Do producers and TV networks have an obligation to their viewers?
Producers and networks are increasingly using long-term plotlines in order to keep viewers returning week after week. In shows such as 24, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Prison Break, and the like, a long-term, overarching plot line keeps moving the narrative forward as each episode resolves lesser elements of the story.
It’s a great way to keep viewers interested in a show, and when done well, it gives a program the narrative drive of a Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins or Anthony Trollope.
But what happens when such a show gets canceled? Should viewers who have invested multiple hours in a program just be left hanging?
That has been the case in the past, with cancellations of programs such as Point Pleasant and Miracles, and it appears that we’re never going to find out who killed Boston medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh’s mother in Crossing Jordan, which NBC cancelled at the end of this just-concluded season.
CBS, however, has decided to reward its viewers’ investment in the prgram Jericho, which the network cancelled last week after one full season. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Since [the cancellation announcement], passionate "Jericho" fans have organized and bombarded the network with letters and e-mails that state feelings, such as, "This show has touched us like no other before" and "CBS has cast aside a gem in Jericho." An online petition, http://www.jericholives.com, already has 60,000 signatures. . . .
[CBS President of Entertainment Nina] Tassler was so moved by the response that she posted a letter to the fans on http://www.cbs.com, her spokesman, Chris Ender, said. . . .
In the letter, Tassler told the fans that she also loved the show: "We truly appreciate the commitment you made to the series and we are humbled by your disappointment. In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the ‘Jericho’ story."
CBS executives will meet this week to discuss how the network can let the fans know how the "Jericho" story would have ended.
It’s interesting to see Tassler explicitly acknowledge and apprecaite the viewers’ commitment to the series, and recognize that it is both the right thing and a good public relations move for the network to oblige them by providing a sense of closure.
That’s the right move, and let’s hope that other networks follow suit.