Why Was Beautiful Life Cancelled, and is Brothers Next?
A brief pause from reviews to discuss the passing of Beautiful Life, and the low ratings of Brothers. Both cases illustrate how much the extratextuals matter. After the fold …
First, Beautiful Life. Though it’s being received by some as sour grapes from the star of a bad show, Ashley Medekwe’s blog complained of the following (with thanks to New to TV for the link):
I think all of us (and I’m talking about everyone- not just cast) are sad that something we invested our time, effort and talent into was thrown away so abruptly by the network but the reality is the ratings were VERY low. Nobody knew this show was even on. The advertising campaign for TBL was small to non existent.
We were the last pick up of the season and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. The CW had Melrose Place and Vampire Diaries and had already allocated the publicity budget to those shows. We were on after Top Model and we had the draw of Mischa. They never had any plans to advertise us. I guess we were an experiment to see if ratings can fall out of the air…… um, they cant.
Okay, first off, based on what I saw I’m not ready to defend the show. But I agree with her in blaming the hype, or lack thereof. After all, let’s be clear about something: if a show is cancelled after one or two episodes, it cannot be because it’s bad (even if it is bad); it can only be because the ads were bad or insufficient. Its cancellation is a sign of poor marketing. It’s a massive fallacy of stat analysis in film and TV that poor opening numbers equate to a poor product. If, as with TBL, only one million people tune in to see a show, we’d be foolish to think that all the others didn’t because they know it’s bad. How do they know? They haven’t seen it, and let’s not flatter the TV critics too much to suggest that all of America is waiting to hear what they think, so as much as reviews matter, they can’t be the all and end all. Rather, viewers who aren’t watching haven’t been given a good reason to do so, and/or have been given reasons not to do so. At this early point in a show’s life, they’re responding to the advertising.
Admittedly, a really bad film or TV show will make the trailer or preview maker’s job all the harder, and I don’t mean to suggest that all shows should open with good numbers. And maybe we could be kind to CW and say they’d seen further episodes and knew how truly horrific the show was becoming, hence the early cancellation. But if we’re analyzing the stats, Medekwe’s right.
Which brings us to Brothers, which also experienced rather anemic ratings, especially for FOX. Last Friday, it received 2.82 million viewers with an 18-49 demo ratings/share of 1.0/4. When it replayed on Sunday, it received 3.73 million viewers with a 1.7/5 in the demo. When you consider that first week hits Flash Forward, Modern Family, and Cougar Town all enjoyed solid yet still much lower numbers for their replays, Brothers’ ability to garner better ratings in the second week is impressive. But it also tells me simply that the show had insufficient advertising and/or a crappy timeslot. FOX hurt its chances, in other words. When given a better slot, and perhaps the benefit of some word of mouth, Brothers did better on Sunday. Once more, so much is about the extratextuals – hype and timeslot.
A month from now, I’ll feel better evaluating shows’ life or death based on ratings. And it does give me faith in the human race to see that Melrose Place is getting shamefully low ratings despite an ad blitz. For now, though, and after only 1-3 eps., if a show’s ratings are poor, we really have to blame the nets for doing a bad job at advertising them, and/or at placing them. An ad campaign may capture a show’s essence perfectly (as did MP‘s with its trashy feel), but it’s still the ad campaign that’s being reacted to more than the show itself at such an early date.Tags: Brothers, Nielsen, pilots, ratings, The Beautiful Life