Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blame the audience

So Being Human and Outcasts have finished their seasons.

Being Human is a shoe-in for renewal, Outcasts is already cancelled. (Apparently the US version of Being Human is doing well - some of the dialogue is straight out of the UK version.)

I went to a Q&A with the creator of Being Human, Toby Whithouse, last year. I have read an interview with the creator of Outcasts and read a comment or two from the Producer.

Being Human is enthralling, powerful and threaded with its core theme: being human.

Outcasts was boring. I hate to say that because people worked their arses off to produce it and I desperately wanted to like it.

But now I read what the creator and producer are saying - and basically they are blaming the audience for not liking it, not being willing to put up with it being boring. Also, according to the producer as quoted in SFX, us geeks didn't like it because we just want action and shooty guns and aliens. (He didn't use those words, but that's what he said.) 

Hm, that's why we love Being Human so much then. The action and the shooty guns and the aliens. Well, the last scene of Being Human lasted for nearly 15 minutes, almost all talk and it was gripping - because it was all about the core theme of the show.

I mean I could talk about writers who know nothing of science not realising that writing science fiction doesn't mean you can just make stuff up (manipulating DNA with ultrasound at long range - oh puh-lease, there are fundamental Physics reasons why you couldn't do that) but then we'd be here all night. But even that would have been forgivable if the overall story had been character-driven instead of plot-driven (another common error among those who don't understand SF).

So, what's the difference between the two shows really? Theme and expression of theme. Being Human has it, Outcasts squandered its opportunities. And theme is not characters uttering portentous but ultimately meaningless phrases like "This changes everything" when, in fact, nothing's changed. Which is what we got instead.

There is only one reason why people switched off Outcasts, it broke the fundamental rule of writing: It was boring and that is not the fault of the audience.

(Yes, I know some people liked it, of course some people did, everybody's different and has different tastes, this is all my opinion obviously - but, to the majority, it was not appointment TV and that cannot be argued with.)

It has been suggested, with some justification, that perhaps a writer (especially a wannabe such as I) should not denigrate another writer's work - after all, how would I like it if someone did it to me? I expect I wouldn't like it at all, but I do know that if I had a cataclysmic failure like this, I wouldn't be blaming the audience.

We write to entertain the audience, and if they are not entertained the fault is ours not theirs.

What's on the turntable? "The Rube Thing" by the Esbjorn Svensson Trio from "E.S.T. Live in Hamburg"


Yehudah Jez Freedman said...

I'm not sure that's what Ben Richards meant to be fair. I can't comment on the series because I didn't see it, but I think his point was that the fanbase that stayed with it did so - but the casual viewer didn't.

So for example, when you sit down to write a script you might have a target audience in mind, but a slot or even a channel won't be decided until later - often much, much later. Does that impact on writing the series you want to write?

And for example, had Outcast premiered on BBC3 this sunday to replace Being Human, how would it have done?

Being Human ended its run with 1 million viewers, which is seen as a big success for that channel. Outcasts ended with more than twice that in an obscure spot on BBC1 late Sunday night. Presumably the viewers that stayed with it were fans of the show and genre. So let's say for arguments sake only half that audience would've seeked it out and watched it on BBC3. It then would've outperformed Being Human.

So where does that leave us?

Adaddinsane said...

Horrified? Despairing?

Blaming the audience?