Speaking at Google’s Big Tent event in Sydney yesterday he said: “I’m really worried about the audience. They want to get more involved in the production. What I see as one of the biggest problems is when I hear things about facilitating the audience talking to each other throughout the program.
“It makes my blood run cold because there is a creator and you owe him the duty of coming to his creativity and your choice is to like it or not like it.”
Citing the recent example of the audience anger over the Dexter finale, he said: “What the audience seems to want to do with this new media is hijack the creator.
“My response was ‘bugger you’. You came with the creator, you stayed with him right to the end and even if you didn’t like it, he didn’t let you down, you let him down by not trying to come with him.”
Mumbrella reports he likened the conversations on social media during shows to talking in the cinema, or going to the opera and “singing along with the aria.”
Assuming Lee hasn’t been quoted out of context, I respectfully disagree. And I say that in the light of A Place to Call Home being the best thing Seven has produced this year.
Social media engagement, which is championed by Seven through pro-active FANGO promotions, isn’t about hijacking anything. It’s about facilitating audience response. For centuries the audience has responded to artistic performance, but now it happens in ways we can concurrently agree / disagree / question / laugh / cry in an online space. You can choose to participate or opt out.
Instead of the viewer writing a “Dear Editor” letter to their TV Guide, now they can express a reaction instantly. While this works more effectively for Reality and Panel shows, more than Drama, all of them are valid forms of audience feedback. The audience is still saying whether they “like” or “dislike” a show, albeit with more detail, and frequently with unfiltered emotion.
Shows like Offspring have harnessed this to great effect.
The outpouring over the death of Patrick was genuine audience passion. It made their response tangible, created more awareness, media buzz, higher ratings over successive weeks. All of these are positives. Yes, many were angry and wanted to rewrite the ending. The writers knew they would invoke reaction, having cleverly manipulated viewers to the point at which they were heavily invested.
Dexter viewers were similarly invested, including me, having watched for 8 seasons. The entire season failed to live up to its potential and the finale was the final insult.
Dexter‘s executive producer and showrunner for the first four seasons Clyde Phillips also criticised the finale. Final season producer John Goldwyn also said that the writers were told by Showtime that Michael C. Hall’s character had to stay alive. A financial not an artistic decision.
Social media also helps drive Live viewing, which is why the Seven network has FANGO promos telling us to engage in real time during Home and Away, My Kitchen Rules and, yes, A Place to Call Home. This in turn helps keeps creators and everybody else employed.
What audiences owe creators is honesty.
Social media is just the vehicle for communicating it.