Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adios, Rubicon

Ugggh! I just posted about how much I liked Rubicon a couple of days ago (along with my fears that the show might get cancelled), and then today Paul Toohey sent me a link about how the show isn't going to be renewed for next season.
I'm not going to lie- I'm annoyed. I'm annoyed that American audiences have such a hard getting behind shows that demonstrate a little bit of intelligence and ask their audiences to think a bit (I guess that Madmen is sort of an exception to this rule, but by all accounts, Madmen has managed to stay on the air at least as much because of the displays of retro fashion and the glamorous look of the actors as opposed to genuine interest in the story lines and events of the show).
I'm also a little annoyed because whenever I finally do manage to find an interesting show, it seems to get yanked off the air in the middle of a fairly complex, serialized story. It's hard to want to keep getting invested in some of the more intelligent, complicated shows when you know that there's not much of a chance that you're ever going to see the show reach a satisfactory conclusion. (right from the get go I was worried about this with Rubicon- from the first episode I suspected that the show would ask too much of a mainstream audience, although I held on to hope that A&E might be a network where the show could find viewers)
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles suffered, Caprica, and now Rubicon, all thought provoking shows, have recently suffered this fate. The networks keep trying to bring us something better, but television dramas with decent writing just have a really hard time surviving- while reality shows (e.g., The Jersey Shore) continue to rocket along in the ratings.
With very few notable exceptions, people just like flashy, bite sized pieces of entertainment that they don't have to think about too much.
Incidentally, I think that a lot of voters operate under the same parameters when deciding who to support. But that's a whole different conversation...


The League said...

What I will say is this: Mad Men was a TERRIBLE lead in for Rubicon. I know AMC wanted to put their hot new show on after their hot existing show. But Mad Men is a melodrama about characters and their inner lives (ie: a high end soap). Rubicon... not so much.

Mad Men is a lot more than the window dressing (although I know plenty of people who watch it for that alone). Its a smartly written show, and has some of the single best episodes of any show I've seen on TV. And there's probably a lesson in there for shows like Rubicon. Give people a reason to show up and get invested. Lost did this both on purpose and by accident.

Don't worry, dude. If you're looking for hope that smart, well written shows can make it: Smallville is still on the air after 10 years.

J.S. said...

Just for the record, I never meant to imply that Madmen was just window dressing. Just saying that shows rarely survive on just good writing, and the fashion choices and conspicuous good looks of the actors on Madmen surely helped it survive as much or more than the plotlines (and there were some good looking folks on Rubicon, too, but it didn't have the same fashion sense that seems so intriguing to the Madmen audience).
Part of what I find annoying, though, is that audiences need the whole "reason to show up" thing, or at least I'm annoyed insofar as that reason needs to be some sort of gimmick beyond good writing, plot, characters, and acting.

The League said...

Well, I also think the ads by AMC for Rubicon were terrible. (a) They played the whole thing so mysterious, all I got was that it seemed like some sort of espionage thing. Maybe. (b) They also made me believe that if I wasn't there for the pilot, I couldn't get on board. That may or may not have been true, but it was absolutely my impression. With so much on the TV landscape, its hard to get jazzed for picking up another show that feels like a commitment rather than a "eh, if I catch it, I catch it" sort of thing.

J.S. said...

Well, Rubicon WAS a show that had a plot line that was pretty hard to sum up in a simple ad (although they could have done a better job at conveying the overall premise). As for the "it's hard to jump in midstream"- well, that was sort of true, but that's pretty much true for every drama on TV nowadays (because they all seem to employ serialized plots that are contingent on knowledge of prior episodes). They did a good job of rebroadcasting prior episodes, and they put some prior episodes and a good, 5 minute synopsis of the show up on their web site. In the post that I put up today there's a link to an article where the writer explains that the show was difficult to get into, but ultimately the reward was well worth the effort (and he makes the point that most of the viewing audience for Madmen caught up with the show on DVD or through reruns and weren't there to watch the original episodes in the first season).
I think that if AMC would have stuck with Rubicon through one more season they could have had a real hit on their hands.

The League said...

You know, that's a great point. I wonder what would have happened had Rubicon been given another 2 seasons for people to find it in those alternative outlets.

That said, The Nielsens are horribly broken. Its so hard to see who is watching what out there, that I think the best bet for networks is really to follow those alternative outlets for sales and downloads before making a summary judgment.