Now the BBC has cancelled Robin Hood, the only surviving Saturday night escapist fantasy dramas are Doctor Who and Merlin. Robin Hood got under 2 million viewers for its last episode. Amazingly, this is mainly because it was shoved over onto BBC2 so that BBC1 could keep Andy Murray on screen.
Why not put Andy Murray on BBC2? Because received wisdom is that if you encourage people to reach for their remote control, they will notice all the other buttons as well as the one you want them to push. “Sod this for a game of soldiers. I’m not watching that snobs’ channel. What are Ant and Dec up to?”
Since Merlin is (a) rubbish and (b) looks expensive, it’ll be next for the chop, though it may get one more run.
The comment thread on the above-linked story tells the tale: very few defenders of the awful Robin Hood. Why was it so bad?
The simple answer is: contempt for the audience. Because people who work in the media often have contempt for the very people who ultimately pay their wages by watching their shows, it may seem odd to you. But they see shows like Buffy, The X Files, Supernatural and Smallville. and they don’t think, “These are slick shows with great teams of writers, character-driven plots, and pretty decent actors…” Instead, they think, “We could produce crap like this. Those people will watch anything. Let’s hire some cheap writers and unemployed actors who won’t care that the script is terrible.”
So they go off and produce crap, and lo, the prophecy fulfils itself. Doctor Who continues to be a success not because those people will watch anything, but because every now and then there’s an episode like “The Girl in the Fireplace”, “The Empty Child,” or “Blink.”
Sadly, nobody at the BBC (or ITV) seems to realise this.
In related news, Ravi Somaiya in the Guardian asks why summer blockbusters are so dire? Simple answer: contempt for the audience.