It appears that in an effort to discover success in a made for television series, producers, writers and TV moguls of three major entertainment networks are reaching into the past and the vast library of fairytale literature to find another answer to capturing viewer ratings, an absolute fundamental in a networks ability to establish profitable advertising rates. As is the case in most newly crafted ventures and inventions that are deemed to be worthy of even the slightest hint of commercial success, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and the television medium seems to have firmly pronounced the fabled quote as their industries collective mission statement.
The Fox Television Network’s part-time-travel, part-conspiracy-theory-thriller Sleepy Hollow blew its competition away by pulling in 10.1 million viewers in its debut episode, making it Fox’s highest-rated drama premiere in more than six years. From an advertising perspective, Fox pulled in a 3.5 rating among viewers 18 to 49, otherwise known as the people who advertisers care the most about because they’re more likely to buy things. The series is based upon the sci-fi, fable “The Headless Horseman”, and is not the first adaptation of fairytale literature to be mined and exploited in an interest to finding marketable, ratings success.
In 2011 NBC introduced Grimm, “a cop drama with a twist; a dark and fantastical project about a world in which characters are inspired by Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales. The shows performance in its first two seasons has earned it a renewal for its third consecutive season. Not wanting to be out imitated, ABC introduced Once Upon a Time, an American fairy tale drama series that premiered in 2011. The show takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, the residents of which are actually characters from various fairy tales that were transported to the “real world” town and robbed of their real memories by a powerful curse. Episodes typically feature a primary storyline in Storybrooke, as well as a secondary storyline usually from another point in a character’s life before the curse was enacted. And what follows each truly ratings successful television series? A spine-off of course; premier Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, offering similar virtues and vices of its predecessor, Wonderland takes the formers approach of combining characters from different stories into one general fantasy world.
Perpetuating a genre to ever more elevated heights is nothing new to the television ratings gathering game, the strategy follows decades of successful examples like the multiple Law & Order Brands, the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) portfolio and the twins, NCIS and NCIS Las Anglos just to name a few mega, serial drama ratings hits. The strategy goes something like this. Take a proven winner, tweak a few features, add a bell here and a whistle there, repackage, rebrand where necessary, spread the clone across the entirety of the social and demographic spectrum and ride it into history. Caching!
The television entertainment industry has routinely and effectively mastered the art of giving its consumers more of what they want. Whether satisfying their penchant for drama, appetite for mindless and sometimes altered reality, unbridled appreciation for dance and musical talent and fascination with all things historic and antique. The television industry has discovered the winning formula for delivering more of everything television viewers want.
Sleepy Hollow has benefited from a slew of early, positive reviews but with the shows Halloween feel and modern take on the age-old story of the Headless Horseman, will viewers continue to tune in after the holiday is over. Given the past success of supernatural hits such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grimm, the answer is probably yes, indicating that you don’t necessarily have to keep you head in the heat of the ratings battle to be victorious.