy shows throughout the 90s, however Joss Whedon said himself that those execs are long gone. The new executives are willing to stand behind their shows and let them grow, especially if the show has a strong online following, as is the case with Fringe, Terminator, and Dollhouse. Bottom Line: I'm not concerned.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by despisethesun (880261)
              I don't know if I would say "Pro-Confederate", since the Unification War wasn't about slavery (and there are indications in the show that slavery continued well after the Alliance victory on outlying worlds), but more anti-imperialism and with a very strong slant towards libertarianism. I didn't realise how similar it was to Heinlein's work until I read the frontier stories in Time Enough For Love, and that's definitely worth a read if you're a Firefly fan. You can skip the last section of the book, where L
      • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:59AM (#27150543) Homepage Journal

        The bright young execs are too busy managing to keep the "fair" away from the "balanced" over at the Fox News department, lest they meet and annihilate each other in a blissfully exothermic reaction.

    • And Futurama (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:31AM (#27150075) Journal

      There is a lot of executive turnover at networks, and when a new programming exec comes in, the first thing he wants to do it to advance his own projects.

      That does not suffice for an explanation. You see, they must notice that the longer you leave a show in a solid time slot the more your established viewership watches it. Case in point: Futurama. I liked the show but I never knew when it was on so I often missed it when it was on the air. They moved it around to death!

      Even if they had put it on Saturday at 2pm I would have known when to watch it. Adult Swim is much the same--bad time slot but I know when it's on so I always watch it. Their shows get moved around way too much and as a result, it's harder for me to grow attached to any one show in a solid time slot.

      And don't tell me Fox doesn't know this, their syndication of The Simpson all through high school at 5 & 5:30 on weekdays was very popular. No, I attribute this to just sheer stupidity--maybe even the logic that if they move it around they will collect more viewers who normally don't watch the regular time slots.

      You would think thorough statistics would solve this problem ... but I'm not inclined to believe Fox has savvy executives in this respect. For all I know, they're moving around shows based on the number of complaints that are filed with the FCC from conservative Christian groups.

      I heard the Futurama folks were looking at doing another TV slot but were just too jaded from their Fox experience to wanna start it again. I think they should get into their contract a solid time slot on a day to ensure success. I wouldn't blame them if they opted to go the straight to DVD route forever or try to work something out with Comedy Central.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Success for the network does not mean success for the executive. While the network may thrive from an excellent show in an excellent time slot, the executive does not if he is not responsible for the show. The only reason Simpsons wasn't moved around is because whoever moved it would be committing career suicide.

      • Re:And Futurama (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:47AM (#27150347) Journal
        "They moved it around to death!"

        And they wonder why people P2P TV episodes.

        If it's easier to look for a torrent, and download it than to just sit on a couch and watch your favorite show, then the TV people are doing something wrong.

        Maybe Fox pays less to Futurama (and any other show) for the first X episodes, then they start having to pay more? If that's the case then that might explain why they'll keep trying to churn shows.

        But on the flipside, most US TV series don't appear to really have "proper" endings, unlike many Japanese anime. So not sure how that works out.

        Maybe if Fox wants churn, they should start encouraging TV shows that end, and end properly as part of the arc, rather than something thrown together.
        • Re:And Futurama (Score:4, Insightful)

          by eln (21727) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:56AM (#27150509) Homepage

          Maybe if Fox wants churn, they should start encouraging TV shows that end, and end properly as part of the arc, rather than something thrown together.

          It would be nice for shows to have story arcs that end in a satisfying way, but that conflicts with the desire to make as much money as possible. As long as a show is popular, it will stay on the air. If its original story arc was only for 1 or 2 seasons, that arc will be extended indefinitely, or a new arc will be started.

          Even shows that were advertised as being a complete story arc ended up being stretched well beyond what they were originally intended for (see: Lost). Of course, that sort of thing usually ends up decreasing the quality of the show, which tends to mean that show will drop viewers. If it drops enough viewers, the show will be canceled before it can complete its (expanded) arc.

          The only way a show can reasonably expect to complete its storyline in a satisfying way is if a.) its storyline is not bound by time, so it could be wrapped up within, say, half a season at any point, and b.) the show is so wildly popular that it can keep going until the producers themselves decide it's time to wind it down. Very few shows meet those criteria, and so most shows end up dying without finishing the story.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Opportunist (166417)

            Shows with a story arc must be shown in the same slot religiously. Imagine you missed a few episodes of Bleach. Would you even try to continue watching it? When your audience has to "work" to keep up with the show because you keep rotating it around your schedule, they soon won't bother with it. Maybe you'll get a few die-hard fans to study your schedule to ensure they won't miss a thing, but die-hard fans are of no interest to network execs. They want ratings.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by drinkypoo (153816)

              Shows with a story arc must be shown in the same slot religiously. Imagine you missed a few episodes of Bleach. Would you even try to continue watching it?

              People with money who are interesting to advertisers who are the actual customers of television (you are the product) tend to have PVRs so they can watch a show if they miss it. People like you who miss a show and then don't follow it are clearly not the advertisers' bitch, thus not worth wasting advertising dollars on, thus not worth pleasing. The mass media industry does not give one fuck about you and will not miss you if you go away.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Phroggy (441)

                Shows with a story arc must be shown in the same slot religiously. Imagine you missed a few episodes of Bleach. Would you even try to continue watching it?

                People with money who are interesting to advertisers who are the actual customers of television (you are the product) tend to have PVRs so they can watch a show if they miss it. People like you who miss a show and then don't follow it are clearly not the advertisers' bitch, thus not worth wasting advertising dollars on, thus not worth pleasing. The mass media industry does not give one fuck about you and will not miss you if you go away.

                Uhhh, except that people with PVRs are more likely to just fast-forward through those precious commercials, which is something advertisers are not so fond of. If you want me to see the commercials, it has to be on live TV so I can't fast-forward, and it has to be in a consistent timeslot so I can put it on my calendar and arrange my schedule around it.

                A better explanation is that they're catering to people who will just turn on the TV and watch whatever happens to be in front of them, who don't really care

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by badasscat (563442)

          "They moved it around to death!"

          And they wonder why people P2P TV episodes.

          If it's easier to look for a torrent, and download it than to just sit on a couch and watch your favorite show, then the TV people are doing something wrong.

          To be fair, it's not easier if you have a DVR. Which a lot of people do, and the networks know that. There's not as much loathing of moving things around on the schedule anymore because the execs know that DVR's will find these shows automatically, so they're not as concerned about the con of potential audience loss anymore. The potential benefits outweigh the risks now.

          In a sense, executives are doing what people here have always said they should do, which is moving away from schedule-based programming

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TeamSPAM (166583)

          This is one of the things that sold me on TiVo the first year I had it. I added "The Tick" to my season pass and it got every episode regardless of where Fox moved it to. Trying to keep up with scheduling moves that Fox makes is a nightmare.

          As for Futurama, at the end they stuck it on Sunday night at 7pm. At best you got to see the show already in progress because of football running long.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by maxume (22995)

        Those 5 o'clock Simpsons episodes were programmed by your local station (which may have been a Fox station), not by Fox.

      • Re:And Futurama (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:19AM (#27150945)

        Let's blend the two logics together.

        a) Show A is your favorite and it has pretty neat ratings on its current slot because people finally found out when it would be.

        b) Show B is new exec's pet project.

        Cue exec train of thought: "Hmm... That slot of Show A must be really good because it has killer ratings with the audience I want for my pet project..."

        The fallacy is that it's not the slot but the show that makes the ratings. Once you get a network exec to realize that, we might see more shows keep their slot and survive.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LanMan04 (790429)

          Yeah really. With my TiVo I don't have the slightest clue what time most shows are on, or even what network (if it's not obvious). I just go "Oh, it's Saturday, that means I have the new BSG from last night!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by colonslash (544210)
        I watch almost all of my tv through hulu now, so the time slot shuffling isn't much of an issue for me; I like their queue implementation - new episodes of shows I pick automatically get added to my queue, so when I'm looking for something to watch I just check what's available from that.

        OTOH, I'm not sure if hulu counts as viewership to the networks, though - I've read that online programming isn't making much money compared to regular tv.
      • Re:And Futurama (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ubrgeek (679399) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:38AM (#27151279)
        I wonder actually how much has to do with Rupert Murdoch (say his name three times and he appears, so be carefull.) There was an interview a few days ago in "Portfolio" with Paul LaMonica's discussing his new book, "Inside Rupert's Brain." From the article:

        MM: You describe Murdoch has having almost a kind of attention deficit disorder -- he gets obsessed with something for two or three years, then forgets all about it and moves onto something else. Recently, he's been taking a lot of criticism for his fixation on newspapers. Is it just a phase?

        PL: That one I think is going to be a little more difficult for him to outgrow. Clearly he did kind of have that phase with satellite television and with online media...but with newspapers, simply because it is a business he grew up in, it may be a little harder for him to let go that infatuation, especially since The Wall Street Journal is something he's hungered for for at least two decades. Anything that's a kind of ego-driven type of media business, which in many cases books and newspapers are, it may be difficult for him to give that up even if it's not fiscally a growing part of his business.
      • Re:And Futurama (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:49AM (#27151507) Homepage

        You would think thorough statistics would solve this problem ...

        Here's my experience with statistics in a corporate environment.

        YOU: Sir, our team has completed our month-long analysis of the economic data. We've done preliminary data analysis, removed outliers, run a Pearson error test, t-interval hypothesis tests, and a Chi-square analysis. The confidence interval is (95%: 45.1 to 52.8) and you can see that in contradiction to your earlier theory, our findings are very strongly correlated, with P-value 0.0026.

        EXECUTIVE: Yeah, fuck off.

    • by PeterP (149736) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:45AM (#27150325)
      Reminds me of the first Family Guy episode after they got cancelled:

      Peter: Everybody, I've got bad news. We've been cancelled.
      Lois: Oh, no! Peter, how could they do that?
      Peter: Well, unfortunately, Lois, there's just no more room on the schedule. We've just got to accept the fact that Fox has to make room for terrific shows like Dark Angel, Titus, Undeclared, Action, That 80's Show, Wonderfalls, Fastlane, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Skin, Girls Club, Cracking Up, The Pitts, Firefly, Get Real, FreakyLinks, Wanda at Large, Costello, The Lone Gunmen, A Minute With Stan Hooper, Normal, Ohio, Pasadena, Harsh Realm, Keen Eddie, The $treet, American Embassy, Cedric The Entertainer, The Tick, Luis and Greg the Bunny.
      Lois: Is there no hope?
      Peter: Well, I suppose if all those shows go down the tubes, we might have a shot.
    • Re: Firefly (Score:5, Informative)

      by brufar (926802) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:48AM (#27150357)
      I really enjoyed the firefly series after purchasing it on DVD, and watching the episodes in order. FOX seemed to do everything in their power to kill this show..

      1. Friday night scheduling.
      2. Airing the episodes out of order.. I mean HELLO ?? The order was 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 4, 5, 9, 10, 14, 1; with 11 â" 13 unaired

      The wikipedia entry for Firefly contains more detailed criticism of Fox for their treatment of this series. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Firefly_episodes [wikipedia.org]

      Fox is definitely the last place you want to try out a new series. It's hard to start watching a new series on their network, knowing their track record for killing off anything that might be halfway decent.. Why bother getting interested in a show that won't be around tomorrow ?
    • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:49AM (#27150379)

      I wouldn't blame them for pulling it. Episodes 1-2 were terrible. 3 was bearable, yet only because of a plot twist. Episode 4 actually went somewhere, finally had some of the clever banter between characters that made Firefly special. Finally starting to care about what happens to them.

      I'd say it's entirely Joss's fault if Fox wants to cancel it. I have better things to do than watch garbage like eps 1-2. Had I not gotten bored and ended up watching Ep3, I would have left and never come back. We know what Joss is capable of, and this certainly isn't it.

      • by flitty (981864) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:00AM (#27150553)
        Fox did the same Episode Shuffle with Dollhouse that was done with Firefly. I heard a critic say that the Bow Hunter episode was originally episode 6, and some of the plot had to be cut out because it involved stuff that hadn't occured yet being the second episode. Also, the very beginning of the series, the motorcycle sequence, was a complete addition by the executives at fox.

        But yes, Dollhouse is no Firefly, due to Dr. Dusku's Horrible acting ability, and the fact that the only real "character" is the programmer guy. A blank slate is not a character.
        /rant
        • by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:10AM (#27150741) Homepage Journal

          My understanding is that thus far the shuffling has been largely done by Whedon, despite a lot of claims to the contrary. Whedon rejected the pilot, for example, as it just didn't fit together. The major issues with Dollhouse are that Fox has been, apparently, very heavy handed with the first few episodes (and given thus far we've had one good one, one OK one, and two dreadful ones [2, 4, 1 and 2, respectively], it's safe to say they've not done so to the show's credit. Supposedly Ep6 or 7 is where it starts getting "good".

          BTW, does anyone else have problems with the notion that Fringe is "Sci-fi"? To my mind, paranormal investigations are anti-sci-fi. But, whatever. I hope Fringe dies. And T:SCC, well, I think Friedman's entirely to blame what happened to it, not scheduling. The show has been utterly awful this season, seventeen shows (well, minus that cool one with Cameron spending her evenings in the library investigating the robot from the 1920s) of utter, unrelenting, depression. Unfortunately, I can't see how this could have turned out better, given that if Fox or WB had decided to take it over, we'd probably have a Ted McGinley terminator chasing the Connors by now, with the Connors defending themselves using their hilarious new canine terminator.

          Someone give Friedman some anti-depressants. [multiply.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blincoln (592401)

      Fox is NOTORIOUS for not sticking with their series (and have been for at least 15 years now).

      Agreed.

      The first thing I thought of when I saw TFA was Space: Above and Beyond, from back in the mid-90s. It certainly had some weak points, but I would definitely have been interested in seeing more of it.

      I think Fox just doesn't have the stomach to gamble on high-cost programmes. Sci-fi has got to be one of the most expensive genres to film (properly), and it usually takes awhile for a new series or film franchis

    • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:37AM (#27151275) Homepage

      Fox is like Circuit City. They cut their good stuff and bring in new and inexperienced stuff because it's cheaper. Every time a show becomes more popular, with each renewal, writers, actors and others negotiate for higher pay. Fox does not look for viewer loyalty and clearly does not see this as important to their bottom line. They, instead, seem to be focused on short-term gains and returns. They are the most capitalistic of the networks and the results speak for themselves.

      It doesn't matter to them that viewers who care about the long term enjoyment of a series will often avoid getting hooked into a show because it is run by Fox as there are plenty of people who are willing to watch and their numbers are sufficient and their advertisers don't seem to care either, which leads me to the next point. If you would like to teach Fox to behave and keep their best series, you have to complain to the ADVERTISERS, not to Fox. Fox will not listen to viewers -- they are short-sighted to the point that they take viewers for granted.

  • DVR (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:25AM (#27149975) Homepage Journal
    With DVR's becoming more and more popular, the time that a show airs is less and less important. Perhaps the execs realize this and are trying to work it to their advantage. Sometimes you need to take some risks to move forward.
    • >>With DVR's becoming more and more popular, the time that a show airs is less and less important. Agreed. My first reaction to the article was that I have no idea what day or time the shows that I like to watch are on the air. My DVR grabs them, when I have some idle time and want to watch TV I hit the "List" button and there they are.
    • I can't agree with this more. My TiVo regularly records shows like the Terminator series but I'm hardly ever around to watch it on Friday nights. If it wasn't for time shifting I'd never watch that show.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hansamurai (907719)

      I timeshift everything, TV now works around my schedule.

      As for sci-fi shows, Battlestar Galactica is on Friday night, has that stopped that show from becoming wildly popular being on a cable network? Bionic Woman was on NBC last year on a Wednesday, that got canned. I think it has less to do about the timeslot and more to do about the content. Viewers can be picky, and while Fox has made some atrocious decisions (I think Arrested Development, others think Firefly), they're generally smarter than we expec

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by guruevi (827432)

      And that's maybe another reason they do it. A lot of service provided DVR's won't record shows if they appear on other time slots than their usual runs. DVR's mean that people can time shift and skip the ads (at least I do). They want people to watch the shows WITH the ads so if they change the schedule the DVR won't record and you'll be forced to watch the show on reruns.

    • The problem is Fox does not even follow their own published schedule. A week or two ago I set to record a new Simpsons and instead got Nascar. The Fox plan seems to be: move it around to prevent anyone from seeing it and then don't show it at the scheduled time just in case someone is dedicated enough to try and hunt it down.

      • by Deag (250823)

        It is funny that with all the control American television has with sports (timeouts or delaying a game for tv commercials - which really kills the flow btw). They still haven't managed to make them actually fit the events into a certain time slot.

        Compare this to soccer on European television, no control over the flow of the game, yet it always ends at the same time (for regular league games anyway).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by stoolpigeon (454276) *

          That's due to a fundamental difference in the nature of soccer and the more popular American sports. When I watch English Premier League I know that there will probably be 10 minutes of stoppage time or so at the most. If it is a draw - that's the end.

          Soccer only allows for a very limited set of conditions that actually stop the game clock. (I know it is tacked on at the end - but same difference.) American sports that are timed have a number of variables that can greatly affect the amount of ti

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rudeboy1 (516023)

      I agree with this. If it weren't for my DVR, I would never have even known the new season of Sarah Connor had started. That has less to do with my viewing habits, and more to do with a crappy job of promoting the show.

      Fox is generally on my shit list for this. I might have been the only person to arrange my schedule around so I could watch Drive (Nathon Fillion. Come ON!). They went on a break, and never came back. I gave serious thought to catching a plane so I could put a brick through the window of

    • by oneiros27 (46144)

      Tivo is horrible at managing conflicting shows. You have to go in and manually handle every last little detail or you end up with:

      • I've recorded a re-run of a show for you, rather than the first-run show that you entered after other one. I never mentioned the conflict because they didn't when you first entered them.
      • That show you like switched time slots, and rather than recording the broadcast show at 9pm, and the cable show at the 1am west-coast showing, I decided to record the cable show and drop the br
  • Nothing... (Score:2, Informative)

    by routerl (976394)
    Tivo recording numbers is why they would do this. I've recently read an article about this, and it is clearly a good decision. Shows like Sarah Connor Chronicles (bleh) have small but dedicated followings, and the Tivo recording numbers (also kept and recording by Nielsen) are considerably higher than live-showing numbers. Hence, schedule is irrelevant, since the people who watch these shows will continue watching them regardless of the schedule.
  • Friday night slot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:26AM (#27149993)
    I read an article several weeks ago saying that Dollhouse may be still alive because of lower expectations on Friday night. If it were to pull in the viewers it did on say a Tuesday night it would already be gone. Also I never recall watching new episodes on a day other than Friday and that was long before Tivo.
    • I sort of wish Dollhouse was on HBO or some other pay cable network where they can do a lot more. The show seems washed down from where it wants to go.

      The ratings people can tell if someone is recording via VHS/DVD recorder/home made DVR? Tivo I sort of understand. It most likely phones in to the networks to say what it is recording. I didn't think the other systems did. I got to check my home DVR to see what it is doing again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It would already be gone, five episodes in?

      That's not investing in a TV show. That's gambling, but with other people's jobs. Besides, how many great shows would have been snuffed with that attitude?

      I am a bit ambivalent on Dollhouse. I'm looking forward to when the basic premise kicks in a bit more, with Echo's character recomposition thingamajigg. Until then, it's a monster-of-the-week type deal, which doesn't work well until people already care about the characters.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:27AM (#27150015)

    ...is thank god BSG is on Sci-Fi channel and not Fox. Otherwise we'd likely have had only one season of it.

  • by cdrudge (68377) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:29AM (#27150045) Homepage

    Friday isn't all that bad for Sci-Fi. The longest running sci-fi show in history, Stargate:SG1, spent most of it's life (if not all) on Friday nights. It's spinoff, Stargate Atlantis, also resided on Friday night as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ericlj (81729)

      There's that Battlestar Something-or-other show that some people watch, too.

      Sad to say, but if a show doesn't get ratings, it's because people aren't watching it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blinocac (169086)

      Yeah, just a hunch, but the typical Sci-Fi audience member, is not doing a whole lot on a Friday night that doesn't include painting figurines or rolling dice.

    • by cdrudge (68377) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:35AM (#27150163) Homepage

      And just to clarify, that should be longest running US-based Sci-Fi show in history. Dr. Who has the world record.

  • If sci fi shows are for nerds... Most nerds have DVRs of some sort if they happen to be out on a Friday night (yeah right).

    It doesn't seem like any night is a "bad" night.. Nor, really, a "good" night.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:32AM (#27150111) Homepage

    I tried watching Fringe. It was a crappy low-rent X-files ripoff with little redeaming value.

    I tried watching Dollhouse. It was a crappy creepy low-rent show about mind-wiped prostitutes...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)

      Yes, the problem with Fringe is that it is awful. I haven't watched Dollhouse, but I haven't seen anybody raving about how awesome it is either.

    • by GrayCalx (597428) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:39AM (#27150241)
      I lasted 5 minutes into Dollhouse. I recall there being a line like "Who cares, lets dance!" Allllright Wheddon that's where I check out.
    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:55AM (#27150485)

      Oh, c'mon. Fringe is fun, silly fluff. Walter (Peter's crazy dad) is one of the best characters to come along in a while. People need to lighten up. You read message boards about genre shows, and everyone is so *serious* about it all, and act like they have been personally insulted if something doesn't appeal to them.

      creepy low-rent show about mind-wiped prostitutes

      You say that like it's a bad thing. ;-) I haven't watched it yet, so I can't say.

  • The fix... (Score:4, Funny)

    by toleraen (831634) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:32AM (#27150119)
    Just sprinkle a little Torgo's Executive Powder in Fox's water supply.
  • Dollhouse? Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by technomom (444378) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:37AM (#27150191)

    Firefly's handling was a travesty. Great show that was scheduled to death.

    But Dollhouse sucks on its own. It's Fantasy Island with anorexic girls.

    • I first encountered Firefly on DVD, years after it was canned. And I wondered, how could such a completely original sci-fi show that's so fun to watch fail to achieve great success? Then I remembered that I was discovering it on DVD years after it was canned, and the answer presented itself. Fox needs to learn how to schedule (consistently!) and promote.
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:38AM (#27150209) Homepage Journal

    The executives at Fox are conservative morons, and they hate science, even things that pretend to be "sciency".

  • and in the case of at least one of them, has won rave reviews

    {{citation needed}}

  • A lot of science fiction shows throughout the years played on fridays; didn't X-Files even air on Friday?

    This stems from the fact that TV execs assume that science fiction fans are nerds with no life, and so Friday is the perfect time to play these shows.

    I don't really care when the shows are on, I just download the torrent a couple days later. And, I'd never trust Fox not to cancel a good show; in fact, that goes for any tv (broadcast or cable) station. I've been burned too many times by their stupid
  • by tie_guy_matt (176397) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:42AM (#27150283)

    It almost seems like fox thinks that nerds are more likely not to have plans on Friday night than other groups. Either that or maybe they think nerds are more likely to have DVRs? What are they thinking?

  • It is the cost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fwarren (579763) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:01AM (#27150575) Homepage

    The same thing happened in 1979 with Battlestar Galactica. The network green lighted the show. Heavily promoted it and it was doing well. The demographics were great. Show with the most college graduates watching had the under 35 crowd going for it. So why did it have to die?

    In a word, production costs. An hour of Galactica could cost 1 million dollars which would bring in 2 million dollars. Thus a 1 million dollar profit. On the other hand 30 minutes of Happy Days and 30 minutes of Mork and Mindy would cost the network a total of $250,000. But it would bring in 2.5 million.

    So do the math. Decent sci-fi show 1 dollar out for every dollar in. Cheap but good rated comedy gives us 2.25 dollars out for every dollar in.

    The network starts looking at that time slot and sees that it can put in 2 sitcoms, or a Law and Order, or a CSI and make twice as much money. At that point the show has to die.

    In the case of classic Glactica they put the show in hiatus. Then brought it back without advertising, they changed what time it was on. They changed what night it was on. The fans were to loyal. They would hunt the show out and find it each time. The ratings were not dropping fast enough. They had to convert the show into "Galictica 1981" (shudder) to finally kill the thing.

    As with most business decisions. Follow the money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The same thing happened in 1979 with Battlestar Galactica. The network green lighted the show. Heavily promoted it and it was doing well. The demographics were great. Show with the most college graduates watching had the under 35 crowd going for it. So why did it have to die?

      In a word, production costs. An hour of Galactica could cost 1 million dollars which would bring in 2 million dollars. Thus a 1 million dollar profit. On the other hand 30 minutes of Happy Days and 30 minutes of Mork and Mindy would cost the network a total of $250,000. But it would bring in 2.5 million.

      So do the math. Decent sci-fi show 1 dollar out for every dollar in. Cheap but good rated comedy gives us 2.25 dollars out for every dollar in.

      I'm not at all disputing this, but I do want to point out something not mentioned. Keep in mind that at this time TV was very different from how it is now. Ratings were everything at this time. Yes I am quite sure that you are right that it lost out because of costs compared to comedies, but the network used "declining ratings" (without admitting that it was still winning its time slot even while going down in the ratings) to justify the decision. Why? Simple. Higher rated shows charged more for adv

  • Fox sucks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tuxgeek (872962) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:05AM (#27150651)

    Yep, fox and other networks do really stupid shit such as cancel good shows and continue running garbage such as Fear Factor and American Idiot.

    My wife and I enjoyed viewing the Dresden Files and Moonlight. I wasn't hip to Firefly until after it was canceled, but think it was better than most of the garbage of the airwaves that continues to run for what seems like decades.

    Just the other day I was walking through a job site cafeteria and observing individuals viewing repeats of some 10 season long retarded sitcom on fox. The jokes weren't funny, and the canned laughter sounded stupid. Those doing the viewing looked like zombies focused on the green slime coming from the screen. I had the thought that the producers of most shows like this must think the viewing population are morons needing to be shown, by canned laughter, what constitutes entertainment.

    If it weren't for the DVR I would sell the flat screen and get a life. Validation of the prose: "Watching TV is the same as giving up."

  • by chromozone (847904) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:16AM (#27150909)

    I know a guy who was president of Fox TV in the 90's. I used to get the impression (listening to him) that the network was always working against itself (they had had something like 6 presidents in a row lose their jobs in brief stints). I recall talking about Jennifer Love Hewitt's failed series that was a spinoff from "Party of Five". When I asked him about show he said "They guessed her horrible. They should have put her in a tube top and forgot about it". Since then whenever I hear the expression "screw up a wet dream" I think of Fox Entertainment.

  • by PJ1216 (1063738) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:37AM (#27151269)
    Part of it is definitely Fox's fault that good shows get canceled 'cause they don't know a good show even when it bites them on the ass (arrested development anybody?). Another part of it though is just the nation as a whole. They flock to those damn reality shows and sitcoms. Sitcoms aren't terrible (some of them are damn good in my opinion, but only a few). People don't want their brain to have to be turned on to understand their shows. They just wanna kinda go along in neutral like your car at a car wash. They feel like its too much effort to follow a show that actually kinda requires you to follow every episode. I think this is a shame. There's really only one show going on right now on the major networks that has this requirement and it's doing just fine. "Lost" is the only show I can think of that has this kind of structure in that if you miss one episode, you *need* to watch it somewhere else before you can catch the next week's or you'll be lost.

    Our country needs to wake up and realize that relaxation and fun doesn't necessarily require us to turn off our brains.
  • here's the truth. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@gamersTIGERlastwill.com minus cat> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @12:55PM (#27152943) Homepage Journal

    Fox doesn't hate sci-fi. Fox hates paying for sci-fi. Sci-fi is expensive.

    Fox used to ditch any show after a season if it wasn't an instant hit.

    Then they realized they could sell DVDs of the shows at a profit.

    It's better to have more profit than not. So Fox has started canceling shows after a season or two unless they're raving hits instantly.

    They sell the DVDs and make a profit. It doesn't matter if we love the show. If America doesn't love it, it's gone.

    The Sci-fi channel decided in the past 2 years to skip well written content in favor of B movies. They figure if it's got aliens and monsters, people will watch. Sci-fi channel thinks people are in it for the aliens and monsters, not the story or production value or plausibility.

    and for all you fans of MST3K, it was not sci-fi. It was comedy. Get over yourselves.

  • Mistaken Identity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X86Daddy (446356) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @01:03PM (#27153085) Journal

    People are under the mistaken impression that Fox is an entertainment company producing shows as a product for viewers who are their customers. Incorrect.

    Fox is a media company, and their product is viewers, which they sell to advertisers, their actual customers. Apply this knowledge to "news" channels, etc... and you'll understand a lot.

    That business model means that any actual quality entertainment is a fluke. Especially if it's something deemed such quality that a small demographic really enjoys it... that is never their goal. Understanding this, one can look for quality entertainment in books, or films and shows *after* they aired and were reviewed well, despite the system.

    The interesting question is not "why does Fox screw up at something outside of their goals." The interesting question is "what method of funding and creating shows as quality entertainment might be sustainable as a business that we could flock to?" Distributed digital patronage or something? Maybe I should submit that as an Ask Slashdot.

  • by drix (4602) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @01:54PM (#27154059) Homepage

    Anybody who is nerdy enough to write in to Slashdot bemoaning the probable demise of these shows is going to have no problem clearing up their busy Friday night social schedule in order to watch them.

  • by Borealis (84417) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @02:40PM (#27154899) Homepage

    Simply, I think they don't get SciFi. The SciFi Channel, named after the genre itself ran John Edwards for months and currently devotes at least one day a week to people going around with IR cameras going "I feel a presence". What's another name for "really really bad science fiction movie"? "SciFi Channel Original Feature". I keep waiting for them to redo Night of the Lepus when they run out of types of lizards, snakes, and gothic masonry.

    People whose perception of the world is filtered through a layer of ratings analysis are often not the best judge of quality scifi.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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