PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA, THE: WEB MEDIA: CLICK CRITICS: THE POWER OF FAN WEBSITES {LONG VERSION}

Summary

One in a series of seminars presented by The Paley Center for Media which celebrates web media. Held at the Paley Center in New York, this evening celebrates “click critics” and the power of television fan websites. Host Pat Mitchell (president and CEO, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks before introducing novelty musical group Previously On Lost, who perform the song “Just Wink” inspired by a fourth season episode of “Lost,” “Confirmed Dead.”

Moderator Alan Sepinwall (television writer, the Star Ledger) then takes the stage and introduces the panelists: Daniel Manu (site director, Television Without Pity); Kevin Coy (creator of Lostpedia); Jennie Tan (creator of Office Tally, a website for “The Office”); Erica Blitz (creator of Galactic Sitrep, a site for “Battlestar Galactica” and its spinoffs); Remona Outar (creator of Ugly Is In, a site for “Ugly Betty”); and Damon Schmidt (creator of Whedonesque, a site for the shows created by Joss Whedon).

The discussion touches on such topics as: the creators’ “origin stories” and how they became fans of the shows about which they blog; their experiences with computer programming; the way in which narrative shows, as opposed to shows with stand-alone episodes, tend to attract a more devoted fan following; how many modern shows are “tailor-made” for an internet following because of their complex natures; the draw of being able to discuss shows with other fans immediately; the decline of “passive viewing”; the usefulness of blogs and fan comments in noticing small details in shows; the disadvantages of a devoted fanbase, including overanalysis and nasty comments; the bloggers’ experiences with show creators, including visits to sets; varying creator reactions to fansites, ranging from Aaron Sorkin’s displeasure at fan criticism and Joss Whedon’s regular participation with the site Whedonesque; the contrast between blogs that are read by fans and message boards that feature discussions; whether focus groups use fan websites to gauge viewer desires, Whedon’s analysis that shows should “give fans what they need, not necessarily what they want”; debate over whether creators should write according to fan response or solely from their own ideas; the benefits of creating interesting controversy on shows; the pre-internet presence of devoted fans, and how the web simply makes interaction and discussion easier; the bloggers’ feelings and policies about spoilers and how they affect the viewing of a show; and an exciting plot twist on “Ugly Betty” that turned “regular fans into superfans” and crashed the website.

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics: whether the bloggers have been approached by corporations interested in buying their websites, and their reactions; the perils of criticizing “the powers that be,” i.e., the networks; fans’ impact on whether a show is cancelled or not, and how a fan campaign saved the show “Roswell” for a season; the accessibility of many actors to fans through the internet; whether fans stay tuned in to websites during hiatus; adjusting websites to accommodate new fans and new developments in the shows; the usefulness of archives within the sites; the contrast of online fan reaction versus TV ratings; the fansites’ similarity to fan clubs for old radio soap operas; how TV exists to sell advertising, not necessarily to please fans; the Nielsen ratings system and whether more TVs will be equipped with a box in the future; how some TV producers leak information to fansites to generate buzz and their lack of control over the users as focus groups; the danger of alienating “passive viewers” with too many in-jokes and extra details; how “Lost” in particular goes out of its way to make sure that the “extras” are not required to enjoy the show; and the problems of restrictions and rules on the websites to prevent conflict, including the issue of “shipping” (fans’ vehement support of one in-show relationship over another).

Previously On Lost then takes the stage again and performs the song “Be My Constant.”

Clips from various TV shows are interspersed throughout the program, including: “Lost” (2004), a scene from the episode “Lockdown” in which a complex map is briefly shown, which was then scrutinized by online fans; “The West Wing” (1999), a scene from the episode “The U.S. Poet Laureate,” in a character finds a catty website that criticizes his actions and behavior, inspired by Sorkin’s real-life experience with Television Without Pity; “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997), a scene from the episode “Seeing Red,” which features a memorable and very controversial character death; “The Office” (2005), a scene from the episode “Casino Night,” which features a fan-favorite romantic encounter; “Battlestar Galactica” (2004) a scene from the episode “Crossroads: Part 2,” in which a character presumed dead makes a shocking reappearance; and “Ugly Betty” (2006), a scene from the episode “In or Out,” in which a character also presumed dead reappears.

Details

  • NETWORK:
  • DATE: May 19, 2008 Monday 6:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:20:33
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:92310
  • GENRE: Seminars
  • SUBJECT HEADING:
  • SERIES RUN:
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Pat Mitchell … Host
    • Alan Sepinwall … Moderator
    • Daniel Manu … Panelist
    • Kevin Coy … Panelist
    • Jennie Tan … Panelist
    • Erica Blitz … Panelist
    • Remona Outar … Panelist
    • Damon Schmidt … Panelist
    • Previously On Lost … Performer
    • Aaron Sorkin
    • Joss Whedon