I’ve talked a lot here about franchises, the advantages that they offer to fans and the reasons they are so appealing to the studios. But the reality of the franchise phenomenon has a lot of downsides, too, and as the size of moviegoing audiences shrinks and the number of live TV viewers dwindles, these downsides have only become more prevalent. Today, let’s delve into the dark side of franchises, and explore why giant franchises aren’t always a good thing.
When you have a shared universe, one of the biggest benefits is the crossover–bringing characters from one show within the property over to another show. Agents of SHIELD is starting off its second season tomorrow with a crossover of sorts, featuring flashbacks with Agent Peggy Carter before her own spinoff starts early next year. While this situation is a little different, as both Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter are spinning off from the same parent property, they still have enough in common to enjoy the benefits of a crossover. And with that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to examine the crossover and how it helps with the cohesiveness and plausibility of a shared universe. Continue reading
So, we’ve discussed the history of the webisode, and looked at some of the earlier examples. But as I said at the end of that piece, those early webisodes are quite different from how this medium is utilized today. If webisodes aren’t usually spinoffs, then what are they? And why should anyone care to look them up?
As we’ve already established, webisodes have been linked with sci-fi for a long time. You occasionally see them for sitcoms (Scrubs: Interns comes to mind), but more often than not, the invented world of a sci-fi show provides the kind of room for exploration needed to create interesting web content. One of the biggest shows to utilize the webisode format has been Doctor Who. As an early adopter to the idea, Doctor Who has experimented a lot trying to figure out what makes for a successful webisode. Naturally, then, I’m going to be using it as an example frequently throughout for the different varieties out there. Without further ado, let’s explore the concept and what value it has in a storytelling capacity. Continue reading
New forms of media are always going to be hard to deal with. Back in the 90’s, and all the time before, a TV viewer got what came on the screen, at a specific time, and nothing more. Did they have to cut a scene for time? You’ll never know, cause you’ll never see it. That started to change when DVDs with bonus features emerged, but it took a while for studios to figure out that adding extra material to the discs could be a real selling point. Deleted scenes, blooper reels, commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes featurettes, even concept art–all these things and more are what helped DVDs become the new default home media experience over VHS. Well, that and ridiculously improved picture quality.
But just as it took time to work out what benefits a DVD offered, so, too, is the usefulness of the Internet being worked out. It’s been known for a long time that the internet offered a very unique point of leverage with a show’s fanbase. Look around Memory Alpha and you’ll see that AOL web chats with the producers (Often Ronald D. Moore, specifically) were common among Star Trek fan circles in the late 90’s. It gave fans some insight into the production of the show, how certain plot points were decided upon (“Whatever happened to Thomas Riker?” being a popular one), and allowed the writers to have some back and forth with the fans, to get a feel for where the show was succeeding and where it was failing to resonate with them. Of course, you always have to be careful when taking advice from the fandom; we often don’t know what we really want, and there have been no small number of shows that have died from catering too much to a picky fanbase. Continue reading
When people like something, they want more of it. It’s a fairly simple concept, and one that lies at the heart of the franchise phenomenon. Doctor Who is, of course, no exception to this. Its varying levels of success over the years have led to the creation of a large number of spinoffs throughout its 50+ year history. Modern ones like The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood are fairly well known and popular in their own right. Some are strangely specific, like the K-9 spinoff that ran on Disney X D in Australia. Hardcore fans are likely familiar with older attempts, such as the Peter Cushing film Dr. Who and the Daleks, which is about a human male named Dr. Who, who creates a time machine and proceeds to go on adventures strangely similar to those from the series. And then there are these, spinoffs that have all but fallen off into the abyss of time.