Babylon 5: Should I invest my money and time? ANSWER IN POST #500

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 15, 2004.

  1. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Sadly, something like Babylon 5 would only be possible if a studio was willing to make a long-term commitment (5 years in the case of Bab 5 and even that got dicey) to a show, and allow full creative control to one person -- since everything was in JMS's head, and everything came from it, Bab 5 had a coherence simply impossible in any other "franchise" or "universe" that springs from multiple sources.

    The closest equivalent I can imagine today would be if someone allowed Joss Whedon full licence to run with Firefly/Serenity, which from what little we have seen shows there was the possibility of larger arcs, but as we all know the TV show was cut down even before a full season, and I don't hold my breath for any sequels to the movie, much as I would like them.

    The sad fact is that in an environment dominated by ratings and sweeps, no network is going to have the patience (and cojones) to allow a single writer/producer the leeway JMS got with Babylon 5. And we're all that much poorer for it.
     
  2. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Except that B5 got made and there was no such commitement. It was a question every single year if they show was going to be renewed and the fifth season almost didn't happen because the network went out of business, even though the show itself was doing OK. In today's universe of 13 episode seasons and cable original shows that can be "hits" with a million or two million viewers, a show like B5 is still quite possible.

    B5 survived (and JMS was left alone to do what he wanted with it) because it was produced cheaply enough that the studio could break even on it from the first-run license fees. Once PTEN had aired each episode two times that show was at least paid for and the studio couldn't lose money on it. (And was assured a profit from overseas sales and later syndication.) That was one of the requirements for all the PTEN shows. The series didn't cost the network a lot to buy, so as long as the ratings were decent it didn't pay to get rid of it and bring in another show that might cost more and do no better in the numbers department. And it was basically a free show for the studio.


    The other shows you mentioned were more ambitious when it came to physical production, and ran on networks that demand higher ratings to keep a show on the air. The more money a studio puts into a series, the more control over it they want - especially if what it costs them to produce the show exceeds the license fee the network is paying per episode. (Which is the norm in American TV.) A show produced at a deficit can only turn a profit if it lasts long enough to sell into syndication (today possibly through DVD sales at all) and that only happens if the show does about 100 episodes - 4 or 5 season's worth. So the studios always have an incentive to keep shows going at least five years. The networks don't. Their incentive is to dump an underperforming show and replace it with one that will attact more eyeballs.

    And I think a show like Lost, 24 or many other recent "arc" shows belies the idea that this sort of thing can only be done by a single creative mind. TV has always been a collaborative medium, and has always been controlled by ratings and money. None of this is new. But TV has also managed to create genuine art, from time to time. Mozart wrote for money, too, let's all remember, and Michaelangelo put up with a lot more crap from his money men than any modern TV producer ever did.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  3. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Exception that proves the rule?

    Fair enough, doesn't have to literally be a single creative mind, but one of the points being made was how almost throwaway lines in early episodes paid off several seasons later. I can't see that level of coherence being maintained if there are multiple writers; possible I guess if each writer does more-or-less standalones and the series creator polishes everything later, and inserts "arc" references as well (maybe Buffy and/or Angel managed this under Joss Whedon, but I never watched Buffy and whilst I do watch Angel, not closely enough to note these things), or individual writers are given the storyline to flesh out, with specific points that must be included in the teleplay.
     
  4. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    As much as I ended up liking Buffy & Angel (especially Angel), they clearly didn't have a lot of plans. At best the arcs are seasonal. Angel manages a little more inter-season arc-based storytelling, but it seems pretty clear to me it was being made up on the fly, season to season (kinda like the X-files).
     
  5. KyleC

    KyleC Supporting Actor

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  6. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    I'm in the process of introducing my wife to the show. We are nearly at the end of season 1 and she already likes it. (She loved, loved DS9.) By the time we get into season 2, she'll be hooked. (This is at least my third viewing.) We saw "Eyes" last night -- I was surprised to learn today that the actor who played the colonel in it is Sir George Martin's son!

    Anyway, great show, one for the history books.
     
  7. KyleC

    KyleC Supporting Actor

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    Is there a list somewhere online of how JMS wants the order of the episodes (or if the DVD is correct a full list)?

    I was using this but wanted to make sure:
    http://babylon5.epguides.info/
     
  8. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    This is the most exhaustive resource on all things B5:

    The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5

    The DVD order is pretty much as the show was intended. It's really an issue when watching "Crusade," however. The airing order was completely out of whack.

    Speaking of Crusade, the B5Scripts people just announced that another book, containing the movie scripts, is scheduled for later this year. Missing from the list, however, is "A Call to Arms," which to me means one thing: Crusade script books sometime in '09.
     

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