Farscape Post-Mortem

It appears that TV Guide Online has an interview with Sci-Fi channel exec, Bonnie Hammer and goes into exactly why “Farscape” got the axe.

You may or may not agree with her, but I gotta give kudos to Sci-Fi for at least giving some explanation. Doubtful you’ll hear anything from any of the “big boys.”

22 replies on “Farscape Post-Mortem”

  1. GusherJizmac says:

    This is why I never watched it
    From the article:

    TVGO: And that’s [ serial nature of the show’s plots ] a bad thing… ?

    Hammer: They had brilliant and sophisticated writing, but it was so narrow that it basically was an invitation to not tune in if you weren’t totally familiar with the show. It was brilliant when you got it, and some of the characterizations were truly amazing, but it took a little too much work.

    For me, this is the number one reason why I never liked the show. Every time I watched it, I was like “WTF??” and it didn’t make much sense. And there was nothing in any given show to make me want to go re-watch the first N seasons to “catch up”.

    I think that a serialized show can be done well, and it bugged me that Farscape didn’t borrow the most basic devices in doing so. I mean, a 2 minute “Previously on Farscape” would’ve been nice. Look at Boston Public, The Practice, 24 and DS9. All shows that contain serial story arcs that a) provide enough of a self-contained plot per episode to draw in the average viewer, and b) gradually catch you up the more you watch.

    • CdtDelta says:

      Re: This is why I never watched it

      From the article:

      TVGO: And that’s [ serial nature of the show’s plots ] a bad thing… ?

      Hammer: They had brilliant and sophisticated writing, but it was so narrow that it basically was an invitation to not tune in if you weren’t totally familiar with the show. It was brilliant when you got it, and some of the characterizations were truly amazing, but it took a little too much work.

      For me, this is the number one reason why I never liked the show. Every time I watched it, I was like “WTF??” and it didn’t make much sense. And there was nothing in any given show to make me want to go re-watch the first N seasons to “catch up”.

      I think that a serialized show can be done well, and it bugged me that Farscape didn’t borrow the most basic devices in doing so. I mean, a 2 minute “Previously on Farscape” would’ve been nice. Look at Boston Public, The Practice, 24 and DS9. All shows that contain serial story arcs that a) provide enough of a self-contained plot per episode to draw in the average viewer, and b) gradually catch you up the more you watch.

      Actually, they do a “Previously on Farscape” before each episode. And, the Sci-Fi Channel did have a “catch up” show on a few times. In fact, I think they do one before the start of each season.
      Also, there are a lot of shows on TV that have story arcs, don’t have a “previously….” and still do well. Hell, that’s the entire Soap Opera industry.

      Just my opinion….
      CdtDelta

      • mbourgon says:

        Re: This is why I never watched it

        Actually, they do a “Previously on Farscape” before each episode. And, the Sci-Fi Channel did have a “catch up” show on a few times. In fact, I think they do one before the start of each season.

        Yes, but it wasn’t handled well, aside from the first time. I fell out a bit during season 3, and to my amazement the “Farscape Undressed” didn’t cover any of it! They covered the Season 2 finale, but that was it. I do think they have suffered from it, but I decided to come back, caught the last 4 eps, and aside from a few “huh! Scorpy? What! Who’s that?!”, it actually did a rather good job of not being mired in the past episodes.

        Stargate repeats has been unbelievable — 1.7

        They’re screwing themselves on this, methinks, basing a lot of the decision on people watching the reruns. IIRC, to a large part SG1 has only been available on Showtime or syndicated, and so my bet is a lot of people are “catching up” on the show, having just discovered it. What happens when the show’s been on for a year, 4 days a week? I suspect the ratings are going to drop a lot lower than .8.

  2. pythor says:

    How do we …
    Support serialised shows? The exec in the interview claims that part of the problem with Farscape was it’s ongoing story arc. Similar things have been said about many popular (amoung sci-fi fans at least) shows. So what kind of support can we give these shows to make up for the lost revenue that casual viewers bring in?

    Anybody know the numbers here? What’s the actual advertising revenue difference between a 1.7 (Stargate SG-1 re-runs) and a .8 (Farscape re-runs)? Is it something that can be made up by an active donation campaign? Is it a ridiculous ammount that only Bill Gates could pay out of pocket? How can we, as serial sci-fi fans, make up the difference?

    • fiziko says:

      Re: How do we …

      Anybody know the numbers here? What’s the actual advertising revenue difference between a 1.7 (Stargate SG-1 re-runs) and a .8 (Farscape re-runs)? Is it something that can be made up by an active donation campaign? Is it a ridiculous ammount that only Bill Gates could pay out of pocket? How can we, as serial sci-fi fans, make up the difference?

      I don’t know the numbers, but we’re looking at matching the advertiser dollars, since there are twice as many viewers the advertisers are reaching. I think the best bet is to convince them they don’t need to make th profit now. Serialized shows sell in incredible numbers on DVD. I couldn’t get into Babylon 5 in its original run, and the serialized nature kept me out. That didn’t stop me from getting the first season on DVD, and I plan to get all five seasons in this format. DVD sales can recover a lot of the costs, if the network can afford to wait that long. Or, they could release the DVDs more quickly. If it were up to me, I’d release season n on DVD no later than a month or so after the last episode of season n+1 aired. There are enough episodes there to handle the reruns, and you get the fans buying on a high, generally during the summer lull.

  3. dcheesi says:

    Ratings, Schmatings
    I love the part where she implies that all those rabid fans who wrote in support of the show never bothered to actually watch it! The TV execs are so locked in to the Neilsen ratings that they don’t even see it when the system’s flaws are on display. The disprepency between the ratings numbers and the size of the fanbase points to a breakdown the ratings process, but this SciFi exec would rather believe that there are people out there lobbying for a show they don’t watch.

    Of course I understand that ratings lead to ad dollars, regardless of the accuracy of those ratings. But if the TV execs don’t even recognize that the system is broken, then they’ll never put pressure on Neilsen to fix it. And more shows like this will get the shaft.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Ratings, Schmatings

      I love the part where she implies that all those rabid fans who wrote in support of the show never bothered to actually watch it! The TV execs are so locked in to the Neilsen ratings that they don’t even see it when the system’s flaws are on display. The disprepency between the ratings numbers and the size of the fanbase points to a breakdown the ratings process, but this SciFi exec would rather believe that there are people out there lobbying for a show they don’t watch.

      Does anyone know if Nielsen puts ratings boxes on every TV in a home? If it only went on one TV in my home, then it would only select the shows watched on the TV that I don’t use. Coronation Street, Survivor, and (shudder) Friends would do well, while Buffy, Angel, Smallville, John Doe, Enterprise, and Justice League would be completely unrepresented.

      • jfberry says:

        Re: Ratings, Schmatings
        <BLOCKQUOTE TYPE="cite">
        <BLOCKQUOTE TYPE="cite">
        I love the part where she implies that all those rabid fans who wrote in support of the show never bothered to actually watch it! The TV execs are so locked in to the Neilsen ratings that they don’t even see it when the system’s flaws are on display. The disprepency between the ratings numbers and the size of the fanbase points to a breakdown the ratings process, but this SciFi exec would rather believe that there are people out there lobbying for a show they don’t watch.
        </BLOCKQUOTE>
        <p>
        Does anyone know if Nielsen puts ratings boxes on every TV in a home? If it only went on one TV in my home, then it would only select the shows watched on the TV that I don’t use. <em>Coronation Street</em>, <em>Survivor</em>, and (shudder) <em>Friends</em> would do well, while <em>Buffy</em>, <em>Angel</em>, <em>Smallville</em>, <em>John Doe</em>, <em>Enterprise</em>, and <em>Justice League</em> would be completely unrepresented.
        </p>
        </BLOCKQUOTE>

        We participate in Nielson ratings part-time. We don’t have the set-top boxes to determine what we’re watching, but we’re given log-books for each television in the house, even the ones we don’t use. It’s filled out in 15 minute increments, logged by person in the house, regardless of age. When we’ve done it (3 times now) it’s been for 2 week periods.

        You can blame my wife (and people like her) for most of the crap on TV. She watches "crime dramas" and that type of ilk. She just recently discovered Next Gen on TNN, but only watches it occasionaly. God forbid that she misses an episode of Law & Order though! As she is a house wife, he opinions count for more than mine in the Nielson surveys as she watches 3 times (or more) the TV that I do in any given day.

        Personally, I love Farscape and am very disheartened that it’s being taken off the air. I’ve watched it since the beginning and is the primary reason I have for tuning into the Sci-Fi channel. The rest of thier line-up is junk: Bad "B" grade movies (if we’re lucky), Stargate SG-1 (I haven’t liked this show since Showtime dropped it–it’s missing something), horrible shows like Lexx (though I think this has been taken off the air–I haven’t been looking for it). They’ve even quit showing the Original Series of Star Trek, one of my last reasons for keeping this channel on my favorites list.

        Farscape has been a well-done show since the beginning. I can see that production costs must have been quite high with the sets and make-up and special effects. At times, the story has been weak, but the characterization has made up for a multitude of sins. That’s why I tuned in. If it’s not in the line-up, I won’t be watching Sci-Fi channel on any given Friday night in the future.

        Oh, PS: Farscape is available on DVD, but generally not in boxed sets. I’ve gotten a couple of DVD’s, but there’s only two episodes per DVD. At $30+ per DVD, I don’t forsee collecting the entire set. The price point is too high. Some idiot at the Sci-Fi channel is truly trying to milk Farscape for all it’s worth. Why on earth would anyone pay those prices when you can purchase an entire season of Next Gen for $120?

        Hopefully someone at Sci-Fi might actually read these threads. If you do, please feel free to e-mail me. I’ll gladly give you some ideas on how to continue this series or at least offer the remnants of it to the fans reasonably.

        • joe__gee says:

          I was a Nielson house …
          My time in the study is over, so I assume I can talk about what I know about it. They monitor every TV in the house using electronics they attach to the TV set, cable box, satellite box, vcr. A centralized computer they install collects all the data and phones home at night when no one is using the phone line. If you get a new TV, they install their equipment. If you get a TV and don’t tell them you’re kicked out of the study.

          I was told my two TV’s were each worth about 40,000 households. My two TV’s regularly watched B5, Farscape, Sci Fi in general. In return for having two Frankensets (wires and blinkies, wires and blinkies, from the back the sets looked like they’d been assimilated by the Borg) I got a dollar a month per TV from Nielson as compensation.

          From http://tv.yahoo.com/nielson:

          “There are an estimated 105.5 million television households in the USA. A single ratings point represents 1%, or 1,055,000 households for the 2001-02 season. Share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to a specific program.”

        • fiziko says:

          Re: Ratings, Schmatings

          … horrible shows like Lexx (though I think this has been taken off the air–I haven’t been looking for it)…

          Lexx was actually made as a joint production of Space: The Imagination Station here in Canada and a German company. The German company pulled out, so they stopped making new episodes. I doubt it’s a great loss; the three episodes I tried to watch held my attention for a grand total of 15 minutes or so.

          • davatar2 says:

            Re: Ratings, Schmatings

            the three episodes I tried to watch held my attention for a grand total of 15 minutes or so.

            The first season (2) was horrible. The last two were great.
            Season 3 was religious satire. There were many things you wouldn’t pick up as a casual viewer but were very interesting.

            Season 4 was just plain satire and parody on the earth, and the president was a lot like GWB (coincidence? I think not).

            It’s all tongue-in-cheek, and as a person who finds general contempt for just about every institution, it’s quite entertaining. Sci-fi only plays them at ~2-3am on weekdays – in these times when anyone on tv saying something even remotely ‘unpatriotic’ gets into trouble (*cough* cancelled)

            • JANET says:

              Re: Ratings, Schmatings

              Sci-fi only plays them at ~2-3am on weekdays – in these times when anyone on tv saying something even remotely ‘unpatriotic’ gets into trouble (*cough* cancelled)

              Still bitter, Mr. Maher?

              JANET
              groomlake.net

        • JANET says:

          Re: Ratings, Schmatings

          Oh, PS: Farscape is available on DVD, but generally not in boxed sets. I’ve gotten a couple of DVD’s, but there’s only two episodes per DVD. At $30+ per DVD, I don’t forsee collecting the entire set. The price point is too high. Some idiot at the Sci-Fi channel is truly trying to milk Farscape for all it’s worth. Why on earth would anyone pay those prices when you can purchase an entire season of Next Gen for $120?

          Season 1 of Farscape is out on DVD as a boxed set. There is no word on exactly when Season 2 will be released, but it is in the works from what I hear.

          JANET
          groomlake.net

          • GrimSean says:

            Re: Ratings, Schmatings

            Season 1 of Farscape is out on DVD as a boxed set. There is no word on exactly when Season 2 will be released, but it is in the works from what I hear.

            The boxset is only available in the US. For those of us up here in Canada (and elsewhere), we have to buy the import, and it was over $250 the last time I checked.

            As much as I like Farscape, I can’t bring myself to spend that much. It’s just too much. Too frelling much.

            • Eldhrin says:

              Re: Ratings, Schmatings
              In the UK we can get Farscape DVDs in two-disk sets, about five sets per season, so you get four or five episodes for about £25-£30. That adds up very, very fast, which is a shame because I’d buy the DVDs if they were cheaper!

              And as to how Sci-Fi can claim that Stargate’s episodes are self-contained – has she ever watched it? They’re not!!! Sure, it may be easier to pick up the backstory than Farscape’s, but there is a backstory there – all their dealings with Apophis, the Tok’ra, the Asgard, the replicators – Sam’s father, Jack’s son, Teal’c’s son, Daniel ascending…

              I’ll be checking the finances for the box sets of that too. Single-disk episodes are waaaay too expensive. At least Buffy and Angel just come out at £70 a season or so. Eventually.

              (pointless boring ranting now over)

            • fiziko says:

              Re: Ratings, Schmatings

              The boxset is only available in the US. For those of us up here in Canada (and elsewhere), we have to buy the import, and it was over $250 the last time I checked.

              I’ve seen them at Future Shop in Edmonton for less than that, but it’s still one of the most expensive full season sets on the market, which is the main reason I don’t have it.

              • GrimSean says:

                Re: Ratings, Schmatings

                The boxset is only available in the US. For those of us up here in Canada (and elsewhere), we have to buy the import, and it was over $250 the last time I checked.

                I’ve seen them at Future Shop in Edmonton for less than that, but it’s still one of the most expensive full season sets on the market, which is the main reason I don’t have it.

                I’ve asked at my local Futureshop, as lately they’ve been cheaper than elsewhere for DVD sets, and all I get is blank stares and the following conversation:

                Clerk: “Are you sure it was released in Canada, sir?”

                Me: “No. It’s a US import, which is why I’m asking if you know about it or can get it for me.”

                Clerk: “Well, we do have Farscape DVDs available, so maybe the set hasn’t been released yet. Are you sure it’s available?”

                And so on. Out of curiosity, how much is Futureshop Edmonton asking for it? It’s dropped in price since last I checked – now it’s just under $200 pre-tax at Amazon.ca, but I can’t find it on Futureshop’s site.

                • fiziko says:

                  Re: Ratings, Schmatings

                  Out of curiosity, how much is Futureshop Edmonton asking for it?

                  It was about $150 at Future Shop and A & B Sound, and about $200 at HMV when I saw it on the shelves.

    • davatar2 says:

      Re: Ratings, Schmatings

      I love the part where she implies that all those rabid fans who wrote in support of the show never bothered to actually watch it! The TV execs are so locked in to the Neilsen ratings that they don’t even see it when the system’s flaws are on display. The disprepency between the ratings numbers and the size of the fanbase points to a breakdown the ratings process, but this SciFi exec would rather believe that there are people out there lobbying for a show they don’t watch.

      I think they know full well what is going on but it doesn’t matter to them because it’s the nielson’s that bring in the $$$. Call it corporate corruption if you will. Her first response is just an outright lie, just spinning everything to not appear villanous. The fact is although it will still be profitable, that it’s not going to bring in the kind of cash she wants. Instead some lame uber-low-budget john edwards show or some ufology crap is going to be on. Doesn’t matter if very few people watch, because it didn’t cost anything in the first place. Blair Witch reruns perhaps? In the same vein, what kind of channel that calls itself ‘sci-fi’ wants to ‘get away from space shows’?

      It’s a travesty in the making.

    • votrobeck says:

      Re: Ratings, Schmatings

      I love the part where she implies that all those rabid fans who wrote in support of the show never bothered to actually watch it! The TV execs are so locked in to the Neilsen ratings that they don’t even see it when the system’s flaws are on display. The disprepency between the ratings numbers and the size of the fanbase points to a breakdown the ratings process, but this SciFi exec would rather believe that there are people out there lobbying for a show they don’t watch.

      While I agree that SciFi seems to be scrambling for valid excuses as to why they are canceling the show, I feel that I should point out how you are misconstruing her statement.
      When Mrs. Hammer says that people are sending letters that are not watching the show she was refering to the 0.8 rating of the re-runs, implying that the majority of fans are watching only the first-run episodes and not the re-runs that they have been spacing throughout the current season, which is likely true. This is part of the problem as SciFi has set up a scheduling catch-22. Viewers are more likely to stick with a show which they can count on to be on every week during the season. Sporadic blocks of new episodes interspersed with weeks of re-runs causes newcomers and borderline fans to turn away from the show in favor of more reliably scheduled shows. This loss of viewership causes SciFi schedulers to tinker more and more with the schedule, alienating more fans in the process, thus setting the program up for an even greater loss of ratings and its eventual demise.

      • vanyel says:

        Re: Ratings, Schmatings

        When Mrs. Hammer says that people are sending letters that are not watching the show she was refering to the 0.8 rating of the re-runs, implying that the majority of fans are watching only the first-run episodes and not the re-runs that they have been spacing throughout the current season, which is likely true. This is part of the problem as SciFi has set up a scheduling catch-22. Viewers are more likely to stick with a show which they can count on to be on every week during the season. Sporadic blocks of new episodes interspersed with weeks of re-runs causes newcomers and borderline fans to turn away from the show in favor of more reliably scheduled shows. This loss of viewership causes SciFi schedulers to tinker more and more with the schedule, alienating more fans in the process, thus setting the program up for an even greater loss of ratings and its eventual demise.

        This is probably the biggest problem they’ve had with Farscape: it *is* serialized — that’s one of the things I really like about it. You can have a much stronger story that way. But they’d F****d the schedule around so d****d
        much, you never know when what’s happening. I can’t wait for the DVDs to come out so I can watch the show the way it’s meant to be watched. If Babylon 5 had been screwed with the way they screwed Farscape, it probably would have gotten cancelled too.

        So the question is, as someone mentioned above: how can we get someone to make good science fiction, even if it means only being profitable, but not necessarily as profitable as pseudo-science trash? There has got to be a way… subscription DVDs? I would subscribe to a number of shows, Farscape and Firefly included, for $20-25/month for a 4-episode DVD.

  4. Trekkie says:

    Hmph.
    I watched Sci-Fi for the first time in months.

    That was because Farscape was back on.

    I don’t watch the re-runs on TV. I buy the DVDs. They look/sound 60 x better on my system.

Comments are closed.