Saw this on Nikki Finke on the demise of "Undercovers."
An insider gave me this guidance about what went wrong with 'Undercovers,' a show that NBC massively promoted and yet was still rejected by audiences: "Many things. Mostly, what was meant to be a throwback lark of a show felt trivial to people. It felt flimsy and not compelling, partially because it was designed as a stand-alone, nonserialized show. Perhaps the stories lacked deeper interest and urgency. We tried to embrace a familiarity of form, but the public obviously didn't want something so familiar. Unfortunately we never got an audience from the get-go; our abysmal recent rating wasn't even one point lower than our premiere number. We just should have done better. It is a bummer to be sure. NBC did the best they know how. We feel responsible for the failure, though. But damn, it sure would be easier to blame the network!"
Well, as a sci fi fan, color me gobsmacked! Continuity is often blamed for the failure or cancellation of shows like "Caprica," "Dollhouse," "Firefly," etc. I hear this complaint all the time about these shows. It’s too complicated! How are new viewers supposed to get into the show?
In one of those bits of real life irony, Continuity in comic books or TV shows means the exact opposite of what the word normally means. You’d think Continuity would mean an unchanging continuation. But in the geek universe, Continuity refers to the long history of a series and how it’s incorporated into future episodes. In this case Continuity means change.
To be fair, if you’ve ever had to explain "24," "Fringe" or "Battlestar Galactica" to a newbie in midseason continuity can be a pain in the ass. And there’s another drawback. It turns a show’s fans into its harshest critics. The longer a show’s continuity the greater the risk that the producers and writers will take a turn that disappoints or angers a sizeable portion of the base.
Look at "Buffy" Season 6 or the final seasons of "Lost" or every season of "Alias" after the first one. "Dallas" survived the “It’s all a dream shower scene” and "Happy Days" didn’t end until well after Fonzie jumped the shark. But for shows with a lot of continuity, jumping the shark is often fatal.
But maybe all that’s finally changing. People can now get video on demand into their phones if they so choose. Miss last night’s "True Blood"? Catch while on the train to work. Don’t feel like shelling out for the DVD collections of "Buffy"? They’re available instantly on Netflix.
But maybe you want to catch the latest "Supernatural" this week without going through all the past seasons. It’s not something I would do but if you just want a fast primer, log on to the internet and find one of the official or unofficial websites to get you up to speed.
Technology may make continuity easier, but this is the first time I’ve heard anyone in the industry say that it was desirable. Normally there’s only one kind of success in television, especially network television, the "Two and a Half Men" kind. The mass appeal show for anyone to watch at anytime. Stand-alone stories only. Continuity in the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the word. Alan is going to stay in that beach house until Jake is old enough to vote.
But maybe things are finally changing and people are realizing there are different roads to success.