When Fans Weigh In

Posted on December 3, 2012 

A discussion about "Nashville" has gotten me to thinking about how much fans like/dislike some aspect of a show will influence producers.

In Matt Roush's column on TVGuide.com, he discusses how much the mayor's race storyline detracts from the show and speculates as to how much attention the producers will pay to it in future episodes.

In the internet age, producers now have instant access to fan reaction among social media, message boards, blogs, etc. While I can't think of any cases in which I've heard a producer say he or she changed some aspect of the show because of fan reaction, at the same time, you can seem to tell on certain shows that the producers have been mindful of the fans.

Take "The Walking Dead," for example, which has been phenomenal this season. Last season, fans complained that the action dragged quite a bit with the group hiding out on the farm. This season, no one can complain about the action levels, which have been harrowing as the group hides out in the prison.

Was this always the plan, or did the producers deliberately amp up the action because of fan complaints? It's hard to tell, but it's hard to imagine that there is NOT a connection between the two.

Roush cites the negative reaction to the Nikki and Paolo characters on "Lost" as a prime example of instant fan backlash, but at least the producers recognized that and gave us a great sendoff to that forgettable couple.

He also points to the subplot involving Kalinda and her ex-husband on "The Good Wife," which has been one of the show's rare missteps. The producers have dialed it back a little, but by the time the first few episodes air of a series, there are already a bunch in the can, so they can't just get rid of the ex-husband that quickly.

On the one hand, it's good that producers are taking into account fans' strong feelings about a character or plotline to a show and aren't stubborn in trying to force it onto the show's fans.

On the other hand, if producers try to please all of the fans by adjusting plotlines based on reactions, they may not end up pleasing anybody. Plotlines are planned over the series of a course of months, and producers can't just abandon one easily if initial reaction to it is mixed.

And sometimes, if the fans are patient enough, a character or storyline initially disliked can pay off in the future. For example, without the farm storyline on "Walking Dead," we don't get great characters like Herschel and Maggie. So it can often be worth it to stick with a show even if there's an aspect to it that doesn't seem to work at the beginning.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: If you like Blake Shelton, tonight's the night for you as NBC follows two hours of "The Voice" with "Blake Shelton's Not-So-Family Christmas" at 10 p.m., featuring a variety of guest stars including Christina Aguilera, Reba McIntyre and Miranda Lambert.

CBS' comedies are new, followed by a new "Hawaii Five-0" at 10 p.m., while ABC has two hours of "Extreme Home Makeover," followed by a new "Castle."

Fox is new with "Bones" and "The Mob Doctor" from 8-10 p.m., as is The CW with "90210" and "Gossip Girl."

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