Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moonlight takes over Ask Matt again

Ask Matt tackles several Moonlight related questions today. The fans are pouring out their feelings of loss over our show being canceled. Fan campaigns & Vampire stories being extremely popular right now are discussed.

Question : Do you think that CBS will ever be bold enough to try and break their crime procedural mold? Just look at their line-up! Every single show (except for a few reality shows and maybe Ghost Whisperer) is extremely similar to each other. They cater to one audience only, and seem extremely stubborn to change it. This season they put a couple new shows out there with a bit of a different focus, but what did they do? They canceled every single one of them! Even the one with the most charismatic, best looking star I've seen in a while: Moonlight. It had excellent cult status, with the possibility for more, yet they cancel it. In a season where all of the other networks were giving new, low-performing shows renewal just because the season was so screwed up by the writer's strike, CBS still can't take a chance, break the mold or maybe stop themselves from continuing to dig a dull, boring, same-as-usual pit for themselves. My heart is broken for Moonlight, and my puzzlement with CBS lingers. — Angie L.

Matt Roush : More than most networks, CBS is caught in that damned if you do, damned if you don't paradox. A year ago, CBS tried to shake off some of its stuffiness by going decidedly off-brand with shows like Viva Laughlin, Cane, Kid Nation and Moonlight (the latter of which had the most potential, I agree). In each case, the results ranged from disappointing to outright dud. With the exception of Moonlight, I wouldn't second-guess any of those cancellations. The only freshman hit on CBS, and it's a modest one, is The Big Bang Theory, which I'm a big fan of, but which I'd never call groundbreaking. The short-term lesson in all of this is that CBS tends to be rewarded when it plays to its strengths, with well-cast, solidly produced but undeniably formulaic crime/action procedurals and classic-style, mass-appeal multi-camera sitcoms with laugh tracks. Throw in the occasional blue-chip reality show like Survivor and The Amazing Race (which I'm thrilled will produce two cycles next season), and the greatest newsmag ever in 60 Minutes (just ignore the demos), and that's CBS in a nutshell. After the year CBS just had, you can't blame them for retrenching. Well, I guess you can, but it wouldn't do any good. So to answer your initial question: I'm betting CBS will continue to try to mix things up in seasons to come — at some point, they won't have a choice — but the process of trial and error isn't likely to be pretty.

Question : With the recent demise of Men in Trees, October Road, Jericho and Moonlight, did it seem like there was more fan fervor this year with "Save Our Show" campaigns? I have never seen such enthusiasm and creativity, and yet not a single campaign seemed to make any difference. Is there anything that the fans could have done differently that would have worked to save their shows? And please don't say, "Tell people to watch the show to improve the ratings," — from what I understand, it only matters if you're a Neilsen family, and even if it doesn't, it's not like I know millions of people. And I certainly didn't have any control over the way ABC decided to promote — or more accurately, not promote — Men in Trees, or the way ABC bounced the show around the schedule so it could never gain a decent following. Have we reached the point where the networks have so little regard for the voice of the viewers that we will never see a successful fan campaign again? — Lori

Matt Roush : ABC doomed Men in Trees (which returns this Wednesday for its final three episodes, by the way) with its inept and inexcusable scheduling, and there's probably nothing any fan campaign could have done to rescue that one. I was impressed by the pro-active and certainly pro-social awareness campaigns by fans of Trees and the various vampire dramas, but network TV isn't a charity business, to put it mildly. Ratings are just one consideration in choosing whether or not to renew a show. Strength of schedule, time-slot needs, economics, audience flow, other research factors all play a part, and maybe even the buzz that comes from these kinds of fan actions is factored in. It certainly helped Jericho get its second chance, which is why it's way too soon to cast a pall over any future fan campaigns. But once the tide has turned against a show, it can be hard to reverse it. And once a show is actually canceled, the odds get worse, despite the inevitable rumors that some network or other white knight is going to swoop in and rescue a show from extinction (which rarely happens).

Question : I must say how disappointed I was when I heard Moonlight was being canceled. I had only started watching it a few episodes ago, but that was enough to get me hooked. There's a series of books which I am sure you have heard of called Twilight. They of course deal with vampires and werewolves, and a human falling on love with a vampire. If it wasn't for those amazing books, I probably wouldn't have started to watch Moonlight. These books are selling out nationwide, and women especially are the ones buying them. I think CBS needs to rethink canceling Moonlight for the sake of women everywhere. We read in these books about love and sacrifice, but actually seeing something like it makes it more real for us. If they won't give us another season, they need to come up with some sort of show that would be similar to it, because more and more people are getting into these kind of vampire books. And sooner or later, some network is going to come up with something, and it's going to be a smash hit because they knew exactly what audience they were going to get. — Brittany A.

Matt Roush : The popularity of vampire book series like the Twilight series probably helps account for why the networks keep making shows like this, in hopes they'll catch on. Twilight itself, if I'm not mistaken, is being made into a feature film. Probably less risky than going the TV route. I suppose the next watershed moment for the genre will come when HBO finally launches its True Blood series, based on Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire" series. If HBO can't make something like this fly, who can?


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