Thursday, August 18, 2011
On the eve of the fall season, an open letter to the networks
A few showed promise but sorry to say there’s not one real knockout like MODERN FAMILY in the bunch. And it’s not like they’re even shooting for it. TWO AND HALF MEN seems to be the gold standard. Several of these pilots felt like Disney Channel sitcoms with raunch. Tired themes dressed up with sex jokes and pretty young people. No one over 40 was cast unless they starred in at least four previous sitcoms.
I kept thinking while watching some of these leadened forced attempts at hilarity – these tested well? There were other pilots that tested even worse than this?
We all know network decisions are based primarily on research results (the rest on commitments) so obviously these pilots that made it to series did pass the grade in testing. And we also know that 90% of these new shows will fail. Among last season’s testing darlings were LOVE BITES, OUTSOURCED, RUNNING WILDE, BETTER WITH YOU, and the inexplicable PAUL REISER SHOW which was mercifully pulled after just two episodes. Testing is an in-exact science… at best.
So I have an experiment, a suggestion I throw out to the networks. Take one of your pilots – a show geared to a young audience (i.e. any of them) – and re-test it on the internet.
Make it available to everybody to screen, not just a few hundred hand-selected flood victims. Promo it on the air so you’ll drive new traffic to your online site. Let everybody rate it. Let everybody weigh in. Sure, you’re going to get 3,000,000 comments and 2,000,000 of them will be insane. And yes, you won’t have any control factors. You’ll have no idea how many of the test subjects watched the whole thing. And you won’t be able to vouch for the accuracy of their profile data.
You might get some surprising results. You might get a reaction wildly different from the one you got through traditional testing. Or you might get the exact same reaction and that tells you something too. And guaranteed you'll get a much larger sample size.
So let’s say the results are very different. The show finally airs and is a hit or not. Which test proved to be the most accurate?
The time to do this is right now, before the new fall season. Take one show, just one, and offer it up on your website. You have nothing to lose and much to gain. You may have discovered a better research tool, and you may help generate good buzz on promising shows.
The best way to pick shows is to go with your gut, of course. But since will never happen, then go with ours. Who knows? Maybe the failure rate will plummet to 75%. And you'll have some really hilarious comments to pass around to your friends.
Part 3 of my Fall Movie Preview is here.