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Sarah Connor Chronicles — Why It Died 834

brumgrunt writes "Sarah Connor was a non-populist, meditative, complex piece of television on a smash-bang, show-me-the-ratings kind of network. The two were never going to get on. Plus: how the Terminator name proved more hindrance than aid."
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Sarah Connor Chronicles — Why It Died

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  • by lambent ( 234167 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:46AM (#28038077)

    ... you're a fanboy, aren't you?

  • I[t]'ll be back.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:47AM (#28038093)
    ...in some fashion. Fox has learned that geeks buy DVDs of TV shows they once loved. Sometimes they even make new content.
    • Re:I[t]'ll be back.. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:07AM (#28038269)

      yes, they realised that Firefly DVD sales are still strong so.... they give Dollhouse another season while cancelling all the good shows.

      SCC had its moments, and I think overall it was very good, even if I had to yawn through the moody pauses as Sarah says "so, John, how do you feel", as he just looks moody in the half-distance. Perhaps they were trying to increase the female watching figures.

      • by portnoy ( 16520 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:13AM (#28039171) Homepage

        They gave Dollhouse another season because although the people watching the show live were pretty low, the number of people watching the show on DVR, iTunes, and Hulu were big and kept growing. More importantly, Joss convinced them that he could do the show for less money, and had an episode that he'd basically put together for free to seal the deal.

        Everyone says it's because Firefly turned out to be huge after the fact, but I doubt that would have swung the guys at Fox if they weren't able to see a real increase in the bottom line.

    • WB produced it and they have the DVD rights. Even if it does REALLY good on DVD, Fox still won't have any motivation to make new seasons.
  • Why it died (Score:5, Funny)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:49AM (#28038101) Journal

    Not enough scenes of Summer Glau in a wet t-shirt.

    • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:12AM (#28038323) Journal

      Not enough scenes of Summer Glau in a wet t-shirt.

      More accurately: Not enough of Summer Glau in a wet t-shirt. ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kozz ( 7764 )

      I didn't watch the show, but... seriously, that happened? Wet t-shirt? Sounds preposterous.
      [citation and photos needed]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I never watched an episode either, but when you consider the easiest ways to keep a male viewers attention are to a) have an attractive woman (see Chuck or Burn Notice) b) who can kick ass (see Chuck or Burn Notice) or c) cause big explosions and who d) wears skimpy/revealing clothes (see Chuck or Burn Notice), it would be logical to assume they would toss this out from time-to-time to keep that segment of the viewers happy.

    • Re:Why it died (Score:5, Informative)

      by tb3 ( 313150 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:23AM (#28039333) Homepage

      I observed that as the ratings went down, so did the amount of clothing she wore. There was a preview near the end where she strolled through the shot in a bra and panties.
      (Do terminators even wear undies? Seems kinda pointless.)

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:49AM (#28038103) Homepage Journal

    Oh, you mean dull. Or as Homer Simpson would say:


  • more plausible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:51AM (#28038117) Homepage Journal
    A simpler explanation is that this show was just another attempt to increase the profits of the terminator franchise. I suspect that given the number of people involved, and the number of people that had to be paid off to gain the rights to the characters, ideas, and franchise made the show too expensive. p It seems to me that the same show could have been made with new characters at a lower cost. I am sure the network thought the fact that this was terminator meant that more people would watch it and they would recover the additional costs. Obviously they were wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

      A simpler explanation is that this show was just another attempt to increase the profits of the terminator franchise.

      I don't think that in itself a problem - I'm looking forward to seeing Terminator 4, after all - I guess the problem was trying to cash in on the name, but also Fox expecting it could be done on the cheap.

      Whether it was an attempt to make profit or not, I've always thought a TV series spin off would be interesting to see - in particular, showing stories set during the war (which this series d

    • Re:more plausible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WindowlessView ( 703773 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:26AM (#28038483)

      terminator franchise

      Maybe the problem is with the franchise. It seems so-last-decade. Reality is so much more interesting than silver liquid robots from the future.

      I could never accept that in the two seasons barely any mention was made of the forces that are really behind robotic and large database development. It was as if DARPA, the defense industry, the "war on terror", the growth of domestic surveillance, insatiable corporate data aggregation, battlefield robots and drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., didn't exist. The series had ample opportunities to be relevant and insightful about human psychology, social trends and politics. But it wasn't.

      • Re:more plausible (Score:4, Insightful)

        by KeatonMill ( 566621 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:31AM (#28038565)


        Heck, even BSG was able to weave some aspect of current events into the psychology and philosophy of the show.

        To be handed this great plot tool ("hey, we're going to take the premise of Terminator but not comply with the timelines") and not use its capable writing to explore present-day dilemmas was, in my mind, a travesty.

        Of course, maybe they did and Skynet (by which I mean FOX) made them change the scripts.

  • Slow starter (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:56AM (#28038177) Homepage
    The reason it died, is because the first season and a half were mediocre, and it only really ramped up to 'being good' right towards the end of season 2.
    As slow starters go, it's not really any suprise it's canned.
    • by mariox19 ( 632969 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:12AM (#28039157)

      I have a slightly different take. I thought Season 1 was pretty good and showed promise. The best episodes were on Season 2. Of course, the most god-awful episodes were on Season 2, also.

      During Season 1, I remember telling a friend of mine that I like the show, but that I worried it would fall into a cliched formula: meet a new character each week who was there for only the one episode, solve that character's problem, and then forget about the whole thing. Sadly, Season 2 had a lot of this "Touched By A Terminator" nonsense.

      The last half-dozen episodes, tying up the whole Riley thread and all, were very, very good. But, the show died because it deserved to. It could have been a good show. Unfortunately, it was a very uneven effort.

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:58AM (#28038195)

    Which is to say, "Elitist, Slow-Moving, Muddled."

    Never watched the show, but thanks for the tip; you've told me all I need to know to stay away from the torrents and DVDs.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:59AM (#28038201) Homepage

    The reason I want to see the movie today is because I enjoyed the TV series.

    I have to wonder if part of the problem is the "ratings" system itself. Isn't it possible that while Neilsen families aren't watching it, college kids and others are watching it... owe WERE watching it?

    Fox and other networks are going to have to put up their OWN bit torrent shares of their TV shows and start seeing for themselves which ones are the most popular and which ones aren't. It won't stop people from looking at the TV when it's on. It won't stop people from buying the DVDs when they come out. (I downloaded every episode of the terminator TV series, bought season one and am waiting for season two on DVD so I can clear up the space on my drives.)

    These media publishers and their digital phobias... they need to USE the digital and not fear it so much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by portnoy ( 16520 )

      They do use the digital. Believe me, they're watching the numbers for iTunes, Hulu, and DVRs. And if those numbers are strong, they can help (signs are that they helped Joss make his case for Dollhouse). But fundamentally, Internet and DVRs don't bring the ad revenue, and that's where the network's bread is buttered.

  • by Chris_Jefferson ( 581445 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:05AM (#28038255) Homepage

    Why it Died: cost > income

    • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:29AM (#28038547) Homepage
      Not true. The vast majority of TV shows turn a profit. The case is more that Fox feels they can make more money with a different show.
  • by SGDarkKnight ( 253157 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:06AM (#28038267)

    The show was good, a handful of people here saying it sucked makes no difference in the big picture. What the article dosn't talk about was the change-over in corporate leadership and show time scheduling. As the studio leadership changed over, they had new people take over that wanted to push their perfered shows; the re-do the scheduleing and put Terminator: TSCC at a time slot that was certin to kill the show, just so they could take the better time slot and push their programming. Also, they never really announced when they changed from the orignal show day and time. The die hard fans picked up on this, but the regular viewers who enjoyed the show had no clue and figured, hey guess it got cancelled and never bothered to look into it further, so the ratings dropped, and the show finally did get cancelled. Too bad, it was a good story line, and they never had filler episodes, each episode was a continuation of the previous, which i liked very much.

  • Why it failed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:13AM (#28038329)

    I watched it a couple of times to see some cool terminator robots. Everyone was human-looking. Yawn for no-budget and no cool terminator robots.

  • by haplo21112 ( 184264 ) <haplo&epithna,com> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:15AM (#28038355) Homepage

    I can understand trying to build a storyline to try to build a base to build the story on, but to spend an entire season doing so...not the way to make good TV. They spent the entire season moving towards something, but we never really got any idea of the something until the last 45 minutes of the season.

    let me spell out a basic point here: Terminator = Action there was little action this season.

  • The Real Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:17AM (#28038391) Homepage

    Networks are now interested in "reality" shows where they can get a bunch of stupid, likeable-only-by-morons, "contestants" to make complete twats of themselves, and who are naive enough to be easily manipulated into becoming a corporate cash cow and puppet. That is, until the fickle audience grow weary of them; usually within a few weeks.

    A lot of TV shows have vanished from our screens because of this: Terminator, My Name is Earl, Scrubs, Frasier, Samantha Who... the list is endless.

    And when you have much of the western world swooning over a 48 year old singer who shows up to Britain's Got Talent, why the fuck would you want to pay script writers, actors, researchers, and marketers? These people cost money; they're a drain on profits.

    From the boardroom's point of view, you can't beat a bunch of teenagers with mobile phones who are willing to text 30 votes a night, at £1 per message to shove someone onto a global stage and thereby generate even more revenue when you dig them out a year later.

    This is the future of television, people; that's why I watch so little of it these days.

    • Re:The Real Answer (Score:5, Informative)

      by Eponymous Coward ( 6097 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:37AM (#28038659)

      Do you not remember television from 10 and 20 years ago? I grew up watching a lot of TV. When I try to watch a rerun of Knight Rider, Different Strokes, Dukes of Hazzard, Three's Company, or just about anything else I used to like, I can barely believe that these shows were actually successful.

      Cripes, TV today is waaaay better than it has ever been. Yes, there is a lot of crap out there and some if it is very popular (and thus profitable), but I wouldn't write TV off just yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      A lot of TV shows have vanished from our screens because of this [reality shows]

      Umm.... citation?

      Shows have been canceled since the dawn of television. How are you so certain that those shows were canceled "because" of a corporate obsession with reality shows? Terminator was canceled because it didn't have enough viewers. Scrubs had 8 seasons and Frasier had 11 seasons... is that not a long enough run for a show? Are shows supposed to continue forever?

      I'm not saying that the popularity of reality shows hasn't put a dent in the amount of money networks will spend on conventional fiction

    • Re:The Real Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:41AM (#28038713)
      Frasier? Seriously? You're blaming the end of Frasier on reality TV? Really? It didn't have anything to do with the fact that the show had an ELEVEN year run? It wasn't about the fact that the show ran its course, as all shows do? It died because of reality TV? Seriously?

      I understand your basic point and actually agree with it in large part. Reality TV has changed the way networks view TV but to say that a show which had an exceptionally long run on TV ended because of reality TV rather than it just being the natural course of things is actually hurting your point rather than reinforcing it.
  • by physicsphairy ( 720718 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:20AM (#28038427) Homepage

    My assumption was that it was going to be a cheesy capitalization on the Terminator franchise to drum up attention for T4. Fortunately, episodes were on Hulu (take note network execs) and it quickly became my favorite television series.

    I'm sure this was a pervasive problem. The movies are mostly generic action movies (although I think T2 stands out). The best selling points of the Sarah Connor Chronicles--intricate plot, interesting and well-developed characters, emotional conflict, etc.--are exactly what you would assume to be weak-points if you watched the movies. Even though I enjoyed the movies, I was ready to skip the series, because even if they kept up with blockbuster quality shooting, I just didn't think that I'd like to see the same kind of plot stretched over a season. But now I wish the movies had been more like the series.

    I loved especially how they would often shoot episodes using different styles of storytelling. It is a nice break from formula-shows (another huge surprise coming from the Terminator franchise!) and shows a true mastery of skill.

    I am alright with the series ending where it did, however. They tied up all the loose ends introduced previously despite popping a few new ones, and I'd rather have a great series come to a dignified close than have it devolve into some dumbed down marketing-droid version which would force me to start hating it.

    I hope like other well-done film, which was not immediately popular, that the Sarah Connor Chronicles will gradually gain wide renown and inspire emulation.

  • by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:23AM (#28038461) Homepage Journal

    One of the reasons mentioned is the same reason I didn't like Heros and 24. If you missed the first couple of episodes, you may as well go home.

    I'm pretty good at gathering threads up just from watching a show for a few minutes (pisses off my wife who can't seem to follow along and she's watched 24 from the first episode).

    So I suspect, and the article seems to confirm it, that the show was written with an eye towards releasing it to DVD.

    My wife and I watched Heroes first season and I really like it. Enough that I wanted to watch it when it came on for the second season. But with the commercials every 10 minutes and 5 minutes of commercials at the end, I finally bailed. I'm sure I'll get the DVD for the second series and will probably like it a lot.

    24 is similar. It's written from start to finish. Like a long movie. You wouldn't come in in the middle of a movie and expect to understand what's going on.

    So we'll get Heroes as they're released, my wife'll get 24 (she already has the first couple of seasons), and we'll get SCC when it's out on DVD (if it isn't already).


  • Bad marketing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slim ( 1652 ) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:25AM (#28038479) Homepage

    non-populist, meditative, complex

    ... and yet they way I learned it existed was through bus stop posters of a woman in a vest with a shotgun slung over her shoulder.

    Target your marketing.

  • by royler ( 1270778 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:29AM (#28038535)
    Cliff: Well ya see, Norm, it's like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers.
  • by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:58AM (#28038953)

    I avidly watched that show, but come on. This is all about the fun of seeing Sarah Connor and Cameron trying to look normal. And Cameron beating up people of course (cue xkcd etc).

    It's by no mean meditative or complex. Take for example the Turk. A chess program is one of the root of Skynet? Give me a break. Chess programs were cool and impressive 10 years ago. Chess is a narrow game, it's not a measure of intelligence.

    Say the writers had picked "Poker" instead. Now that would be interesting. First of all, the show would ride on the wave of popularity of the game... second the game is much more complex. Third, the game requires bots to have a model of the opponents behavior, especially human behavior. Now that's interesting. There are many many ideas that could have been explored. Instead the writers choose the cheap trope, chess = intelligence, chess program = AI.

    They could also have tried to explain why skynet does not entirely wipe humanity in the first second of its existence... I mean terminator robots? A super intelligence can surely engineer something more subtle, like a virus.

    The only explanation I find is that skynet is mildly retarded, it has the mind of a teenager from the 80's and think robots are cool.

    I'll stop here. TSCC is cool but not meditative or complex.

  • Why it failed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @11:01AM (#28039981)

    1. It was on Fox. They always cancel good shows after one season.
    2. That this show wasn't good was why it got a second season. Being scifi was the final nail in the coffin.
    3. It wasn't very good and didn't have much direction. Writers wasted too much time on meaningless filler.
    4. Most fundamental problem -- the Terminator universe is tapped out. There's not really many more stories to tell, at least not with the current characters.
    5. They're trying to follow up a mega-budget best action movie of all time with a small-budget TV series. Never will a budget be more painfully obvious than in that situation. "We can't afford to fight the Romulans, we don't have the budget for it! We'll have to negotiate."

    After T2 I felt that there was really no more need for any sequels, the story was done. If they absolutely had to tell a story, the only one left was the future war. Keeping up with the time travel at this point would have just become a paradox wankfest. T3 turned out to be as weak as everyone feared. T4 has the potential of being good but some of the reviews I read are fairly devastating saying it has 'splosions but no heart, no characters to invest in.

    As far as a Terminator TV show goes, it has all the weaknesses of a time travel movie sequel. More terminators have to get sent back, it runs the risk of becoming Highlander except instead of immortal of the week we get terminator of the week. You also end up with villain decay. Arnie was terrifying in T1 and it took a whole movie to kill him. In the TV show you have T-800's showing up and getting whacked with a single blow. Granted, in T1 they had access to shitty weapons and a T1 going up against infantry with heavy weapons would actually be at a disadvantage. Arnie never moved fast enough to avoid taking hits in T1, he was just tough enough to absorb the damage. If the cops were armed with 50 cal machine guns, he'd probably have been immobilized. Anti-armor weapons would blow pieces off of him, hyper-alloy combat chassis or no. But this makes a lot of sense. A Terminator isn't designed to be the perfect armored fighting machine, that's what the huge tanks and hunter-killers were for. The Terminator was about infiltration, trading protection for camouflage. It can pass for a human until it gets close enough to do some damage. It can crawl through the warrens the humans live in, places where the larger units can't fit.

    The producers really should have gone and invented their own show instead of making a Terminator spin-off. But if they were dead-set on doing Terminator, they should have just set the whole thing in its own continuity and said "Let's do a Terminator where we don't ignore time paradoxes but embrace them." Show the timelines changing over the course of the show, some things the characters recognize and other things are left only to the audience to observe. Ok, so originally Skynet is getting its ass kicked and decides to time travel to stop the resistance. The war was sixty years in the future and there was no John Connor, it was trying to kill someone else. Kyle Reese was sent back in time, couldn't protect the original target but met and fell in love with Sarah Connor and fathers John Connor. Knowing that the war was coming, they can create a resistance movement before Skynet strikes. The war still happens and now Skynet makes the same time travel assassination decision but focuses on John Connor instead. It fails but pieces are left behind from the original Terminator which accelerates the research program that develops Skynet. Skynet itself is unaware of these changes to the timeline. When it tries sending back a T1000, it schisms the timeline and now there are two competing futures with one common past. Only one of these futures can be realized. So now Skynet is at war with itself since each one wants to be the sole victor.

    The way that would play out in the show would have been a fucking head trip. Events of previous episodes may or may not have happened. Characters who were killed may end up being alive again no

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham