I know you’re thinking “What the hell kind of trick question is that?” I thought with TERMINATOR 4: SALVATION coming out today it might be a good time to throw up a TERMINATOR post. First lets look at some data supplied by TV By The Numbers :
TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES debuted with over 19 million viewers but lets look at the first episode not following an NFL playoff game and in its normal time slot:
Just over 10 million viewers and a 4.3 rating in the 18-49 demo (the only rating that matters from Nielsen) this would be its most successful episode with viewers that again didn’t follow an NFL playoff game.
90210 debuted with nearly 5 million viewers and a 2.7 rating in the 18-49 demo. Here is the first thing that 90210 has in common with TSCC: the debut was the most watched episode and was a hit for the network. In fact 90210 was huge pulling in demo numbers the CW hadn’t seen before or since from scripted programming.
The final episode of TSCC was watched by 3 million viewers and pulled a 1.2 in the 18-49 demo which was up from previous episodes. 90210 had 2 million viewers and a 1.1 in the 18-49 demos which was up from previous episodes.
Both TSCC and 90210 are established brands in the entertainment industry. TERMINATOR being a blockbuster movie franchise and 90210 being a hit tween drama (the last episode of BEVERLY HILLS 90210 was watched by over 25 million people). Both proved one thing when they debuted new incarnations for TV: there was a high demand for the brand on TV.
So the thing in common between the two? Both brands TV productions were killed by the inability to deliver what the masses wanted. 19 million people don’t tune in to a new show because they’re too lazy to change the channel. 5 million viewers and a 2.7 demo for the CW is massive. Both shows watched their audience plummet to abysmal ratings. Neither was able to deliver what the audience wanted and expected when it first tuned in.
TSCC didn’t deliver TERMINATOR magic to the audience. It immediately lost nearly 50% of its audience between the first episode and the second. 90210 lost around 33% of its audience between the first and second episode. TSCC was renewed for a second season and its performance was deserving of one. However the season one finale was so lackluster that by the time season 2 rolled around TSCC lost another 25% of its audience and then another 20% or more between the 1st and 2nd episodes of season 2.
What we definitely know is that there is a demand for high quality TERMINATOR product on TV. I know a lot of TSCC fans are upset with the recent cancellation of the show. They shouldn’t be. This was the correct decision. You may have enjoyed the show, you may have thought the quality was top notch. The problem is the vast majority of people who may want a TERMINATOR show on the air disagreed with you. This wasn’t an example of a show being treated poorly by a network. It got a NFL playoff game launching pad. It was given a decent time slot. It performed well in its normal time slot. It was well advertised. It wasn’t hurt by the writers strike and had the advantage of being fresh tv when everything else was in re-runs.
This could also end up being a good decision for TERMINATOR fans. The demand is obviously there for a good TERMINATOR product on TV. If TSCC had been allowed to continue to run the brand would have been tarnished beyond repair. A new series can rise out of the TSCC disaster that better fits the TERMINATOR brand. Due to it being science fiction and the way things work with the time lines in TERMINATOR they can even bring a new series to air with the same cast or some of the same cast. It can just be done right this time.
Why did TSCC fail? I’m sure there are tons of theories. Mine is that it was the SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES but the most interesting characters weren’t the lead! I was more interested in Cameron or John Conner growing a pair. Sarah in the movies was a well defined and deep character. She was fun to watch even if she was crazy. There was serious potential in making her the lead you wanted to tune in for. The actress playing her was also more than capable. The writers just weren’t up to it. They didn’t understand the Brand enough.
The good news is that TERMINATOR is so iconic a brand and old enough for some extremely talented writers to have grown up loving the movie series. All TERMINATOR needs is the right show runner who “gets it.” Surround him with talent and the potential is vast. There was no chance of saving TSCC it was too far off the track. If the movie does well (and all signs point to it doing well) without leaving a bad taste in peoples mouth (less likely) and the Brand finds itself polished up after the TERMINATOR 3 and TSCC debacles then the market may be ready for a reboot on the little screen.
Lets hope so because I for one wouldn’t mind seeing some true TERMINATOR style action on a weekly basis.