Friday, July 13, 2007

FOX Drives Me Crazy

Yesterday I promised to tell you why I was mad at FOX.

Back in the Spring, during my weekly doses of American Idol and Bones, the promo monkeys at FOX ran teasers for a new show that they were planning to launch in the coming weeks. It featured fast cars, slick driving, pounding music and some familar stars I knew from other shows (Nathan Fillion from Firefly, Melanie Lynskey from Two And A Half Men, Charles Martin Smith from many films including American Graffiti, and Brian Bloom who got his start as a child actor on As The World Turns). The program's name was Drive.

It lasted a total of two weeks before FOX pulled the plug.

Now, before you say "but Martin, it only had two shows - how can you be upset after two shows?", I must explain a bit more.

See, the show was a continuing drama with a good sized cast. The viewers would find out bits and pieces about the characters as things went along. And there were mysteries - ala Lost and Heroes. Lots of mysteries. Who are these people? Why are they competing (besides monetary reasons) in this illegal cross-country race? What motiviates a person who is put in situations like this (some enter the race under free will, some are coerced through various means)? Who are the people behind the race? Why are they doing it? Has the race actually been going on for decades? What happens to the teams who reach a check point last? Curiousity is what kept my interest racing from that very first hour.

And two weeks wasn't just two one-hour shows. Oh no. See, FOX premiered it with a two-hour block (episodes 1 and 2). But they did it weirdly. They put the premiere on a Sunday night (bumped their animation block out for a week). Then they ran episode 3 the very next night in the normal Monday 8pm slot. They ran episode 4 the following Monday, and then cancelled the show by that week's end. That was it! No chance in letting the ratings increase. No rebroadcast of the beginning to help feed the word-of-mouth the show might have gotten around the water coolers on Monday morning. Nope - best leave anyone who missed the premiere behind and confused by missing the first two hours. And, what's with the premiere on a night the show isn't going to run? Crazy!

Now, I get that the show was costly. It had an effects budget as well as lots of car racing stunts. Then there is the cars, paying for the large cast etc. Still, FOX was hyping this show to the moon. It ran tons of ads during Idol (prime advertsing real-estate given how high Idol's weekly viewer numbers were) and even had the cast in the audience one night (they got the five second camera shout-out that a lot of FOX shows do during Idol). There were radio ads, there were magazine ads, and there was a nice web presence on the site too. So, clearly someone making decisions believed in this show from the get-go.

As a late Spring show, FOX had green-lighted the show for 13 episodes. The cast had completed six of those before the plug got pulled in late April.

Okay, fine. That left two in the can. FOX said they'd air them at some point. When does FOX say they'll air them? How's about July 4th? Two months later - on a night most people are out at holiday parties or watching fireworks and such. In short, a very slow television night. No risk there on there part, eh? And what a nice way to treat the fans who talked this show up, FOX.
Okay, fine. I'm cool with that decision. Drive is still in my DVR to-record list so I'll get it months later.

Yeah, right. FOX then says - no, can't do it on the 4th. Let's move it to July 13th.

Okay. Fine. Even USA Today notes it this week in an article about shows getting the rest of their runs put out somehow. What does FOX do? Pulls it again from the 13th and says "oh, we'll just put them on our website so fans can stream them that way".

Ugggggh! I tried watching one of the episdoes on their site (Drive #3 - our power was out due to storms that night so the DVR couldn't record it) and it was painful. It took me over two hours to see 42 minutes of show. Horrible! So, you want me to deal with your wonky servers and waste even more time to view two of them that way? Thanks but no thanks. So if, big IF, FOX does put them on their site (I have my doubts given all their switcheroos so far), I'll still not be able to enjoy them as much as if I could see them nicely on my HD widescreen TV. Thanks a bleeping lot, FOX!

But, I should expect this from them. This isn't the first time FOX has cancelled a show I liked. There was the aforementioned Firefly (best damn sci-fi/western genre mix show ever!) in 2002. FOX aired episodes out of order, jumped it around in the schedule, etc. - but at least we got a nice DVD set out of it! Then there was Life On A Stick also in 2005, That 80's Show in 2002, and Costello in 1998. Okay, those last three were so-so comedies at best but I liked them a lot - they made me laugh which is what comedies are supposed to do!

Ah well. I guess I just get a little grumpy when I get hooked into a new show and then the rug gets pulled out from under me after an extremely short run of episodes. It isn't the first time and it won't be the last. Maybe FOX can redeem themselves and put out a Drive DVD set including a featurette with the producers, etc. telling us how it might have ended. I really don't like to be left hanging.

1 comment:

Jim McClain said...

Don't forget The Tick in 2001, Martin! Frak Fox anyway!