For those of you who have never seen Fox's brilliant and absolutely hilarious sitcom- Arrested Development, I have to say, you are missing out on something. Really. In the US, over two seasons the show could not get over 4 million viewers. Fox has now cut down the third season to just 13 episodes, although it has told the producers that they can shop around to see if any new network would like to pick it up. Rumour has it that Showtime might just. Most of us blame Fox for not promoting the show in the manner it deserves, and we also blame people for not "getting" it because it does not spell out every single joke for the audience (no laugh tracks)... in fact, oh hell, PLEASE watch it. Its just brilliant.
Someone pointed out something about prefering watching the show on DVD rather than waiting for weekly episodes. In fact, Nielson viewer ratings don't take these factors into consideration. Do we need new ways to measure the audience? Take for instance how DVD sales of TV shows are climbing higher- I've pre-ordered season 2 on DVD myself (its not out in England yet). I'm taking a media economics class, and everyday we talk about convergence- what it means to the media industry- how the consumer has more choice--- pay per view- downloading off the internet (albeit illegal now)-- consumer trends are changing because of the rapid changes in choices. So for networks to cancel a show that actually has a very strong- but small TV base- but a large DVD audience--- is that smart? Joss Whedon was so sure that his show Firefly had an audience (although it was cancelled) that he made Serenity and the movie did fantastically well. Family Guy was taken off the air, and then brought back due to popular demand.
The way we consume television is rapidly changing. I don't have a TV on campus but I watch the news online- I stream BBC shows, I watch Daily Show clips. Tivo caught on because people do not want to be held hostage by a Friday night line-up. The consumer should be king; and with newer technology and better choices this is the fact now.
So, to sum up, if I were Fox, or any large network with a show that was immensely popular, critically hailed as the best TV comedy etc .. but my ratings were not adding up, I'd think twice about cancellation. The message is the medium isn't it? Well, we have more than one medium when it comes to commercial television, so why limit ourselves? A revolution in technology should now be followed by a revolution in programming. And anyway, whats the point in having a gazillion channels if they all show the same crap or re-runs of things we've seen before. Power to the people I say!