Fan Effort To Revive Young Justice Over Before it Began

Yoinked from The Mary Sue
Yoinked from The Mary Sue

Bringing shows back from the dead has been discussed here on the blog in the past. It’s a common scenario that often brings great expectations to legions of fans only for them to be inevitably dashed when they fail. Although shows have been brought back (most famously after fans mailed nuts to producers), the vast majority are not receiving of a Lazarus-like new lease of life and are left for history to claim. This time around, it is the DC shows, Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series that are attempting a comeback. Unfortunately, it’s over before it even really began.

The Background

Both shows ran on Cartoon Network on Saturday mornings. Young Justice beginning in 2010 and Green Lantern following in 2012. Early in 2013, both shows were absent from the Cartoon Network upfront presentation leading to rampant speculation that the shows have been cancelled.

Although the network remained silent, various animators who’d worked on the show or were familiar with the crew tweeted the obvious (sorry, I can’t find them now); the crews had already disbanded and had been for almost a year. While this fact did not get the attention it needed, Cartoon Network eventually responded and confirmed that both shows were indeed finished.

Young Justice & Green Lantern Since Cancellation

Since this announcement, there has been various efforts to get the network to change their mind, including the inevitable internet petition (with not even a please in it). None of them have had any success but that hasn’t stopped a new kid on the block from trying their hand.

The SMGO Effort

Such empty results hasn’t dissuaded internet upstart SMGO.tv (or my Show Must Go On) from attempting to collate fan support for a new series into a single effort aimed straight at Cartoon Network and Warner Bros.

Unfortunately for SMGO, Warners has already slammed the door on the attempt without saying much specifically beyond that they aren’t holding out hope for success. Even that hasn’t deterred SMGO and they’re having another crack at the whip with a ‘let’s prove them wrong’ attitude.

That, in and of itself, isn’t that big of a deal, what should be a concern is that they’re asking for funding, and they’re asking for all of $10 million for the trouble. Now I’m not sure about yourself, but even the largest Kickstarter campaign barely scraped $10 million and that was for a piece of technology that could be used by millions of people. YJ/Green Lantern pulled in just under 2 and 1.2 million viewers respectively in their highest rated episodes. If you ask me, someone has a lot of work cut out for themselves.

The Reality

So SMGO is noble in their effort, but completely oblivious to reality. Their plan is to garner support, talk to the studio/network, sign a contract (yes, really), fund the production, actually produce the show and then offer rewards a la Kickstarter.

While I’m not one to rain on a parade, this model is regrettably flawed. While Hollywood does indeed like to see the money, they generally like it to be their money, i.e. for them to keep. SMGO also doesn’t exactly specify how the funds are handled beyond ‘funding production’.

This is what the Veronica Mars Kickstarter has produced and it’s ugly. Major studios absolutely do not want to be involved with fan efforts for lots of reasons (mostly legal), hence their often tone deaf and arms reach approach to the fan communities. The PR disasters that could happen are another reason. Say an SMGO-funded show did make it to production, and the results were dire. Who’s to blame then? Fan’s won’t want to hear the truth and it could destroy their loyalty. If you were Warners and you had to choose between letting your shows die a death or attempt a potentially disastrous comeback, the former is always much more appealing.

We haven’t even gotten as far as the real money issue: profit. Hollywood doesn’t like to make small profits (they’re too mundane.) They like to make BIG profits, especially on films, but also on TV shows. The latter aren’t publicised near as much, but a show has to make money otherwise it get’s canned.

Young Justice and Green Lantern apparently didn’t bring in as much dough as the network and studio would have liked, so they were sidelined in favour of some proven money spinners; Batman and Teen Titans.

The Truth To Saving A Beloved Show

So what’s to be done? SMGO is right in highlighting the need to factor in money into the fan revival equation, but it’s a half-effort. As I highlighted in this post, reviving a show is as much an art as it as a science. Networks need to know that:

  1. Their shows (and therefore advertisements) are being watched
  2. Any and all merchandise is selling (regardless of how good it actually is)
  3. People will continue to do both of the above in the future.

Doing all three is hard enough, but proving to the network that they are being done is the impossible task. I wrote about this a long time ago, and surprisingly enough, letter-writing still works, if done correctly.

While online petitions and services like SMGO are very efficient at gathering support, they fall down in the personal department. Individual letters still work wonders, but unfortunately they still require a herculean effort to pull off successfully.

Conclusion

The depressing aspect to the entire saga is that it is no different than all the campaigns that have gone before. Yes, it’s nice to appease fans, but any show that gets cancelled is bound to upset someone. It’s reasonable to attempt to save a show, but at some point you have to call it quits, and implying that you can (and should) never give up is a false illusion.

Will Web Series’ Never Die; Just Fade Away Instead?

animated web series

It’s fascinating to think that just 7 short years ago, YouTube barely existed. If you wanted online video, you either had to download it over [snicker] dial-up or your new-fangled DSL line. Nowadays, online video is ubiquitous in the US and is rapidly growing elsewhere as site like YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Hulu continually push the notion that content is always on-demand and always available. The scenario is, non-web original content plays by a different set of rules to original web content. The former is cancelled after poor ratings, but what about original web series? Do they linger forever until someone forgets to pay the hosting bill, or are they left to fade away into the internet’s ether?

The Difference With The Old Way

In times gone past, shows were cancelled if they failed to garner enough viewers. It was a simple situation and once vanished from the airwaves, they were left to gather dust in studio archives or until cable arrived and reruns were born. The fact that shows simply vanished from the airwaves was important; it didn’t matter if it was your absolute favourite or the worst thing in the world. Once it was cancelled (or ended), it was generally gone for good.

Those were simple times though. Today, the internet and its vast array of choices (and data-generating systems) means that viewing numbers alone cannot indicate whether a web series gets canned or not and when it does, their futures are not as clear cut either.

The New Way

So with the likes of YouTube being the dominant player in the arena, what kind of rules/procedures will be in place for web series that don’t hit the mark? Animation as we all know and love, is a time-consuming process and even shorts like Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover take many months to develop. The inherent risk is that no matter the performance of the series, it will be made and uploaded regardless.

What happens then though? If a web series ‘gets the axe’ so to speak, will it remain on YouTube? Will it be pulled entirely? The former is much more likely as anyone whose stumbled across a long-dead channel will tell you. With that in mind, is it fair to say that web series’ will never really die, they’ll just be allowed to sort of fade away into the background?

No-one has a set policy in this area and plenty of great content has already disappeared from the internet already thanks to the basis of hosting and its associated costs. The aforementioned Geocities is reminiscent of contemporary sites like Blogger, WordPress.com and Tumblr; superb, ‘permanent’ services while active, but unable continue perpetually.

Another Plausible Web Series Possibility

What if an ancient web series is rediscovered and become a hit; what happens then? Will the original creators be around to benefit from it? It might be years, even decades later and if the show wasn’t produced with the correct credits, it might be impossible for the proper owners to take credit for their work. Orphan works are already a problem with physical media covered by copyright; what will the online version be like? All indications point to a potential creative time bomb.

Given that the web can act as a sort of virtual time capsule (the original Space Jam website from 1996 is still online), web series should probably be created in such a way as to anticipate rediscovery many years later and should follow the following criteria:

  • Have a designated ‘maintainer’ who can react to changes in the series’ state/popularity
  • Be readily accessible to the public i.e. no paywalls, etc.
  • Have proper credits that are noted in physical media as opposed to on a computer somewhere (remember, Yahoo, Google and others still delete your email accounts with them if you don’t access them)

With these steps in mind, even a web series that bites the bullet can benefit from a belated boost in popularity.

How do you perceive web series surviving after they end? How would you prepare for such a scenario? Share your thoughts with a comment below!

Watch An Attempt To Bring A Show Back in Real Time

Discovered today (Tuesday) on the animation subbreddit, this is an attempt to bring back the mid-90s cartoon SWAT Kats. It was apparently fairly popular (if the claims in this video are credible) and was produced by Hanna-Barbera/Turner with animation being done by Tremblay Bros.

So, have the instigators of this campaign read this post, or are they falling prey to the classic mistakes of campaigns past?

Perhaps this video will help you decide. You can leave your comments below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhoN9IMkJNo

For the decidedly curious, here’s a link to the revival blog.

Why “Cancelling” A Show Is So Outdated In This Day and Age

Word came through the other day that FOX, after what surely must have been a long discussion (/sarcasm), had decided to swing the axe on Jonah Hill’s much vaunted animated show, Gregory Allen.

So this poses an interesting question, and it’s one that will surely have a different answer than if it had been asked the last time we had this kind of situation on FOX:

What does it even mean to “cancel” a TV show any more?

Seriously! So you “cancel” it from being broadcast on TV. Well, as my fiance would say, woop-di-freakin-do! TV (and I’m talking about traditional, OTA, satellite and cable scheduled programming here) is rapidly becoming a smaller and smaller part of the entertainment landscape anyway, why does it even matter?

FOX already hosts its shows in a couple of places online and its fair to say that a sizeable portion of their audience is watching them there rather than “tuning in” during the week.

With that in mind, would it not make more sense to simply release the episodes online instead? Just because you “cancel” the show, does that automatically preclude that you have to suddenly archive the remaining episodes never to be seen again?

No, of course not!

Why not instead just say that Allen Gregory has moved to being exclusively online? My train of thought is that at some point we’ll see a deeper connection between TV and the web. YouTube is currently pioneering the way with original series (shout out to the YouTube Next Lab) whose quality is rapidly approaching that of traditional TV and it’s only a matter of time before we see audience shifts to them. My point? If a show begins life online and become popular, it could easily be “transferred” to TV with a scheduled timeslot while remaining online, thereby capturing both audiences.

Shows could also go the other way. Say they start out on TV but don’t really find their audience, then they could move to the online world and carry on as before.

I will use any excuse to post Mo Willem's charcter designs for this show.

We’ve seen some rudimentary moves in this regard with the likes of Sit Down, Shut Up. Which, after getting canned, eventually returned as FOX burned off the episodes in the middle of the night. However, they also went up on Hulu, where it was possible for fans (such as myself) to finally see them. And apparently they’re now on Comedy Central (somewhere) too!

Just imagine what kind of online numbers they could have gotten if they had put them online straight away!

Animation is slightly trickier than live-action as they shows pretty much have to be produced before the season begins. That means that it really doesn’t make any sense to “cancel” an animated show and then pretend it doesn’t exist.

To be cliched and quote Bob Dylan: the times, they are a changin’.

How Not to Get Your Favourite Show Un-Cancelled

 Via: Fred Seibert on Flickr

While there are a few cartoons could be said to have re-ingnited my passion for animation, one had a bit more of a profound effect than others. And while My Life as a Teenage Robot may have lacked the smarmy humour of SpongeBob Squarepants, it is nonetheless a great show. I mean, who doesn’t like seeing a robot girl kick ass within a universe where Art Deco is the prominent architectural style?

The series lasted just about three seasons on Nickelodeon before the network decided that it would not be ordering additional episodes. Officially the reason given was the low ratings however I would argue quite strenuously that having the show’s timeslot bounced all over the schedule couldn’t have helped matters either.

As is (almost) inevitable when a show gets canned, the fans (not I) reacted in the manner that is most common for TV shows; they created a petition:

To:  Nickelodeon

Petition to Save “My Life as a Teeanage Robot” from Cancellation. Note: My American-English is not good because I’m Italian…

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” is one of the most underrated Tvshows on Nickeloden. This TvShow is about a robot, Xj9 (a.k.a. Jenny), who wants to be a normal Teenage girl, hang out with friends etc. Brad Carbunkle is Jenny’s best friend. He’s your average high-school student; Brad’s younger brother, Tuck Carbunkle is often scared by robots, but he likes Jenny as a friend. Jenny’s “mother”, Nora Wakeman, is one of the best characters in the show: plus, she’s voiced by Candi Milo, she’s great.
Since Jenny was built to protect the Planet Earth, there’s an evil-alien empire, the Cluster, who wants to take over our world. The Cluster Queen, Vexus, is Jenny’s arch enemy.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” won a few Annie-Awards too.

OK. I’m just saying this, WE MUST SAVE “MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT”. It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation. We want a 4th Season. Alternatively, since the 3rd Season will be (maybe) the “Final Season”, I think we all need a “Series Finale” (Jenny & Brad ending up together, for example…).

If you are a fan of the show, sign this petition. If you don’t like Jenny and you don’t care about her, please sign this petition equally, because we need your help too. Alternatively, you can try to help the show with other petitions or sending E-mails to Nickelodeon.

Note: There are other awesome Nick-Toons who are going to be cancelled: “Danny Phantom” and “The Fairly OddParents”. Nick will just never learn.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Now in fairness to the guy (or girl) English isn’t their first language so let’s cut them some slack for that. However, this petition still makes all the rudimentary errors that most fans make when crafting petitions so we’ll judge it on those.

Firstly, it completely and totally neglects to speak directly to the network. It reads as more of a plea than an attempt to persuade the network to change its mind. Anyone can call a show “underrated” but in the network’s mind, if it has hopes and dreams for viewership numbers and the show doesn’t make them, the show is considered “underperforming” and might be costing the company money as a result.

Secondly, giving a description of the show’s characters is superfluous at best. The network knows which show you are talking about and the only time such descriptions would ever be called for is when the letter discusses a show on another network.

Only in the third paragraph do we see the first hints that the show is worth saving in that it won a few Annie awards. A prestigious accolade in their own right, but the letter fails to tie those awards to anything meaningful. such as say, having an Annie-award winning show in your portfolio will draw more astute/affluent animation fans to your network thus increasing revenues on it and other shows alike.

Then there’s this line:

OK. I’m just saying this….

Well of course you are, that’s the whole purpose of the letter! It also alludes to the belief that the network doesn’t know what the letter is about, when in fact, if it were an actual letter, would probably be in the bin by now.

It may be not the best show on the planet, but it has a lot of fans who are really upset for the cancellation.

While this statement may be true, it does nothing to further the cause. Upset fans of a cancelled show mean nothing to a network unless they can prove conclusively that their upsetness will affect the networks other properties. For example, if, when the show was cancelled, the fans also stopped watching other Nickelodeon shows and buying related merchandise, then the network would have a concrete reason to bring the show back. Saying your merely ‘upset’ will have no bearing on the network’s quarterly results and thus will be deemed irrelevant to the discussion.

However then we get to this line:

We want a 4th Season.

A flat-out demand! Well heck, I want a million dollars but it sadly isn’t going to happen any time soon. This line also comes off as being brash and unsympathetic to the networks position; something that you should be trying to achieve as much as possible.

The second to last paragraph pleads for anyone and everyone to sign the petition whether they like the show or not. Now this is problematic for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that it seriously blurs the lines between who really wants the show back and who’s just singing it for shits and giggles. Secondly, such practices make it extremely difficult to trust the numbers. For a show with as devoted a fanbase as MLaaTR, it’s likely that they aren’t too far off the truth. However, the fact remains that if there is any uncertainty in the data, more often than not they are presumed to be faulty and will be excluded from any formal analysis.

The last paragraph is more of a side note that states that other shows on Nickolodeon are being cancelled as well but it is the last line that’s the killer:

Nick will just never learn.

That one line single-handedly destroys the entire argument for the letter because it states that the network is doomed to repeating its ‘mistakes’. Why is this a problem? Well the whole purpose of a petition letter for a soon-to-be-cancelled show is to enlighten and persuade the network to change it’s ways in the hope that it will be more careful about cancelling shows in the future.

Bluntly stating that it “will just never learn” implies that the network is too stupid, dumb or ignorant to listen to advice. Which begs the question of why then, should it listen to this petition? If you already think I’m dumb, do you really think I’m going to value your opinion and judgement on matters? Of course not, you called me dumb!

Overall this is a pretty typical fan response to a hard business decision that plays on emotions rather than corporate common sense. A truly efficient letter would see the signatories sympathise with the networks need for viewers in order to keep ad revenue up and would emphasise the many ancillary benefits that the show brings to the network in terms of viewers for additional programs, merchandise sales, etc. Such a letter would do much to encourage the network to retain the show based on its actual merits, not the perceived ones.

This letter, for what it’s worth, isn’t all that bad, I mean, it did garner a few thousand signatures, many with individual responses to the show and how much it was loved. However, when it comes to influencing some executive in some far corner of Viacom’s vast headquarters in New York, it has zero potential and that’s why it’s not going to bring My Life as a Teenage Robot back from the dead.

Five Reasons Why The End of The Simpsons Will Be The Deathknell For Animation on FOX

Via: Hulu

Over the last 20-odd years, The Simpsons has come to be the most successful TV show ever created. In an industry where plenty of shows don’t even make it to the end of their first season, and the numbers that make it beyond the single digits is extremely rare, the fact that one can make it into its third decade is exceedingly rare.

As a result, the longer the Simpsons remain on our TV screens, the more likely it’s ultimate demise will contribute to the collapse of the dominance of animation on FOX.

Below are the five reasons why this is so.

1. Brand Recognition:

Over the last 20 years, the Simpsons has become a brand in their own right. There are Simpsons toys, clothes, sweets, figurines, records, you name it, it has been Simpsonised at some point. What is sometimes overlooked is that it is the success of the TV show that has driven the demand for these products. Millions saw the show in TV and then bought the merchandise they saw in the shop.

Without the weekly reminder that market is sure to suffer a bit. Now keep in mind that I am referring to new episodes. Re-runs remind viewers of the show’s existence, but they tend not to remind them of good times, not encourage them to buy new products.

2. Brand loyalty

The Simpsons as a brand has phenomenal loyalty, so much so that it was able to transgress a brief period at the beginning where it reached proportions normally reserved for ‘fads’. Simpsons fans are famous for their devotion to their favourite show. Of course, it helped that the show was very well written, and more often than not outshone everything else being broadcast at the time.

Once the series ends, however, that loyalty will begin to (slowly) disappear. It will start off imperceptibly, but gradually, we’ll start to see less and less merchandise, more websites and fansites that are update less frequently. People will remain loyal and devoted, but the majority of fans will move on to other shows, or their tastes will change as they get older. Before you know it, all that will be left is a smattering of hardcore fans who hold on to the glory days and maintain that nothing will ever top their faith in a show from the 90s.

Convincing those many fans of the Simpsons that another show is of equal or better quality is a goal that is akin to convincing people that a tax raise really is a good thing. It can be done, but it’s an uphill struggle if ever there was one.Which leads us nicely into…..

3. Inability to replace it

FOX has known for quite a while that no show lives forever and eventually a replacement will have to be found. This is a perfectly reasonable assumption except for one thing: they haven’t found one yet.

It’s not for lack of trying though. Plenty of attempts have been made over the years to try and at least find something that can come close to attracting viewers of the Simpsons and slowly weaning them onto a different show. Pilots, season fillers, live-action, they’ve all been tried without success and still the problem remains.

Family Guy is perhaps the closest the network has come but since it returned from hiatus a few years ago, it is nowhere near what it used to be and currently attracts a far more narrow demographic than the Simpsons did at its height. The same goes for the other McFarlane children, they all share similar traits that prohibit them from ever reaching the largest audience possible.

4. It’s Still Good

Although I tend to agree with plenty of what the loyal Stonecutters over at the Dead Homer Society have to say, in the grand scheme of things, The Simpsons remains a very well written show. Especially in light of all the other “sitcoms” and “comedies” that the various networks put out during the week.

5. Changes in management structure

Last but most certainly not least, the Simpsons could never be repeated because FOX as a network has changed. When the Simpsons were first broadcast, the creators were given a wide berth when it came to content and biting the hand that feeds them. The simple reason for this was that the network needed ratings and ad revenue, and allowing the producers a bit of leeway went a long way in letting the show find it’s place in the TV world.

Since then, FOX has become successful, and much more mainstream as a result. I can’t foresee a show being given similar leeway (and a share of the merchandising) ever again. It just won’t happen. As a result, we’re unlikely to ever see a show like the Simpsons grace our screen again.

Conclusion

When the Simpsons eventually does get sent to the great big TV in the sky, it’s highly unlikely that a show such as Family Guy will manage to retain many of the Simpsons loyal fanbase and as a result, is more likely to falter when left to carry the network by itself. Once that happens, it seems probable that animation, as a driving force on the FOX network is doomed.