This is what every frustrated fan of a canceled show fails to get. A small group of passionate viewers isn't enough. There is a separate game being played behind the scenes that is entirely about how much a network can charge for ad space. "[Focus groups] won't be correct all of the time in seeing if a show will be popular, but what they will tell you is who it's for and how much it can bring them ... there's only a 6 percent chance that a bought pilot will make it to air, so they need to be sure. That's why we still do this."
Related: 5 Things I Learned As A Child Star Of The Worst Movie Ever
As You Can Guess, Show Creators Hate All Of This
Many in the industry hate focus groups because of how easily they can make or break shows, as well as, you know, crush their dreams. For example, one comedy pilot about zombies was pretty much killed because of a single bad focus group that didn't like all of the cannibalism. The creative minds behind the shows do not enjoy this, as Tyler can tell you. "This thing they've spent years on can be deep-sixed in a matter of days ... I've seen veteran showrunners, who have five or six good series under their belt, start shaking in the booth when they watch a focus group."
You are, after all, talking about hundreds of hours of their work, millions of dollars of someone else's money, and who knows how many creative decisions along the way. All hanging on this one group of strangers pulled off the street (the creator of Lost likened it to going to the dentist, though at least there your sensitive nerves are in the hands of a professional).
"We had Chuck Lorre here once (the guy behind The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men, and others) ... that whole screening was a disaster ... about five minutes in, one of the writers said, 'This is my favorite joke,' and Lorre said, 'Mine too.' Not only did it tank, but half the audience 'tuned out' right after it." As in, they hit the button that says they'd have changed the channel after that joke.
"Those screening room booths are like a two-way police station mirror, and it's also soundproof. I'm telling you because [the writer] got so mad and said, 'You fuckers don't know comedy! What the fuck is wrong with all of you!' ... By the end of the screening, with 60 people watching, all but eight had tuned out ... Lorre had already left."
Would you have liked those jokes the focus group hated? We'll presumably never know.
Evan V. Symon is an interviewer, journalist and interview finder guy at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience for a Personal Experience? Hit us up here today!
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