This title came to mind after reading this post on Caprica’s inevitable cancellation at Deadline.com. Of course, most of the comments lamenting the show being torpedoed follow many of the tenets of The Star Trek Fallacy without fail, and all but accuse the “average” TV audience of being ‘stupid.’
Noted reviewer Tiffany Vogt writes about the decline of viewership among most of the new shows this season and gives a few reasons why this is the case. Unfortunately, Ms. Vogt also uses Section 2 of “The Star Trek Fallacy” (Indicators of a Larger Audience…Where?) in her discussion of ratings and the use of DVR. While DVR numbers are not counted in the initial Nielsen ratings, there has never been a case of any event or series whose DVR numbers indicated a tremendous disparity as compared to the Nielsen numbers. In other words, DVR’s number disparity is not very large. However, this argument is trotted out often for shows that are considered Science Fiction, Space Fantasy, or a “Smart Teen Show” produced by Universal Studios. And, in each case, none of the subsequent metrics (DVD/iTunes sales, Nielsen ratings in syndication, etc.) showed a Star Trek-like (or even an original Galactica-like) groundswell.
For both articles, the reason that rests at the foundation as to why no one is watching can be summed up in one sentence:
Their Needs Are Being Served Elsewhere.
Caprica, like Galactica-reimagined before it, was a poorly-written soap opera set in the backdrop of space. However, unlike Galactica-reimagined, Caprica attempted to do what Enterprise did beforehand: Drop the title reference to the original show and have it stand on its own while acting as a prequel. And, just like Enterprise, the bad writing, the poor acting, and the non-compelling characters would eventually sink the show. And both shows sank because whatever these shows offered were being served better by different shows, and not necessarily in the same time slot.
I should also point out that while the demographics of the American viewing public have been changing, the faces shown on television and film have not changed at anywhere near the same pace. So part of that viewer fatigue Ms. Vogt touches on may, in fact, be a simple tune-out because of under-representation of People of Color. Also, far too many of the shows are simply obvious retreads of older popular shows of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, where the shows in question have been made “edgier” by making the heroes more brutish or neurotic, and having the women on the show titillate the male audience in some fashion. Viewers have been tuning out from this in increasing numbers each season, but producers continue to go to the well for this.
In the service arena, where your competition continues to grow in number and diversify at the same time, you need to identify what your viewers are looking to see and give it to them. If you don’t, they will not wait for you to do so. Instead, with the number of venues they have, they will see to it that their need for entertainment is satisfied in some form. If people are not watching, it is not for any other reason than They do not like your show.
For Science Fiction and Drama fans, your show is not Cutting Edge or Too Smart. Your Elitism is showing. No one likes a Brainy Smurf. If people watch Dancing with the Stars or American Idol or any other show that curb stomps your show in the ratings department, it is not because the audience is stupid. It is because these shows serve the needs of the audience; those needs and wants of which your show does not.
Remember that if your show gets the CANCELED stamp.