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Hey, Buffy’s died Twice

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So Firefly got the axe on Friday the 13th (as Churchy LaFemme said, I hate it when Friday the 13th falls on a Friday).

However Joss says they will try to get the show somewhere else because Fox doesn’t care either way. The show was kinda doomed from the get-go, with Fox insisting on not using the pilot to launch an episodic SF serial with nine characters. Y’know ’cause viewers of a Friday evening death slot show would immediately grasp the concept and character backgrounds without explanation. They’d just willingly suspend their disbelief like magic and the audience, like mushrooms would just grow.

I think this is a symptom of the death spiral of network broadcast teevee. Firefly, despite it’s handicaps, used the ‘net to build a devoted fan following, and a rather good website with the Script to Screen project, character skins for computer games, interviews, credible participation by the people involved online, articles on how to write an episode. Sowing seeds.

As seen in this recent article in Wired Magazine, Blockbuster (and by extension the networks) are in the business of managing dissatisfaction. They aren’t out to provide you with something entertaining, enlightening, something you can feel passionate about, telling a good story, they are just trying to not piss you off. Just Good Enough. Like fast food. Consistency, scalability, uniform quality, brand. And if you go in with low enough expectations, you will be not pissed off. You are just trained to want and expect cheap, quick and the same as every time before.

Why can’t creators like Joss Whedon take the show to the audience instead of trying to aggregate an audience for a show?

For example. Bundle Firefly into a series of DVDs available through Netflicks, Blockbuster, plus as lower quality, smaller files (ie a 45 minute episode is broken into five smaller Divx files) online. No bells and whistles, put character guides, episode guides, timelines, backstory, tshirt transfers, whatever online.

Then Fox makes their money back selling the deluxe box set DVDs with all the bells and whistles once they’ve established the size of the audience. If it isn’t near the break even point, then don’t do the box set.

Things are changing, and denying that they are will mean that network teevee will join the music biz on a river in Egypt.

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