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November 21 2014

TV writers and showrunners increasingly 'mute' the fans. The New York Observer looks at the current relationship between writers and fanbases. There's a quote from Danny Strong in the article.

Find the whole piece problematic. Before the interwebs there where already letters and fan conventions. Not sure if I concur with their assessment which shows are “geeky, cerebral” or “rewarded vigilant, and recurring, viewings” either.
Great article. Couldn't agree more .....
Of course you won't find as much online discussion of Two Broke Girls compared to Girls - I see them as two separate genres. While second opens doors for debate and discussion - the first not so much, even if it is watched by more people.

I think some shows would benefit from assessing fan response like history has proven that when done in the right amount (while holding true to the writer's ultimate vision) - Spike and Castiel (Supernatural) are first examples that come to mind character survival wise.
I'd like to see the First episode of Sherlock Season 4. Would be nice for them to get right in the article.

And I thought it was a 'gentle' mocking by Gatiss which I thoroughly enjoyed.
British shows have almost always only aired once the entire series (Brit for "season") is in the can. No change there.
Yep... let the storyteller tell the story. If it's good, enjoy. If it's not, walk away. I have a lot of respect for writers and showrunners with the courage to work that way. (Joss first and foremost.)

I think Supernatural pre-dates Sherlock in both poking fun at the fanboy and fangirl stereotypes, and on-screen acknowledgment of the homo-erotic subtext. And Xena: Warrior Princess did both long before Supernatural.
I only got halfway through that article and to the point where they said, "keep typing, nobody is listening" and recalled last season on The Good Wife where they included a storyline for fan favorite Khalinda. They brought on her former husband and it was an antagonistic relationship to be polite about it. And the fans *hated* it. So TPTB on the show ended it early. So, clearly someone was listening.
In that case though I am very glad. Because I too hated it.
Also, the Supernatural meta episodes are some of the best things I've seen on TV. They make me giddy.
ETA: Also, the comment about Sherlock not having homoerotic subtext... in the first espidode the landlady thinks Watson is gay and they're a couple. She continues this throughout the season. And if frustrating fans was the inspiration for them giving so many versions of how Sherlock pulled off the stunt and then leaving it open because John didn't care then yay for frustrating fans. Because I loved that. On the flip side, I've always suspected that the writers of LOST changed a lot on the show simply because the audience had figured out where they were going and it's always bothered me. So, I guess it can work both ways...
I do like the idea of shows being able to be made and then we get whatever it is after the fact. I sometimes wish they had been able to do Babylon 5 that way, back in the day. However, I do also wish I could convince the writers of Castle to have Ron Glass on as a guest, reprising his Barney Miller role. And he does not like Richard Castle. At all. Because funny!

[ edited by NYPinTA on 2014-11-21 16:01 ]
On the flip side, I've always suspected that the writers of LOST changed a lot on the show simply because the audience had figured out where they were going and it's always bothered me.

This. I prefer writers don't cave to fans' wishes (unless it is something like those meta episodes of Supernatural), because that usually leads to a decline in the quality of a show.

As Joss has said: “Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.”
Social media has enabled the line between fans and creators to blur a little bit more than it used to, and creators are engaging with fans, for better or worse. The problem is when a subset of fans start feeling their pipeline to the creator via social media entitles them to anything except to express their enjoyment of the work.

I also know many writers actively stay away from interacting with fans on a more one-on-one basis because they don't ever want to be put in a position to defend themselves from accusations they stole a fan's idea. I think it's actually a policy at some studios that writers do not read fanfiction.

[ edited by the ninja report on 2014-11-21 21:38 ]
I think creators should never make changes to appease fans.

Except sometimes. Like umm, when the fans are right.

And I have to think that the fan opinions matter now more than they ever did, if only because they are so much more accessible.
It would be an interesting article if they bothered to actually get facts right.
Personally, I would never pay attention to fans if I was a show runner. It's my artistic vision. You can take it or leave it. The best shows on TV today are from people with the same mindset, like Kurt Sutter

If you listen to fans, everything becomes predictable.
I totally agree, Angel&Faith. Paying attention to "the" fans (which ones? Spuffy? Bangel? Delena? Stelena?) would be a nightmare and should never be entertained by writers. Shudder.
If we're just talking about the demands of "shippers," then I'd agree it's probably best to ignore those types of fans.

But if we're talking about general direction of a show, larger criticisms, things that aren't resonating, etc., then I think creators would be crazy not to at least consider input from their audience.

Many fans felt the first season of AoS was not serialized enough, not dark enough, and lacked sufficiently interesting characters. I think the showrunners listened to those concerns and we now have a much better show.
I think there is an exception to the rule on solely going your own way. You have to know where the 3rd rails are as there are
things your audience will not tolerate well or sometimes at all. In my experience this is most applicable to those show where a
downward shift of around 3-4 tens 0f a ratings point will be fatal.

Example: Warehouse 13 had an episode late in S3 where one of the characters tortured a bad guy. Their ratings never recovered
and eventually the show was cancelled. On some other show it might have been unremarkable but not on this one.
JDL, correlation is not causation. How do you know for sure that was what caused a ratings drop off for WH13? I don't even remember that (it certainly didn't bother me) and I watched every ep of WH13.

If I was a writer/showrunner (and that idea is hysterical) I might listen to critics and other professionals I trust after a season was over when planning the next season but fans? Nope. Too fickle, too subjective and way too irrational.
One show that I watch (and have unreasonable love for) feels like the writers did listen to fans and have drawn out a relationship triangle for much longer than logical based on the story and a good portion of the third and all of the fourth season have episodes that seem like various writers making their case for their choice in the triangle. It's like watching a behind the scenes tug of war is going on and the showrunner was very vocal about supporting one pairing, even catered to that fanbase with interviews and online engagement. It made the show a bit of a mess, IMO. (I still love it though. For reasons.)
@IrrationaliTV A fair question. 1) The negative responses I read were much much larger than anything before or since on that show.
People flat out said they were quitting because of that episode. 2) The ratings over the final 4 episodes of the season dropped 6.5
tenths from a 2.3. On a small cable show that is just humongous. 3) The next season opened with an improved 2.14. There was a
general belief that the writers would fix things. They didn't. The ratings immediately dropped almost 5 tenths and kept dropping. By
the end of the year they were around 1.1-1.3.
I pretty much think both groups should just do whatever they want. Writers should never be obligated to listen to fans, but if fans have issues and want to write about it somewhere, why not? My problem is when you get fans thinking that the writers have to listen to what they say.

Feedback's a really important thing in writing. It's good to know what's working and what's not. But the reviews and fans' comments that turn me off are when they talk about what the show is not instead of about what the show is. There's a difference between seeing which characters are unexpectedly popular and when you get shippers demanding plotlines that were never meant to happen. Writers want to know how to make their story better, not be told how to tell someone else's story.

Take Squishy's AoS examples. People who said the characters should be given deeper storylines and that serialisation would let the show develop more were right. But I'm so glad that this year we're not getting those dozens of articles of '10 Things SHIELD Should Change' or 'How to Fix the Show'. Because most of the time those viewers weren't giving general pointers to the writers, they were saying things like 'get rid of Skye' or 'add more superheroes'. Specific changes that no two people could ever agree on and which weren't taking to account what the show was actually trying to do. These things? Never useful.
Agreed, Bluelark. Some feedback is useful, some is not. Ultimately, I think the creator is responsible for deciding what, if anything, is useful.

[ edited by Squishy on 2014-11-22 16:53 ]
Something to bear in mind is that the show runner is *already* getting feedback from the other producers, the network, the studio, the writers' room and the stars. It's not like they're operating in a vacuum at any point, so presumably somewhere in there, someone may be voicing an opinion that is *also* held by the fans. In other words, there may be notes received by the show runners that have the same sentiments as fannish opinions, but if change is made in that direction, it's just as or more likely the notes as/than the fannish sentiment that is being taken on board.
Do we actually know that anything has changed? Sure, the author pointed out a few shows from years ago where the writers interacted with the audience. If we went looking for writers from other shows of those years, isn't it possible that we'd find some who said that the same things about avoiding pandering as the writers of today's shows?

This feels like the kind of article where someone had an idea, went looking for evidence to support it, and then starting shouting, "I found proof!" without checking to see if those examples really reflected how things were overall.
I never heard a single negative thing about WH13, JDL. Sometimes a very few people can sound like a lot of people if you frequent the same sites they do... The show was always a bubble show and it barely got that last shortened season. I was shocked. Of course the ratings kept falling. The whole show was a dead man walking.

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