At Multichannel News:
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Reading a Show's Life Line
Many Factors Weigh into Deciding the Fate of a Popular Series
by Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn -- Multichannel News, 10/27/2008
Everyone, especially programming executives, loves a hit. But television shows, no matter how strong the ratings, don't last forever — even if some seem to.
THE SPIN FACTOR
Creating a spinoff of a series can certainly help bolster a franchise's longevity. For its part, Showtime has tapped Chaiken for an untitled L Word spinoff, in which the character of Alice Pieszecki (played by actress Leisha Hailey) moves on.
“I was especially interested because the way the challenge came to me was, 'Let's do a very different show,' and that's what makes me think it might actually work,” Chaiken said. “Often an audience, particularly fans of a show, will wind up being disappointed that the new show isn't the old show. But when you're doing something completely different, you can side-step some of those expectations.”
Another key is having a really strong creative vision, said Tomassi Lindman. “And having strong writers and strong producers, the people who are going to bring those great ideas and fresh storylines that keep a show going season after season,” she added.
Such a strong vision led Sci Fi to give the green light to executive producer Ronald Moore's Caprica, the prequel to Battlestar Galactica; and to co-executive producers Brad Rice and Robert Cooper's Stargate: Universe, the third series in the long-running Stargate franchise.
“This was a creative call to move Stargate Atlantis into [made-for-television] movies and then to launch Stargate: Universe,” said Sci Fi president Dave Howe. “Stargate SG-1 went 10 years; Stargate Atlantis is now in its fifth season; and the producers looked at the stories and how it played out and how many more iterations of that story felt right and we totally agreed with them.
“Stargate Atlantis had been great, but it was now time to think about the next chapter.”
The holy grail in terms of media and entertainment these days is franchise-building, according to Howe.
“We're focused on it. Hollywood theatrical movies are focused on it, the level of investment that is required to develop and launch a series is, from a marketing perspective, huge,” he said. “The difficulty in terms of breaking out and attracting and sustaining that audience, if you can create something that is franchise-able, then the business model is much more powerful and much more long-term, and so much more consistent and viable, and that's the business we're all in.”