Sunday, October 29, 2006

RETAINING THE "LOST" AUDIENCE - A MODEST PROPOSAL

In Sunday's New York Times, there's an article about the current state of serialized dramas on TV, which were supposed to be the big rage this season. And at one point, the author (Bill Carter) has this to say about 'The Nine':

[W]ill we ever know what “The Nine,” ABC’s drama about characters held hostage in a bank robbery, was supposed to add up to? It has the built-in advantage of following directly after “Lost,” but in its first four outings, it has frittered away an enormous number of viewers. That’s even more than “Invasion,” the serialized drama that last year tried to march into viewers’ homes on the heels of “Lost.”

It's not the fault of 'The Nine', just as it wasn't the fault of 'Invasion', that they are losing so much of the audience from 'Lost'. (Although truth to tell, 'Invasion' began so maddeningly slowly that I found it boring and walked away. I know plenty of people - from what I've seen in online "testimony" - did the same thing. When my Kryptonian Iddiot friend Brian-El urged me to keep with it, that it was getting better, it was already too late. My mind rebelled against the idea.)

The problem lies in 'Lost' itself. Don't get me wrong; I think it's a fantastic show. I'm obsessed by it, and I know it will always be in my top 5 faves of all time (right up there with 'The Prisoner', 'The Mary Tyler Mooer Show', 'Columbo', and 'The Dick Van Dyke Show').

But as soon as 'Lost' is over on Wednesday nights, I'm not in the mood to watch any more TV. It doesn't matter what show it is, or on what network. I just want to get to my computer and find like-minded fans to discuss what we just saw and perhaps find out somethings that I might have missed. (Like the appearance of Julie Ow in this year's season opener as a nurse in Jack's flashback - she was the nurse in Locke's flashback from "Deus Ex Machina".)

This was especially bad during the first season when the 'Lost' mania/fever was particularly intense. At that time, the show aired at eight o'clock EST, and I would automatically switch over to NBC to watch 'The West Wing', one of the shows in my top ten all-time faves. But as I got more caught up in the mysteries of the island and the "Lostaways", the less inclined I was in following the doings of my favorite occupants of the Oval Office. I would have to tape 'The West Wing' and watch it the next morning after my 'Lost' high had subsided.

Moving 'Lost' to the nine o'clock hour by the second season proved just as detrimental to not only 'Invasion' but also to any 10 pm show on the other networks, like 'Law & Order' on NBC and CBS' 'CSI: NY'. (Luckily by that point, NBC had also blinked and moved 'The West Wing' to Sunday nights. Otherwise, with my antiquated viewing system, I'd have to abandon it entirely for 'Lost'.)

This is going to happen to any show which ABC puts in the timeslot immediately following 'Lost', as well as to the competition on the other networks.

So here's my modest proposal: ABC should stop using 'Lost' in the 9 o'clock anchor position on Wednesday nights and instead move it to the 10 o'clock hour. Put on compatible shows to precede it (Much as I dislike it, 'Dancing With The Stars' is still a good way to begin the night at 8 pm.) and then the network suits don't have to worry about losing the follow-up audience, as the affiliates take over with their 11 pm newscasts. Sure, they're not going to be thrilled to see the drop in the ratings, but a news broadcast is certainly cheaper to produce than an hour-long drama.

And not that ABC should care about this, but this arrangement would work for its rivals as well. Their competition for the 10 o'clock hour would be starting off with almost equal footing and could compete for the hearts and minds and eyes of the viewership. (They'll never win over the dedicated 'Lost' fan base, but there are... um, the Others who are not so sure about joining 'Lost' so deeply into its complicated puzzle of a storyline.)

So that's my modest proposal. Had 'The Nine' preceded 'Lost' at 9 pm, it might be doing better now carrying the audience share from 'Dancing With The Stars' and delivering that to 'Lost' which would still bring in even more from the hardcore fans.

And by the way, throwing in a few in-joke references to 'Lost' in "The Nine" (Nick the cop used to work with Ana Lucia Cortez on the LAPD, perhaps. Hurley had his multi-millions in accounts with Fidelity Republic Bank, etc.) would help bring the 'Lost' fans to that earlier hour.

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

2 comments:

Kristin said...

Two comments on your proposal:

1) I think "The Nine" losing its audience is not the fault of "Lost," but the fault of the show itself. I still watch it every week, but I am beginning to wonder why. The mystery should be all about what happened in that bank during the 52 hours...not how people are acting afterwars. They have only really shown us about 10 or 15 min. of the whole crime so far. Not enough, in my opinion. I think they should stick to showing 1 hour of the bank stuff every 2 or 3 episodes. Give us some indication as to when we might know everything that happened in there. But they keep dragging us through the current lives of these 9 people. Not nearly as dramatic or interesting as the bank heist itself.

2) ABC likes to give "Lost" a few shows that run a minute or two over into the next hour. I even remember one episode last season running about 6 minutes over. If "Lost" were moved to the 10 o'clock spot, they would have to keep it exactly a hour hour show all the time. No exceptions.

My personal feeling is that they should make "The Nine" work more like a backwards "Lost" episode. The bank heist should be the main focus of the show, and the current events should be treated like the 'flashbacks.'

Toby said...

I'm not sure there were extra scenes in those 'Lost' episodes. Didn't they just move the between shows commercials forward into the last quarter and pad out coming attractions so that the show would run over? I could be wrong....

As for 'The Nine', I stick with it long enough to see the bank heist footage before abandoning the show to my VCR; listening to it from the other room while I'm on the computer. So far, it's been working as a radio drama. I've heard nothing that has made me jump up and run into the living room to watch, nor rewind the tape to actually watch it.

And if John Billingsley doesn't submit the first episode - his first scene! - for consideration come Emmys time, he's making a big mistake. That one introductory scene in the bank was acting brilliance.