Screwed by the Network

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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"Starting now on Channel 4 is a brand new show that we paid a ridiculous amount of money for which we'll launch in a blaze of publicity, and after a few weeks we'll get bored of it and move it around the schedule where no-one can find it, then we'll brand it a flop, take it off the air for six months, then reluctantly put it back on at three in the morning."

Dead Ringers, explaining this Trope in action.

The prototypical Network Executive's time revolves not around nurturing talent for the benefit of all, but around making him or herself look competent. That means appearing responsible for every success and innocent of every failing that the network might have, irrespective of whether this was actually the case. Plus, the people that the executive is trying to convince are his or her fellow executives, who are likewise having the exact same neurotic crisis day in and day out.

Nevertheless, the need to keep their channels populated with new shows means that their commissioning bodies will keep putting forward all kinds of shows that may or may not appeal to the network executives' sensibilities.

For this reason, the execs will sometimes find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in charge of a show that they do not understand and therefore do not know what to do with. This presents them with a tricky situation: if the show is a failure they risk losing face, but if the show is a success then they'll look redundant.

Alternatively, the show may be a legacy commission under your predecessor, which is worse—because if it's a success, they'll have one up on you, but if you cancel it straight off, you'll lose all plausible deniability when people call you petty and small.

The answer to both of these problems, of course, is to screw the show over completely. Put it in a different time slot each episode, show it in the wrong order, bury it at midnight or in the Friday Night Death Slot, put it up against the other networks' strongest shows... do everything you can for it to build up a regular viewing audience that's not quite big enough to warrant the budget, but just big enough to cause some trouble when you cancel it for not "attracting the right audience."

Then wipe your beaded brow, pop a few pills, put on your best happy face, and chant your power mantra. So long as you look good in the eyes of others, everything will be fine. And that's what this job is about, right? Right?

Okay, okay—not all network executives are like this. There exist the individuals who intentionally seek out creative people to make shows that don't just Follow the Leader, and as they get promoted, they may become the very predecessors these shows are inherited from. However, screwing a show happens more often than you may wish to believe, and typically it's because They Just Didn't Care.

FOX is legendary for doing this. Syfy's earlier incarnation, the Sci-Fi Channel, has a bad reputation for it, too, but not quite to the "four episodes only, aired on a 'when we feel like it' basis" extreme. Cartoon Network has also gained notoriety for this.

Please try to avoid listing shows as being "screwed" just because of a disagreement over the reasons for their Cancellation. Plenty of shows are canceled simply because they just weren't making any money even with the network backing it. This is about intentional sabotage (or at the least making decisions so stupid it looks like it was intentional), not "the mean network executives cancelled my favorite show".

Often the cause of Follow Up Failure. Compare Executive Meddling, Executive Veto, Too Good to Last, Invisible Advertising, and Screwed by the Lawyers. Also compare No Export for You, though that doesn't affect the actual production, but the export of a given product.

Rarely, the situation will invert itself with Network to the Rescue. Contrast with Adored by the Network.

Examples of Screwed by the Network are listed on these subpages: