At the end of every season, there was one thing I especially looked forward to. In addition to the wrap party. I refer, of course, to the annual focus group research packages that neatly summed up the likes and dislikes of a very small sampling of our overall audience. From what I could tell, the methodology involved gathering viewer opinions via online questionnaire, engaging roughly 1000 respondents, about 200 of who actually watched our show (I was always quick to point out that they could gather a broader sampling by simply hitting up twitter, but my suggestion went largely ignored). Their answers were carefully tallied up and revealed in colorful fashion: pages of graphs, percentage tallies, multi-colored boxes, and venn diagrams. The result were distilled into a cover summary that would offer helpful direction for the next season. Thanks to these surveys, for example, we learned –
Our series regulars and likable characters, TWO and the Android chiefest among them, were the most popular while the character of the lecherous/murderous Wexler – who at the time had appeared in all of two episodes – was decidedly less popular. Hell, I would even go so far as to describe him as “unpopular”. Perhaps not surprisingly, Alicia Reynaud, who also appeared in all of two episodes, was not a fan favorite either.
On the one hand, audiences really enjoyed the complexity of the season 2 storylines but, on the other hand, they found a lot of the second season storylines too complex. They also simultaneously loved the show’s unpredictable twists and turns yet found these twists and turns somewhat predictable. They loved the fact that the season was action-driven and exciting, however they were disappointed in the slow pacing. They preferred instances in which the crew worked together as a team over technical explanations of space travel.
My favorite takeaways, however, were the conclusions that derived from cherry-picked responses and contextless feedback. For instance, audiences were asked to rate the importance of certain aspects of the show, say: relationships, space battles, and fight sequences. Relationships were of the greatest importance with space battles coming in second and fight sequences in third place. “See!”I’d be told. “Audiences don’t care about fight sequences!”
Another great example was “the great Android voice debate”. Amidst all the feedback we received on the show’s first season was some criticism of the Android’s voice as a handful respondents found it lacked the authority of classic android’s of yore. I guess. So a request was made to make sure the Android spoke in a more authoritative manner in season 2. My response: “GTFO!”. Never mind the fact that the Android character ranked either #1 or #2 in popularity across most categories, why the hell would you change a beloved character midstream? It’s not as if people who weren’t watching the show were going to see a preview and say: “Holy shit! That android character speaks with authority! I’m going to start watching this show!” More likely, fans of the Android will watch and wonder: “What the fuck did they do to the Android?”
It was on the heels of one of these yearly cross-network fact-finding summations that I found myself at a nameless network, looking to pitch. I sat down and started to roll into my first show, a horror-comedy in the spirit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Look, I’m going to have to stop you right there,”said the senior executive in the room. “We’ve found that our audience doesn’t respond well to horror so horror is definitely not something we’re looking for. No horror.” As I shifted gears to my next pitch, the junior started talking about one of their upcoming new productions, a monster-themed show with, uh, comedic elements. “It’s great,”he enthused. “It’s alternately terrifying and horrifying.” And then, catching a look from the senior executive, he quickly added: “But more terrifying than horrifying.”
10 thoughts on “July 8, 2018: More Terrifying than Horrifying!”
It’s good to know that the fate of television shows are in the hands of people with such definitive ideas on what the shows are about. Also, some of these people actually watch the final products. Nice.
Well, “there’s no business like show business, like no business I know.”
Studio execs are indeed, basically, idiots.
I can imagine if some of the great novels, or any works of art for that matter, had been created using “test audiences.” Yikes!
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
I actually attended a test screening of a movie once. Reckless Kelly, written, directed and staring Yahoo Serious (remember him?). I can’t remember if I liked it or not at the time but it bombed stupendously at the box office. The only comment I remember writing down on the questionnaire was that there was too much beer drinking. When I saw the movie in the cinema a few months later I noted that the beer drinking was much diminished. I don’t think any amount of audience test screenings could have helped that movie!
Oh I saw an ad for the new show called “the Rookie”. I am not talking about the radio talk show side kick in the afternoon.
People clearly can’t make up their minds about anything. The fact that they sampled people who didn’t watch the show makes me really upset. I liked all the characters, but for different reasons, and with all their entirety of skills, complimented each other as a team. Where one skill might be lacking in one of them, the other had the skill to make that up. I even enjoyed all the different guest stars. Again, each had a particular purpose and they fulfilled their mission. Of course most of the time we adore the actors and want them to also be able to stay on, but you can’t have an ensemble show of 50 regular people.
I loved to hate Wexler. He fit his niche perfectly.
Individually, people can be great. In groups, people are dumb as rocks, and that’s insulting to actual rocks. Test audiences? Please, stop. Pick a vision, and stick to it. Don’t try to please the masses, just read any comment section after a news article. Yikes.
So, where do we sign up to be studio execs? I bet the Blog Regulars would do a much better job. We are refined, have taste, and a ready sense of humor. No?
I’ve only gots one thing to say to them silly scatter bwained tv execs.
G is for: More grouchy than glorifying
They gonna be eatin’ them words
when Oscar the Grouch becomes
the biggest celebrity in the whole wide world!
Wow! I’ve only worked at small places but I’ve heard stories from my hubby in the computer field. For years, he was a problem fixer for developers in mega companies. My hubby is not a yes man, so that gets in him trouble.
Sounds like a similar situation to yours. (You don’t seem like a yes man either) You have management making decisions on areas they aren’t trained in, won’t listen to advice and then blaming someone else when it hits the fan.
BTW. he saves all his email exchanges. He’s flat out told them their decision won’t work and his email exchanges, where they ignored his advice, is produced when they try and throw him under the bus. A lot of the times, the doofus trying this is related to or good friends with the boss.
I can hear your frustration and I’m stymied why they thought the Android needed to be changed. Zoie was awesome!!!!! It seemed like she took direction but ran with the character.
In the immortal words of “Guy” on Galaxy Quest, “did you guys ever watch the show?”
Whoever wants to f^~k with Android, has to f^~k with us all. Seriously, WTH? I can see the direction now…”Zoie, that was great…but ummm…could you speak more authoritatively?”
Maybe in this new political climate you could rename DM as “Space Force” and have the backing of the Trumpster.
I’m so hung up by the alternate ending to “Army of Darkness” that I’m still thinking about it days later. Hate the original. Love the theatrical. Ash rules!! He is the King!