Saturday, August 18

Changing Television: The Jericho Effect

“Thank you for your article from the set of Jericho. I was disappointed when I heard the show had been canceled. With well-developed characters and a compelling plot, it is not to be missed. Kudos to those involved in the peanut campaign for helping bring this addictive series back for season 2. Note to CBS: If you want to maintain viewership, stop killing story-line momentum by placing shows on hiatus for three months in the middle of their run.” — Natalie Payne (Mississauga, Ontario).

If Payne’s comment in the feedback section of Entertainment Weekly (Aug. 24) is any indication of the growing number of fans beyond the Internet, CBS might take notice. Not only do they exist, but their messages match those promoted by Jericho Rangers during the campaign.

It happens right here as well. We received about two dozen entries in our fan fiction contest after seeding it on dozens of contest sites. (Winners to be announced Aug. 31; and published every Sunday after.) But even more telling is that there isn’t a day that goes by when more Jericho fans seem to surface and find their way here, searching for the Jericho Season 2 schedule. And from here, they can easily find dozens of worthwhile Jericho links that line our posts. We are not alone.

The Hollywood Reporter has taken to calling it “the Jericho’ effect.” They say “TV bloggers came into their own as a force to be reckoned with this summer when their campaign to save CBS' canceled post apocalyptic drama* ‘Jericho’ became a triumphant success.” (*post-apocalyptic drama is not an appropriate description, but we know what might be.)

Just how much impact are TV bloggers and fans who have become disenchanted with the Nielsen rating system having? According to the article, they are influential enough that some television critics fear for their status if not their lives.

Seemingly overnight, networks now realize that fan engagement means better results than catering exclusively to the mixed reviews of entertainment writers. On this I can only offer that having been a reviewer for years, the industry needs to retool anyway. Sometimes, the remarks made are a bit sloppy, overly skewed toward personal preference, and often lifted right from the releases.

The Hollywood Reporter also notes that fans are attempting to lobby critics for favored comment (this is the price of semi-celebrity). And some fear fanatical fans and their ability to track them down (I hope that is not the case). Jericho is not the only show to see growing movements.

Teev Blogger reported last year that fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly have been clamoring for more. Part of their wish is coming true. Multiverse Network has the rights to create a “massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG)” based on the TV show. Here is the latest news. Will it be enough? I don’t know.

Veronica Mars fans have a brand new site that says they want what Firefly got in lieu of a continued series — a full-length movie. Add to that a confirmation on the comic expected to be released by DC Comics in the late fall. Overall, the new movie campaign site seems be well thought out (though still under construction) with a nice summary of places to go for news.

Even Masi Oka (Hiro from Heroes) got into the act, reviving The Black Donnellys name when he made a quip about the show while giving critics a tour of an Irish pub: “This is where I go back in time and save The Black Donnellys.” While he meant to be playful, it does strike a chord. Although most people had never seen the show, everyone suddenly seems to know exactly what he is talking about.

Digg!

17 comments:

Jericho Saved on 8/18/07, 12:29 PM said...

Great article. Thanks.
Yes, the Jericho Effect. I see that more and more often. It's not always used in conjunction with TV either.
Having read most all of your articles on varied subjects I feel safe saying that CBS and other networks would be smart to embrace these bloggers. We can make them look good or bad. It's not about power(not to me) because I blog about what I choose. Imagine, though, if CBS said they wanted to give bloggers exclusive information. It would then benefit both parties. Whether it's a Jericho blog or Heroes blog the most passionate fan bloggers would be some of the best and cheapest marketing tools a network could have.

Rich on 8/18/07, 12:40 PM said...

Hey JS,

It's an interesting question with an easy solution. I think bloggers are always as asset because the fans want more than what the critics sometimes deliver.

Even better, such a move seems like it could end the sometimes painful power struggle between critics and producers, thus forcing critics to stand on their arguments more and just their names and pubishers. (Some do already.)

What's wrong with that? Nothing. Exactly. Besides, they are mistaken. On several occasions I have been less flattering to the fans with no ill effects (but only because I spoke the truth in those instances). Critics could consider the same.

Come to think of it, your blogs tend to be equally factual and fair. So maybe herein lies the answer: critics don't have to live in any more fear than what they have subjected producers, writers, and actors to for years. :)

All my best,
Rich

Balceroregontr on 8/18/07, 1:15 PM said...

I think fear is what had some critics not wanting to be contacted by fans. What they need to realize is that fans drive their columms. So while they don't want to tailor what they write to conform to what someone wants to hear, they do want to cover what people want to read about. If critics don't hear viewers they will make themselves obsolete. I think with populist reviews becoming more popular critics can be an endangered species especially if the review is just their opinion. Great article.

Myles on 8/18/07, 1:21 PM said...

Rich,

What I find most interesting about that Hollywood Reporter article is that while it is talking about the danger of bloggers, it appears that Jericho bloggers are not the target, per se. Rather, it seems that other fans have taken Jericho's example and jumped in without, well, thinking things through.

And I think this is a normal response, to be honest, and I think it's an issue of finding a balance. The Jericho campaign has had moments where it crossed a line, but it has always been able to take a step back.

I think it's an issue of understanding that need for balance: respecting the autonomy of bloggers while also doing one's best to work with them. I had some viral marketers for some of CBS' Fall Shows post on my blog, and I responded quite strongly because it is dishonest and sketchy.

Whereas, if they had emailed me and asked if I was interested in reviewing and discussing their new fall shows, I probably would have done it because it shows a certain level of respect.

Bloggers are fickle creatures, yes, but they are also reasonable ones. I hope that bad examples from other shows don't keep networks from realizing that bloggers' role in saving Jericho is something they should take very seriously.

Jericho Saved on 8/18/07, 1:56 PM said...

Myles, Rich,
Do you think it has ever crossed CBS' mind that they could do what Myles said? Ask us if we'd like to talk about certain shows or form a type of partnership. For example, if they'd set me up with an interview with Skeet I might forget all about football next Fri. night pre-empting Jericho.
No, I guess I wouldn't.

Myles on 8/18/07, 2:18 PM said...

JS,

I can say that, speaking for myself, I would like to think they'd consider it at SOME point. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than television appearances or press tours, and yet could have a distinct advantage.

And if CBS was smart enough to send movie-theatre capable episodes of Jericho to Masschusetts fans, maybe they would be willing to allow bloggers like ourselves some interviews and the like with Jericho.

Heck, they could even follow Sci-Fi's example and bring Internet bloggers to the sets of some of their shows.

But, for now, the network remains quiet on the blogging front.

Jericho Saved on 8/18/07, 2:56 PM said...

I have no idea how CBS does things but I'd think bloggers, contests, and using fan created items would only benefit them. I'm no expert but I see fans having some great ideas so, if Moonves wants money he should try a few of them.

Rich on 8/18/07, 4:07 PM said...

Hey JS,

I think it is inevitable. When you remove the buzzword "blog" and get done to it, some blogs are like mini online niche magazines. Several blogs are considered such in the tech industry already (TechCrunch for example).

There are still a lot of questions to be answered in developing how this would work, especially since there are different kinds of bloggers. You, for instance, JS, are a natural fit to be supported because you have a significant portion of the fan base (that can happen now).

Myles and bloggers like Myles, who write largely about entertainment, will likely be given opportunities based about their visitor volume. And people like me, well, for similar reasons except I take a broader brush approach within the context of communication. (Of course, past articles, interviews, and industry connections would assist me if I were so inclined.)

Going back to the critics concept. Yes, I agree that there needs to be a balance. We don't want to lose critics; they are important. However, they have to appreciate that the Internet has made them semi-celebrities and there are no free rides. Good critics will be supported (and not just because they like a show or don't like a show) and ave. critics will be forgotten or challenged.

What's most interesting to observe is that the best critics are not the ones complaining about the bloggers. Hmmmm ... :) This goes beyond digital as well. Eventually, the best read critics will simply be those who write the best articles and not just those that happened to be employed by a particular publication. On the contrary, I expect we will see some major crossovers ... with some bloggers taking over for some sitting print critics and some print critics developing blogs (much like E! Online).

Likewise, companies will likely secure some bloggers as well. How that shakes out is anybody's guess. I would do it, but it would have to be on a different blog than this one.

Very interesting discussion. :)

All my best,
Rich

Jericho Saved on 8/18/07, 4:57 PM said...

NBC has done this to some extent except they call it social networking. I just like it and it's much different than CBS. I appreciate CBS giving us Fan Central but shouldn't the fans be involved in that? Maybe the networks better start thinking about using bloggers before we decide to raise our prices.
As for critics-I think I'd rather be the new Louella Parsons.

Kay on 8/18/07, 8:54 PM said...

I'd love it if CBS would embrace 'the blog world'-why wouldn't they take advantage of free publicity and promotion? They aren't shy about telling the bloggers it's up to them to SAVE Jericho!

Heck, I didn't even know what a blog was until I went searching for more information about the 2005 Hallmark movie, "The Magic of Ordinary Days". (which CBS aired, and Skeet starred in, coincidentally) Blogs opened up a whole new world to me; their feeling of community is normally friendly and welcoming since members support a common purpose.

As for the critics, I take their advice with a grain of salt, anyway! I only wish I had saved every negative article that had "Jericho" pegged as the first show of the 2006 Fall season that would fail. It would be nice if critics could honestly make their points without bashing and belittling either the show itself or it's viewers.

Jericho Saved on 8/18/07, 10:41 PM said...

I guess you told them,Kay. Thank you.

kystorms on 8/19/07, 7:15 AM said...

As always, interesting post Rich. Those of us who have been blogging Jericho since day one also provide CBS ( and other the various other shows on the different nets) a sense of genealogy if you will, a history. This history provides the nets with more detailed info on how popular the show really was from day one, what was working and what was not.
Critics however, have a view from day one on whether they personally like or dislike the show, and then they leave it at that until the show goes through something like what Jericho did this summer. Yes, critics have their place, but blog's provide more indepth understanding of the show and its fans.

Rich on 8/19/07, 7:43 AM said...

Thank you Lisa. And what you say is very true Lisa.

Each has their place. I think where critics do disservice mistakes is when their allow their personal opinions to skew their objective opinions (which touches on what Kay is saying). For example, I cannot take any critic seriously when they write something that reveals ... I don't like science fiction, but I reviewed this movie anyway and, no surprise, I didn't like it. Huh? Or, sometimes, nowadays, they write around ratings (with exception to a show they like or if a network as wooed them).

All of these methods game their relevance. The best critics (and there are a few), do exactly what you said: walk in fresh, see the show, and write about it. But those are far and few between. Most develop a touch of ego, which is something Jericho fans might keep in mind. Many are not too happy with Jericho because you did what they ALL said could not be done. You saved the show. (Trust me in saying that some have already drafted 'told you so' article in the event it doesn't pick up another).

Anyway Lisa, that is the long way of saying that you are right. There is room for both. And, there is an opportunity for both to improve their respective crafts. It's not always easy, but objectivity works.

Best,
Rich

Myles on 8/20/07, 6:51 AM said...

While I agree with a lot of what you're saying, Rich, I don't think I take such a negative approach to the role of the critic.

I might end up making a blog post about all of this, it's all fascinating, but on a basic level I think that critics should not become "more like" bloggers.

Even if, as you say, they start to take an approach of coming in without preconceptions, fan bloggers will still resent them if they have a negative opinion.

The only way for critics, then, to appear more acceptable to some fans (The extreme ones) is for them to like what they like, do as they do...and I think that is both unreasonable and defeating the purpose of criticism.

As a blogger who has been attacked for being overly critical of certain shows, and has faced a certain level of anti-critic sentiment from a Jericho fan or two, I guess I worry that the lack of respect for critics is too ingrained for people to easily differentiate between good and bad.

What I don't understand is why blogs can't find a happy medium: rather than blogs simply being the fans' voice, why can't any other blogs step up and be both a place where fans can have their voice heard but where criticism can take place?

That's the standard I personally try to uphold, and I think it's a medium that should perhaps be considered as a way to keep criticism from dying off.

Lewis Green on 8/20/07, 7:40 AM said...

Rich,

Again, let me just say how happy I am to have discovered your blog. I am not much of a TV fan beyond news and sports; however, your writing on the subject is a good read.

I don't think you meant to imply that Jericho is the first TV show to have been saved by fans. I seem to recall that a show back in the '80s was reinstated by fan evangelists and went on to become a hit. My question: Do bloggers represent a more powerful force than letter writers, whose efforts are picked up by the media? And if so, why? The blogosphere represents a relatively small community (as, admittedly, do letter writers).

Rich on 8/20/07, 12:16 PM said...

Hey Myles,

The operative words are most and some. For the most part, Entertainment Weekly has one of the best critics out there, imo. The often go beyond voicing opinion and substantiating it on some level. Others less so; sometimes even be skewed by how they feel about an actor, actress, type of show, etc.

(Do you remember how some critics were caught giving good reviews to bad movies just so they could make the "plus list" on the ads. Hmmm.)

I also don't agree that fan bloggers will resent less than positive coverage of a show. While I've been challenged on occasion, fan bloggers and fans have never attacked me for being honest.

There is anti-critic sentiment from a Jericho fans because critics never liked the show. It never got a fair shake and I think you know that. The fact that it is still described as a post-apocalyptic drama is evidence of that fact. That said, I don't think it is wrong for critics to face criticism when they are wrong.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with critics provided they remain objective, accurate, etc. If there is any question of their validity, it comes from forcing the networks to save some shows with a smaller viewership and dump those with a larger viewership simply because the critic like one over the other.

As for criticism dying off ... I hardly think that will happen. The profession has been around as long there has been something to criticize. You are right though. It is fascinating.

Best,
Rich

Rich on 8/20/07, 12:26 PM said...

Lewis,

So glad to see your comment. I'm rather limited on television myself so I am glad you enjoyed the read (I try to weave it into communication as much as entertainment).

No, Jericho is not the first show saved by fans. In fact, I mentioned on Digg that Bionic Woman was right up there with major fan movements too (1975). Those fans are responsible for a whole series being created. (And Star Trek are very sensitive to this issue, circa 1968.)

However, I think what is sometimes missed in the comparisons is that the 60s and 70s used to enjoy networks that really cared what people thought.

Anyway, you ask a very good question. Do bloggers represent a more powerful force than letter writers, whose efforts are picked up by the media?

My best take on this would be no, with one clarification. From what I saw from Jericho fans was that the motivation to write and send nuts was fueled in part by bloggers. So, to some degree, fan bloggers represent a broader base and work in tandem. Another way to look at it is that the bloggers were the call to action and the fans were the response.

In terms of the size of blogosphere, you have hit a favorite topic of mine. I would be very careful to equate the influence of the blogosphere with the number of bloggers much like it would be inappropriate to equate the influence of the media with the number of media outlets.

There are many people who read this blog who have no intention whatsoever to ever write one. I would guess that the same holds true for your blog.

Good question. All my best,
Rich

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