Following the airing of the sixteenth episode of season 2, “Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep“, Terminator fans have been in bit of a tizzy. Regardless of whether or not they like the episode, there is an agreement (in some cases, a grudging agreement) that the “coo cooo” Sarah story line that started with the three dots and ended with the dream episode has lost the show some previous audience and failed to grab and hold onto new viewers. The fanbase is VERY worried that the death knell for the show was rung with 0216. I’m going to say that we shouldn’t throw in the towel just yet.
In the best of times and the worst of times, the ultimate fate of the show rests with the powers that be at FOX. Regular readers know that I take a lot of shots at “the suits”, but the fact is that they’ve shown remarkable faith in this show. They understand the potential of TTSCC. So, it’s to them much of this blog is targeted.
Since all of the episodes for season 2 have already been shot, there really is nothing to be done about it now. I can’t say if the six episodes yet to air will correct some or all of the concensus problems with the show. I’m going to assume that the pace will pick up a bit as we head into the season finale, but I really have no idea of specifics or what “creative” twists the producers have prepared for the audience. Despite that, I’m going to toss out some thoughts anyway.
With the Sarah’s demons triptych, a lot of scorn has been dumped on Executive Producer Josh Friedman. Given what he’s shared with the fans, some of this scorn might be deserved. I’m going to do some dumping myself. In his defense, a TV show’s auteur sometimes does things that the audience doesn’t appreciate at the time. Case in point, the “dark” season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that sorely tested the faith of the fans with Joss Whedon. In retrospect, and without the weekly pauses and occasional hiatuses, the season is considered in a much better light now than it was at the time. Joss’ advantage was that he’d built up five season’s worth of good will before he went off on a psychological tangent with his main character.
Josh Friedman has admitted, perhaps a little too proudly, that he is usually the one to throw in time-travel and new terminators despite edicts to the rest of the creative team not to. This means that regardless of how anyone else feels about continuity, he’s more than willing to mess it up for a personal giggle. It also shows one of the failings of many scifi shows: no long-term coherent plan.
As I’ve written about, I’m a big fan of the creative team having a general roadmap as to where things are going (Building Terminator – My Plan For Season 2 [Part 1] [Part 2]). Though I’ve seen whiteboard notes and heard comments of story-breaking, I’m not getting a sense that Josh is focused on more than 4-6 episodes down the road. As the producers of Battlestar Galactica and LOST have learned, once you put together a plan, the show starts feeling to the viewers as if the creative team knows what it is doing and isn’t just flailing about.
I’d suggest that the suits at FOX go to Friedman and request/demand (po-tay-to/po-tah-to) that he give them a plan for the next three seasons. He doesn’t need to give specific stories, but he does need to show a blueprint. Josh then needs to meet up with his top writers and draw up a general map. Let everyone know that there is a point to the story and that the creative team is disciplined enough to build the future scripts within that framework (allowing for surprises the do/don’t work).
I’d also suggest to the FOX braintrust that they cancel American Idol as its half-season, multi-night schedule just screws things up for just about every other series on the network. Scheduling pinball is not the best strategy for audience retention. I know they won’t do that, but I thought I throw it out there to show that some of Terminator‘s woes are FOX’s fault as well.
Since FOX pretty much sends series to Friday nights to die (regardless of how much they deny it, it is what it is), why not just keep TTSCC there regardless of its current low ratings? Write off this season and take a chance with a season 3. The worst that happens is that the show dies…but that’s what Fridays are for, right? But if you stick with this series and don’t move it’s time slot, the audience will grow. It’s a “cult” show. If it’s built well and you stick with it, the people will come.
As for building it well — some creative changes might have to be made. I’ve already mentioned requiring the three-season plan. On top of that, the FOX folk might want to insist on using the core ensemble to their fullest. Sarah, John, Cameron, and Catherine have established themselves as the characters with the best chemistry and viewer interest. Some will also throw in Derek, but thus far his utility has been less than those other four. To this end, I’d suggest changing the series title to: Terminator – The Connor Chronicles as it provides a richer treasure of stories as well as informs the public that the series is going to make a change [for the better].
There will likely be some discussion as to whether Josh being a continuing part of the show is a good idea. I don’t see why not. Based on season 1, he clearly understands the sort of storytelling and character interaction that the viewers like, he just made a little detour in season 2, is all.
FOX promotions has got to start understanding what people want to see. Don’t promote certain characters if they aren’t going to be featured in upcoming episodes. Don’t give away spoilers. Show reruns during hiatuses, or marathons on a cable net prior to a season’s start. Basically, do what you can to help the show.
The mid-season hiatus really hurt TTSCC upon its return. First, the night change was barely promoted. Many people who’d gotten used to watching the show on Mondays didn’t know what happened. Second, the lack of reruns during the two-months the show was off the air killed any momentum the show had with fans who weren’t hard-core. If they’d missed episodes during the previous weeks of Monday-night schedule congestion, they got nothing from the network to catch them up. It was basically one-and-done for viewers.
What’s in it for the network? You have a series with a heck of a potential. On Fridays, you pretty much only have one competing show, and the audiences for both (excluding myself) don’t have a huge amount of overlap. FOX has a reputation of giving up on Friday shows: Firefly, The Adventures of Brisco County, Wonderfalls, etc. These shows aren’t easy sells. They take time. If you are already expecting that any show in the slot will fail, and if you show faith in one of them (in this case, Terminator) and it grows, then you come off as geniuses. You can then build on that. Look at CBS. CSI was a left-to-die Friday show. Ghost Whisperer is kicking butt in the ratings for the night. What do they do right? They stick with it.
So, there you have it. Although the beginning of the “back nine” episodes for TTSCC haven’t exactly stunned the entertainment world, that doesn’t mean that the show needs to be written off. FOX has shown more faith in this show than I thought it would, and if they think things through, I believe they’d agree that it’s worth taking one more chance with it.
Clearly the creative pulse of the show needs to be taken and agreed to by the network and producers. I’d caution the network to not try to put their imprint on the plan, but I’d also recommend that Josh consider the suggestions from the network. Focus on the core cast and radiate out from there; don’t let the tail wag the dog.
As for the fans—obviously the starting point is 3 million. That is the faithful fanbase. They are going to stick with the show unless it looks like all hope is lost, and even then most of them will still stick around. If the creative focus of the show returns to being a little more external and not so introspective, there is no reason why the series can’t (re)gain another 2+ million by the winter hiatus. Once that point is reached, and the show is marketed reasonably (and the back-nine episodes aren’t too caught up in the mythology so new viewers can’t catch up), there is no reason why TTSCC can’t begin to make CBS start looking over their shoulder a bit.
Patience. Discipline. Terminators. Skynet. Promotion. Audience. It can happen.
And for the fans: write to FOX and Dodge and whoever it makes sense to in order to let them know that despite this little speedbump, you are still loyal to the show and are eager to promote it to your friends, co-workers, and anyone else within earshot. Josh and FOX have work to do, but so do we fans. Don’t give up on the show. Praise it when it deserves it, and be honest when it falls short. But don’t give up on it. If we don’t, FOX might not.
Remember: The future is not set. There is no fate except what we make for ourselves.
[I’m bolding this because people keep getting mad at me.] I am not FOX. *I* did not cancel TSCC. Being angry at me for something FOX did does you little good. Rant at them.
In the meantime, if you’re searching for not only a continuation but closure, you can hop on over to The Connor Wars for my rather long-winded take (27 1-hour teleplays and a 2-hour screenplay finale) of how the story could have evolved following season 2.
[December 6, 2013: It was announced that a new Terminator TV series is in the works. TSCC alumns Jack Stentz and Ashley Miller are already attached to write and executive produce the show.
This show is not described as a continuation of TSCC, but a series with threads trying back to the new movie reboot. Since there aren’t any firm details of the larger vision, it’s hard to speculate on what exactly this means for either. Let’s just hope the focus is on story — if you have good scripts, the rest sort of follows.
[October 13, 2011: Organizers of the No Fate: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Convention have announced that is scheduled to appear during the May 11-13, 2012 convention.
[December 17, 2010: While this isn’t specifically TSCC season 3 news, at this point some Terminator interest/action is worthy of me posting an update.
Gale Anne Hurd, the original co-writer and executive producer (and half-owner) of Terminator expresses interest in getting the franchise back on track. Read the story here: Original Terminator Co-Writer Wants to Save the Franchise From Itself
And if she’d like another co-writer…I’m here. Waiting.
[June 14, 2010: Veran’ posted an interesting little report over at tsccwiki.wetpaint.com. It’s similar to what we’ve been hearing: DVD, continuation of the story, actors on-board, etc. What’s different is that there are a few more details and–perhaps more significantly–that this isn’t from the mouth of one Thomas Dekker. Nope, Thomas deferred to Brian Austen Green to give the deets. As this is sort of constitutes a second-source, it adds some veracity to the rumors/reports.
[May 3, 2010: Thomas Dekker continuing to be a bit of a tease in this short vid labeled as being done on May 1.
[April 28, 2010: As was hinted at in a recent comment on T I B (link), we have some video confirmation via Thomas Dekker during his promotion of Nightmare on Elm Street (co-screenplay by one of my long-time screenwriting buds, Eric Heisserer). Thomas says that there’s talk of a Firefly/Serenity sort of thing happening and that another one of the actors (not him) is involved in the discussions.
[April 3, 2010: IO9 reports (vid): We caught up with Thomas “John Connor” Dekker, doing press for Nightmare On Elm Street, and we had to ask if a direct-to-DVD Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles continuation might still happen. His answer: Yes. But it’s a secret!
[August 4, 2009: Lanie Grace is reporting that
http://www.fmqinc.com/sarah-connor-chronicles Sarah Connor Chronicles to Continue Late 2010.
More from me at Sarah Connor Chronicles Un-terminated?
[May 17, 2009 update: Entertainment Weekly‘s Michael Ausiello has just reported that Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be listed as canceled once FOX presents at the upfronts later this morning (he’s listing it as officially canceled now).
More from me at Sarah Connor Chronicles Terminated
[May 6, 2009 update: Just saw a report that USA Today may report that TTSCC is canceled. According to “LiquidMetal“, this information comes from a UT editor and not from official sources connected with the show.
Since a show isn’t done until it’s done, keep on contacting TPTB if you want more very scary robots in one of the few SF shows remaining on the air. (savethessc.com)
Lastly… whether there’s a season 3 or not, I couldn’t wait. So I started fanficing my own. The first eppie script has been posted. Check it out (Terminator Fanfic F0301 – “A Thousand Miles”)
[May 1, 2009 update: Polls are starting to come in that have TTSCC being the fan choice for salvation (link).
I’ve been holding off on posting a link to this article because the source’s rep at this point isn’t the best, but as I’ve gotten emails about it I don’t feel that I can’t simply not report it. Just know that this is conflicting with other stories from the press and various insiders, and at this point it’s a pick’em as to who will end up being right — entertainment industry rumors and gossip and politics are like that: (
http://www.fmqinc.com/terminator-season-3-possible/ Terminator Season 3 WB Negotiating with SciFi).
[April 14, 2009 update: Michael Ausiello is reporting a don’t-kill-the-messenger rumor. As his rumors often bear out, I’m reporting it here.
However, a TTSCC writer tweets that this report is very false and implies that it’s related to the previously dissed rumor.
More to come…
[April 4, 2009 update: It appears that the writer of the blog that spurred a lot of cancellation fears fessed up that it was just a ploy to ramp up Net traffic on eir[[daggerto]] site. As is typical of trolls of this sort, ey doesn’t care about the morality or ethics of posting the big lie. They just want to profit. Isn’t that how we got into this economic mess in the first place?
In any event, hopefully that is the beginning of the end for that rumor. Me…I’ve still waiting to see if FOX understands from its past mistakes that rabid fan bases aren’t to be treated lightly. Plus…it has a pretty good show on its hands.
[March 27, 2009 update: There is a blog that is getting linked to (not here) that is broadcasting that the show has been canceled and that it’s been “common knowledge” on the WB lot for some time. There is a significant amount of obviously wrong info in that blog (e.g. ratings numbers that are almost 2 million viewers off) that it seems more likely than not that the blog is bogus.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the report of sets being gone is true. It’s already known that some sets are not going to be used in a season 3, so the studio would of course tear them down and repurpose them for other productions. That’s how it works.
The blog also posts information about how actors are working on other projects. Well, during hiatuses, actors do work on other projects. One cast member whose character has long been assumed wouldn’t last long-term is now signed for another project, but even then actors have been known to have priorities and share agreements written into contracts, so even that information is not useful to guage if the series will be renewed.
For now, keep holding tight and watching. The numbers, both live and delayed have been improving. If any info truly is “common knowledge” on a studio lot, you can be that the rumor mills would have been flooded with this information and the gossip mavens would have spoiled it to the public already.