Last week, The Business talked with Damon Lindelof of “Lost” fame, who recently finished his work on “The Leftovers”, after three seasons on HBO. The podcast mostly deals with the audience expectations, particularly in the case of adaptations and how networks, writers, and producers deal with the expectations. Most of the responses and expectations have to do with HBO and the recent “regime change” in terms of how shows stay on the air.
Lindelof: “We were actually I think shooting the first episode when Mike left and Casey came in…I think if we were not in our final year I would probably experience some anxiety about what the direction of the network moving forwards is but I think that the brand of HBO and the kind of television that they want to do transcends any individual…and that The Leftovers was executing what it needed to do to be on HBO’s air”
Part of the reason why HBO works the way it does has to do with the way that audiences react to material. An example that Lindelof brings up is Game of Thrones, which has been a huge success since the beginning in 2010; the show coming up on its final season after being “off book”. This kind of behavior is very similar to franchise fatigue only instead of suffering from it, the studios involved are using it as a gauge to determine program line-up. This is a valuable tool, but it does not always work as Lindelof notes that the situation is different for comedies such as Friends, in which the fatigue does not stem from the audience or critics but from the actors themselves. This kind of approach, of using franchise fatigue as a guage for content, allows us to think about programming, scheduling, and marketing, not just for television but for films. A film that has been in production for two years and is released tomorrow will be read completely differently than it would if it were released in a month. Using this kind of thinking will help filmmakers and television showrunners determine when to release content; and in an industry where timing is everything, such a skill as reading the audience response is a developmental priority.