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When We Fight To Bring Back Our Favorite Shows, Why Do They So Often End Up Sucking?

By Vivian Kane | Think Pieces | August 17, 2015 |

By Vivian Kane | Think Pieces | August 17, 2015 |

We’re in a weird spot these days where we, the common internet plebs have a good deal more power over our entertainment than we’ve ever had before. Or, at the very least, we have and are encouraged to have that illusion. At a time when Nielsen ratings mean basically nothing, but no one has found anything better to replace them, the internet (and specifically social media) is a huge indicator of what people want to see. The internet call to action— be it to #SaveHannibal or to get Jennifer Love Hewitt her Can’t Hardly Wait sequel— isn’t as silly as it maybe once seemed to be. If not for a loud and persistent fan outcry (or support— we’re not outrage-based ALL the time), would we have gotten Serenity, the Veronica Mars movie, or the fourth season of Arrested Development? I’m gonna go ahead and say almost definitely not.

Still, while most of us love feeling like we have some modicum of power, there’s another side to this. Namely, that very often when we beg for our shows back, what we’re then given is a raised-from-the-dead hollow shell of what we loved. Take those three examples I listed up there. Personally, I’m a Serenity lover (or at least apologist), but I know many of you feel about that movie the way I did about Veronica Mars. As for those of you who still defend Netflix’s go at Arrested Development, well, I just have no words for you.

The thing is, when these shows come back, they’re never going to be the same. I’m not saying it’s a full monkey’s paw be careful what you wish for situation, but either it’s been too long, or the new platform has a different level or type of power dynamic with the creative team, or sometimes (as in Veronica Mars), there’s too much focus on just pandering to the audience that fought to bring them back. And sometimes the new version of something we once loved just has no idea what it is. Like Arrested Development. There were a lot of elements that contributed to the slog of a season Netflix produced, not the least of which were reports of conflicting schedules of all the actors, which forced the division of plot lines that so many of us found dragging. But according to Jason Bateman, a bigger problem is that Netflix didn’t know what it had. It brought the show back because we demanded it, and tried to tell us it was exactly what we asked for: a clear continuation of the thing we loved. But as Bateman told Marc Maron on the WTF podcast this week, that’s never what it was intended to be.

[The episodes] were meant to be the first act of a three-act story that Mitch had in his head. And the second two acts … are still yet to be told. He thought it would be fun to do the first act in some episodes. And that’s what that was, but Netflix called it ‘season four,’ which was a little disingenuous because it implied that the show was coming back. And that’s not what the show was, because each episode was about an individual character, and I think it was a little confusing and frankly underwhelming for the audience. That was unfortunate. It wasn’t branded honestly. Or correctly, I should say.
I don’t know if I’d agree that this marketing mistake was a bigger setback than the content itself. I know a lot of you felt the season picked up and got good around the midpoint. I don’t agree, but this would maybe make sense as to why. If we went in expecting a fourth season that kept in line with the first three, this was a disappointment. But what if we’d been told from the outset that it was something new? A transition point between the series and a movie, maybe? Would that have affected how we viewed it? And why didn’t Netflix market the show in the way Bateman seems to suggest they should have? Did they not know what it was, or did they not trust their audience to accept anything other than what we had demanded?

Ultimately, I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to fight for the things we love. The executives who cancelled Hannibal, for instance, are monsters and should face punishment in the form of a Lecter-hosted dinner party. But if we’re being honest, have we seen a decent precedent to assuage our fears that it might not live up to our expectations?

Vivian Kane has not seen a minute of the sixth season of Community and it’s probably great and invalidates her whole point and therefore doesn’t want to hear about it.

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