Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Zom-coms: How Will Your Favorite (Cancelled) Show Come Back to Life?

TV shows are a funny thing.  On the one hand, people become very invested in them.  You spend your time with them every week for a good part of the year, and you become invested in the characters and storylines.  They often aren’t a one-off indulgence like films, and by the time they go off the air, you feel like you’re saying goodbye to an old friend.  It’s corny but true.  When a show gets unceremoniously cancelled well before its time, it can be downright heart wrenching.

These days, it seems even worse.  With television and watching habits constantly in flux – are you tuning in every week?  Recording shows with your DVR?  Checking them out on-demand?  Watching them online?  Buying episodes on iTunes or Amazon?  Illegally torrenting them? – it seems that television networks are using old standards – things like Nielsen ratings – when they really don’t apply and shows are being cancelled left and right.  Because the cord could be yanked at any moment, fans don’t get as invested, which leads to people not watching, and soon enough you find yourself in a terrible cycle of reality shows and cancelled critical darlings.

But don’t worry: if you’re one of the lucky shows, technology is coming to the rescue.

We’ve seen cancelled shows be resurrected through traditional means: Bill Lawrence-created shows Scrubs and Cougar Town found new life, however temporary, when they moved from NBC and ABC to ABC and TBS, respectively.  There’s a new way of doing things, though.  Netflix is taking control of the long (long, long) awaited return of Arrested Development.  More recently, the folks behind Veronica Mars thought they might be able to use Kickstarter to scrounge up enough money for a film…and reached their goal in a day.  Good for them, right?

So now the inevitable question is raised: which show is next?  Joss Whedon’s space Western Firefly, famously dicked around by the network before being cancelled after a single season, got something of a swansong with the theatrical followup Serenity, but diehard fans have constantly clamored for more.  Whedon has already denied claims of bring back Firefly – he’s busy with a little franchise called The Avengers, amongst others – but never say never.  Chuck limped through its final few seasons and seems like the kind of niche show that could squeeze out a movie or wrap up season.

More important than what?, though, might be how?  Webseries are always a possibility, as seen by the recent Battlestar Galactica prequel Blood & Chrome.  Original series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, TheBook Club, and House of Cards found life through non-traditional channels.  Will other shows be picked up by the likes of Netflix, Amazon, or even someone like Apple?  What about Hulu?  Shows on the lower end of the budget spectrum could make do ad-supported on YouTube while also selling episodes.  And, of course, there’s always crowdfunding; not every show will find the level of support that Veronica Mars did, but then not every show needs that much money.

Regardless, it will be interesting to say the least.  TV isn’t just on TV anymore: game systems, computers, tablets, and smartphones are the new televisions.  Families rarely gather around at a designated time like they used to.  Networks and creative have to start thinking about how to reach people and maybe start moving those goalposts.  One thing is for sure, though, and that’s that reports of your favorite show’s demise might have been greatly exaggerated.  As quoted from one show that might need this Lazarus treatment soon, “six seasons and a movie!”  Where you’ll get these seasons and films from is anyone’s guess.

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