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When Social Media Meets TV, Are the Results Worth Watching? 106

Posted by timothy
from the officer-ben-sherman-hadn't-always-worn-a-tutu dept.
blackbearnh writes "Forums and chat groups are letting fans organize and discuss their favorite shows with increasing ease, but what happens when the writers and producers of TV shows start paying attention? An article in today's Christian Science Monitor takes a look at how the production staff of recent shows has interacted with their fan base, and how the fans are having an increasing influence on not only the popularity, but also the plot and characters."
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When Social Media Meets TV, Are the Results Worth Watching?

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  • Wasn't that a proof of concept?

    • C*O*P*S was social media too
      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        C*O*P*S was social media too

        What?

        There's a social site specializing in mullets in wife-beater t-shirts out there that try to influence the show COPS?

        Here I was, thinking they were just unwitting participants/stars in the show...

    • Re:Snakes on a Plane (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:49AM (#39439887)

      It doesn't have to be so negative as that, though.

      For instance, I've wondered for the last 10 years or so what the fuck the people that cancelled Firefly were thinking. Ditto with the show Jericho [wikipedia.org] from a few years ago. Both shows had massive outpourings of fan support but got cancelled anyway (Firefly was sabotaged from the outset, in my opinion).

      I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that didn't wonder what the hell goes on in these meetings where TV and Movie execs come up with their shit. More and more it seems like the good shows get axed, the good movie concepts end up in development hell, and only the crap ends up on both the Big Screen and the small one. Probably why I barely watch TV these days and haven't been to a movie in years...

      • by yotto (590067) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:00AM (#39439979) Homepage

        I don't wonder at all.

        You are being yelled at to make money for your network, and you have two options on how to do it. You can pay a half dozen juggalos (or "real" housewives") a couple million dollars a year to act like idiots and make hundreds of millions profit. Or, you can spend hundreds of millions on a high-tech sci-fi scripted TV show that doesn't even break even.

        If you don't make money for the network. You get fired.

        What do you do?

        • by afeeney (719690)

          You are being yelled at to make money for your network, and you have two options on how to do it. You can pay a half dozen juggalos (or "real" housewives") a couple million dollars a year to act like idiots and make hundreds of millions profit. Or, you can spend hundreds of millions on a high-tech sci-fi scripted TV show that doesn't even break even. If you don't make money for the network. You get fired.

          Scripted shows, especially ones targeted to children or sci-fi ones, can rake in hundreds of millio

          • Scripted shows, especially ones targeted to children or sci-fi ones, can rake in hundreds of millions with related product sales.

            And I've seen "Snooki" t-shirts. It might not be action figures but there IS reality show merch.

          • You mean like a tie in film?

            Serenity cost 40 million to make and raked in 38 million.

            Clearly the fans were vocal, but not all there.

            At some point, the ROI delta between a show like Firefly and say, American Idol, to choose a random popular Fox show, is just so great that it doesn't become worth producing the show to begin with.

            Plus Firefly sucked. Should've not even been green lit. I hope though that the Avengers fares better for ol' Joss than Serenity did.

            • by afeeney (719690)
              No, for supplemental media I meant more things like soundtracks and song downloads, mini-episodes for purchase, etc., things that aren't full-scale productions. Nurturing a fanbase also encourages the fans actually to buy the materials, especially because it's immediately available for download from the time of creation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For instance, I've wondered for the last 10 years or so what the fuck the people that cancelled Firefly were thinking. Ditto with the show Jericho

        I'm pretty sure they were thinking that they weren't a charity and thus did not have much interest in funding shows that were losing money. Just because a fanbase is extremely vocal doesn't make it large. This I think is the inherent problem with writers/directors/developers paying too much attention to social media and fan forums. The fact is, the few hundred or thousand people who post endlessly on forums simply are not a representative group of the several million people who watch the show or movie or

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          The "charity" principle flatly contradicts the facts. There are shows in various genres that were clear failures at the same point in their production as Firefly. Firefly was simply never given a chance and was likely killed by internal politics that have nothing to do with the "charity principle".

      • by marsu_k (701360)
        I'm not surprised at all that Jericho got canceled. The show could have been great, but quickly turned into a post-apocalyptic O.C. Shame really, the premise had some potential.
        • by 1u3hr (530656)

          I'm not surprised at all that Jericho got canceled. The show could have been great, but quickly turned into a post-apocalyptic O.C. Shame really, the premise had some potential.

          You (and everyone) gave up too soon. It went through a soapy stage after the great opening, but it pulled back into some hard core action in the latter half of the season, and the few that watched season 2 saw it reach greatness.

          There is no room for a misstep, especially with scifi on TV. Lose momentum and you're dead. same thing happened with Sarah Connor. A patch of slow, introspective episodes and it was on the chopping block.

      • by i_ate_god (899684)

        Firefly
        Jericho
        Flashforward
        SG:U (the best of the stargates no less)
        Caprica

        The problems with these shows are that they target a small audience but have a big budget.

        Reality TV costs very very little, and sadly, appeals to a much wider audience.

        Which is why you have stations like HBO. HBO is a premium service, but you get what you pay for, a lot of quality shows. And now that HBO has ventured into fantasy with Game of Thrones, one could only hope that HBO will do something science-fiction. If anything, HBO is

        • A faithful adaptation of Dune would be amazing, although I admit I've only read the first few Dune novels, so I don't know how well the later novels would translate.

          I really wish HBO would adapt either Stephen King's The Stand or The Gunslinger series to an ongoing series. Both could do well in my opinion. I know that The Gunslinger was in the works as a series of films, but that has been in an out of production so many times I have no ckue as to it's current status.

          • They did make a relatively faithful mini-series adaptation of the first two novels, but the acting was astonishingly bad. Lynch's film, for all the bizarre proprieties it took with the story, at least had the atmosphere of the novel down pat.

            • by i_ate_god (899684)

              the mini series was true to the story line
              the lynch film was true to the feeling

              I did recently find an uncut version of the lynch film, and it has a lot more of the book in it.

        • by Githaron (2462596)

          SG:U (the best of the stargates no less)

          I just have to say it. Stargate Universe was, without a doubt, the worst of all the Stargate series. The only reason I watched the show while it aired was because it was Startgate and I was having Stargate withdrawal. Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were awesome.

          The problems with these shows are that they target a small audience but have a big budget.

          That is probably true; however, I wish the TV executives would simply lower the budget rather cancel the show. As TV continues to transition more and more to the internet, I am hoping there will be less reason to cancel good shows that have smal

          • by Ocker3 (1232550)

            SG:U (the best of the stargates no less)

            I just have to say it. Stargate Universe was, without a doubt, the worst of all the Stargate series. The only reason I watched the show while it aired was because it was Startgate and I was having Stargate withdrawal. Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were awesome.

            [Citation Needed, or it gets a Troll rating]

  • Bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:30AM (#39439681)

    A lot of producers and show-runners will avoid fan boards and social media sites for their shows not because they don't value the fans, but because of legal issues. If some fan posts a story idea and a similar story shows up later on the show (whether by coincidence or not) without crediting the fan, you're looking at a lawsuit. Most such "They took yur ideas!" suits are laughable and end up going nowhere (unless you're Harlan Ellison, who seemed to make a career out of claiming everyone stole everything from him). But if the plaintiff can show that show execs and writers were active participants in the same fan board where he posted the idea, you've got a real problem.

    I know this may go against the grain but, with a few exceptions, I really do think it's best to keep the fans and show-runners in their own separate cages, for the most part. A lot of fans will feel weird posting honestly if they know the people they're criticizing are right there. And show execs are setting themselves up for legal and PR headaches if they start getting accused of stealing story ideas from the fans.

    • by i_ate_god (899684)

      Legal issues aside, you can't please everyone.

      And unfortunately, the ones who are displeased, while usually a minority, end up being the loudest bunch.

    • by crow (16139)

      Just run a separate forum that requires a login and terms of service that give the producers the rights to any ideas you post.

      • Great Idea!

        How can I do that one facebook? (It isn't "new" and "cool" if it isn't on facebook, is it?)

    • This is one theory behind the retconning of FiM to remove the fan-influenced Derpy character. The other is that Apple considered the character potentially offensive and wouldn't permit the episode on iTunes unedited. As neither Apple nor Hasbro made any statement, either is a possibility.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Statements have been made. It was Hasbro. The politically correct parents complained to Hasbro, not Apple. The episode is still out of rotation on the Hub.

        I know you dumbass geeks want to blame Apple for every ill under the sun, but give up already on this one.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          Geez, what's the world coming too these days?

          Political correctness has so infiltrated society that you can no longer make fun of a cripple or retard?

          Sheesh...

    • Re:Bad idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:18AM (#39440167)

      Several years ago I worked on a little movie called "The Alamo" with Billy Bob Thornton. After a few months we had an amazing cut, about three hours long- it was an epic, complex movie that didn't pull any punches about Texas history and gave complex renderings of all the historical characters.

      They scheduled a test screening in Austin so they could get a read on what people in Texas would make of it, and one of Harry Knowles's little minions from Ain't it Cool managed to plant himself in the audience an provide Harry with all the material he needed in order to write a scathing hit piece that accused the filmmakers of historical fraud, besmearching the honor of all Texans and being stupid Hollywood types looking down our noses at racist cracker hillbillies. (I don't think he ever actually saw the long cut of the film, I suspect that he was simply angry that he wasn't invited and didn't receive the emoluments to which he'd become accustomed.)

      Long story short, within a week of Harry's post, the plug was pulled on all efforts to finalize the film and post production was shut down for three months while the studio recut the movie, leaving it the bland, inoffensive and rather lame thing you can buy today on Amazon. Forums just make filmmaking more political, and politics generally ruins art.

      • by fliptout (9217)

        I consider it a minor victory that The Alamo depicted Davy Crockett as captured and executed by the Mexicans, which is what historical records indicate happened.

        I remember the days when Ain't It Cool news stuff showed up on /. regularly- don't miss it at all.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      That is like writing software without ever talking to the people that use it. Stupid, but a lot of people do it and wonder why they are not successful.
  • Lost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mws1066 (1057218) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:39AM (#39439757)
    When Lost was about to end, the various forums were abuzz with lots of ending ideas that all were about a hundred times better than the actual ending. Kinda wish they'd listened to fans in that case.
    • by chinton (151403)
      When Lost was about to end, the various forums were abuzz with lots of ending ideas that were about a hundred times worse than the actual ending. Kinda glad they didn't listen to fans in that case.
    • by ZooDog (714750)
      Cracked [cracked.com] had a summary of 5 movies where the fan theories were better than the final cut.
  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:40AM (#39439779) Homepage Journal
    We already had facebook the movie. Why do we need facebook the TV show?
  • Among other things, I hope network execs can better guage the pulse of the viewers and don't inexplicably cancel seriously popular shows like "Outnumbered" (though it did ultimately return for the next season).

  • Somehow I read this as "Facebook meets American Idol"...

    ......

    Sorry, I just threw up a bit in my mouth.

  • According to the article, while a fanbase can help extend the lifetime of a show, they have no influence on plot or characters.

    • You must not have read the same article. The fans created Derpy Hooves, who eventually showed up as a character with a speaking role, and who served as a minor plot point for the episode.

      Similarly the fans created DJ-Pon3, Lyra, BonBon, and Octavia While they haven't graduated to speaking characters yet, Hasbro is making toys out of some of them, and their continued appearances on the show have little details that prove the animators are paying attention. So the fans are definitely influencing characters

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        But from the many authors it quotes the ponies are the only example, the othersare counterexamples, making ponies more of an isolated exception than a rule.

      • Oh god. "The pony model". I have witness the birth of a phrase. Young and vulnerable, I fear for it's future. To be abused and twisted by board execs and marketing monsters. The horror... The horror....
      • That's a direct riff on one of the most popular fanfics, the Fallout: Equestria series.

        Is Twilight's exact lines used in the fic? Because if not it's probably coincidence. "Future post-apocalypse self travels back to fix things/warn pre-apocalypse self." is a well-worn trope. Also, the name Fallout: Equestria makes me think of something thoroughly "after the end", while the "end" predicted on the show was entirely the work of a single overreaction by a single character. "Epic X war" describes Fallout, partly. It also describes Mass Effect, The Forever War, parts The Lord of the Rings, and the

        • "Future post-apocalypse self travels back to fix things/warn pre-apocalypse self." is a well-worn trope.

          Not in cartoons for little girls. The inclusion of that adult trope in the childrens' show was a direct result of the vocal adult fanbase.

          The root problem: The MLP fanbase is so huge and prolific that after a while it becomes almost impossible to do something without someone else having done something similar first.

          This will be an issue at some point. It affected the Harry Potter franchise, where the fans explored every pairing of characters, so that J.K.Rowling had to put her foot down and pair everyone off in the final book. But I trust the creators of MLP to get a few original seasons under their belt before they have a problem colliding with the fan fiction.

          The question isn't

          • "Future post-apocalypse self travels back to fix things/warn pre-apocalypse self." is a well-worn trope.

            Not in cartoons for little girls. The inclusion of that adult trope in the childrens' show was a direct result of the vocal adult fanbase.

            Benny Hill and Blazing Saddles references aren't for little girls either, yet they were present in episodes made before the show was ever aired. The show was made for families, and there's always been things that were there to entertain adults.

            I'm not saying there's not fandom-specific references. Derpy is one in spades. Lyra and Bon Bon's repeated pairings (including wearing each other's clothes, er, saddlebags). The proposed toys with fan favorites (and for once, an MLP antagonist). The latest blind ba

  • by Balinares (316703) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:52AM (#39439919)

    And yet another article that's basically all about My Little Pony.

    Six years ago, ponies on Slashdot were a joke. We were all grizzled men with grizzled beards. We made systems run through sweat and tears, we coded heroic late night fixes, congregating here to share war stories of pride in ourselves and defiance of users.

    Now we're grizzled men with grizzled beards and a Fluttershy desktop.

    How the times have changed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And yet another article that's basically all about My Little Pony.

      Six years ago, ponies on Slashdot were a joke. We were all grizzled men with grizzled beards. We made systems run through sweat and tears, we coded heroic late night fixes, congregating here to share war stories of pride in ourselves and defiance of users.

      Now we're grizzled men with grizzled beards and a Fluttershy desktop.

      How the times have changed.

      Are you suggesting you just don't know what went wrong? [youtube.com] :)

      To get serious for a secon

    • I have a Rarity desktop, you insensitive clod!

    • Now we're grizzled men with grizzled beards and a Fluttershy desktop.

      Hey now, I'm a grizzled man with a grizzled beard and a Letty Whiterock & Cirno desktop. I was into friendship-driven meme engines before it was cool.

      Oh, yes, and hipster glasses. I've got those too.

  • I would love to see something like this happen, just too see the end result when 4chan gets wind of it.

    • Have you seen Bar Karma? The dialog and pacing has been a little sketchy in some episodes, but I like the overall concept. The show is crafted (i.e. plot created) by the social media fanbase.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_Karma [wikipedia.org]

    • Oh God... Sex in the City meets \b\... Shudder...
  • I think EA and Bioware are finding out what can happen when you start letting fans believe they have an influence on what happens in a story.
    • I think EA and Bioware are finding out what can happen when you start letting fans believe they have an influence on what happens in a story.

      Remove the EA from that. I doubt they'd realize the difference between a fanbase and a bottom line unless they got the fanbase so riled up they torched EA HQ. (Gods, I remember when they were Electronic Arts.)

      The end was just like the end in a lot of games: A slapdash finale stuck together as the deadline loomed because they needed something. Bioware's fault for not writing the ending until a few months before release, I guess.

  • by desertfool (21262) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:23AM (#39440235) Homepage

    Didn't the creator of Babylon 5 lurk on usenet to check up on what those of us who watched the show thought of it? /yes, my lawn, get off of it.

    • Didn't the creator of Babylon 5 lurk on usenet to check up on what those of us who watched the show

      The system is broken when absolute crap like Babylon 5 runs for years, but Firefly gets the axe after 14 episodes.

      • But B5 was actually good. It may have been poorly marketed, especially as it was in direct conflict with Star Trek. What impressed me the most about the show, was that the story arc was the full length of the series, with a beginning, middle and end. It didn't just go on until it ran out of steam.

        I think you'll find that many people's opinion of B5 will include things like "believable, 3 dimensional characters", "engaging stories", "moral questions" and so on. It also had kick ass people on both sides (and

  • Bad idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wired_parrot (768394) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:50AM (#39440473)
    Letting fans take control of tv shows is a bad idea, and will make tv scripts be written like so much bad fan fiction. The key issue for me is that the crowdsourcing of fans tends to favour the familiar and desirable. This discourages creativity, as you can't introduce new characters and situations without removing the familiar first, and fans will always agitate to maintain the familiar. What you get in the end is a melow saccharinne version of the show, with no unexpected twists that might shake the diehard fan's loyalty, but that ends up alienating those very same fans
  • I understand editors, but once you have multiple writers the idea of violating the individual creativity of a writer is moot since they already start by making creativite compromises and brainstorming and what not. I'm pretty enamoured with the idea of single author works. Other people can contribute advice and corrections but should never be on a level field with the writer to the point when they just become cowriters.

    Of course cowriten works have a right to exist, but in that case who cares if the fans ar

  • There are situations where viewer input could be fun, within very specific niches and informed audiences. Unfortunately, I think what we'll end up seeing is exemplified quite well with The Office. It's dragged on far too long; the storyline meandering, the writers grasping at straws and it long having since missed the original point of the series. The love interests have become far too dominant and the sharp edges have all been filed down making the whole thing a bit too easy-going. Whatever content made th

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @01:24PM (#39442603) Homepage

    I think the problem with having fans write the shows is best summed up by a comment from a City Of Heroes developer on pleasing the players: "If the game spit out 20 dollar bills people would complain that they weren't sequentially numbered. If they were sequentially numbered people would complain that they weren't random enough."

  • My wife watches Korean dramas on the internet. One of the sites had some type of feature where they embedded fan comments, possibly from Twitter, into a subtitle-like track. I only caught a glimpse, but this seemed like one of the worst ideas ever. It really caught my attention because suddenly, the word "BITCH" was scrolling across the screen.

    While I could see some benefit to "sharing" like this with other viewers, the content would need so much moderation to filter out all of the garbage, trolls, and "

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      Chibi, I feel for you. My wife is a dramacrazy freak. Though I have to say if you get the chance sit down and watch City Hunter. It's not bad.
  • How many people does it take to produce American Idol? I mean this is about the only crap that's programmed these days, reality tv. Here's a thought, how about getting decent writers and not churning out something cookie cutter that is crap, or something that isn't rehashed from 20 years ago. Sanford and Son 2012.
  • Manga unlike mainstream Comics in the US are published in chapters in magazines together with other manga's. It is a method shared with strips from the European mainland with a few differences. First of all, manga magazines are much thicker, they have a LOT of content and this makes it easier for new talent to get a chance BUT the manga industry is far more commercial in Japan with far more magazines then even at the high-time of strips in France.

    So, you get a few weeks and then the magazine tests the popul

  • Most inventors and engineers I've met are like me--they're shy and they live in their heads. They're almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone--best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention's design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don't believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee. Because the committee would never agree on it! -- Steve Wozniak, "iWoz"

    This is why we have "director's cuts" and "theatrical versions" of many films... a single person's vision vs a product toned down for the masses.

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes

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