Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Arrested Development: When Great Ideas Go Unnoticed

Arrested Development was a television sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz that aired on FOX between 2003 and 2006. In 2006, the FOX Broadcasting Company cancelled the show much the chagrin of their fan base. Despite the show's raving reviews (listed in 2007 as one of Time magazines "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME") and multiple awards (six Emmy's & one Golden Globe), "the story about a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together" never obtained the viewership and ratings it needed to be a hit.

There are a number of theories as to why the show never took off, some of which include blaming FOX for constantly shuffling their time slot and not marketing the show well enough. While there may be some truth to those claims, the simple fact is that FOX did a poor job of bringing Arrested Development to their true raving fans, the ones that would spread the message and genius of the show far and wide.

Arrested Development was an intelligent comedy that had themes well beyond just the dysfunctional family dynamic. To succeed the show needed to find intelligent people. But the people who actually connected with the intelligent humor of the show were watching less TV than the average American. This created a dilemma that the show wasn't able to overcome (at least not back in 2006). Great ideas fail everyday for this exact same reason. When you are trying to win over an audience that is in a completely different arena from the one your game is being played, you are doomed to fail.

What FOX should have done was bring the show to its true fans and not wait for people to start noticing. The fans the show needed did in fact consume media (TV and the Internet) they just weren't consuming FOX. Their potential fans were however taking in plenty of the The Daily Show, but unlike Arrested Development, they were able to watch The Daily Show reruns straight from their computers on comedycentral.com.

It's not fair to completely blame FOX though for the shows failings when much is due to just poor and unlucky timing. Take for instance the fact that the show is about a rich and corrupt family's fall from the prominence of corporate America. A story of corruption like this works much better with today's business climate of bank bailouts, lavish CEO compensation and billion dollar Ponzi schemes.

The show would also do better in today's world because of the increased use of the Internet. Hulu, Netflix, OnDemand services and network websites, make it much easier now for a show to be accessed by their true raving fans. On top of that, by adding social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to the picture, you then give them a platform to communicate with you, spread the word and quite literally "become a fan" of Arrested Development. Simply stated, the Internet has become the ultimate platform for great ideas to spread.

The cancellation of Arrested Development teaches us that while timing is an important factor in the success or failure of an idea, you still have to find your true fans in order for your great idea to spread. However, if your fans are somewhere you are not, then stop and go to them.
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