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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Several Products That Were in a Slump then HIT IT BIG. (Part 3 of Thoughts on the Cancellation of AMC and OLTL)

The boneheaded decision of ABC Daytime President Brian Frons to Cancel All My Children and One Life to Live may come back to haunt him.

Slumps are a natural part of the Entertainment cycle. I can remember several types of media that were considered dead during a dry period but made a huge comeback when new creators came in and sparked the interest of new readers, viewers and customers. With the right writers and creative people at the helm, anything can make a comeback. So I wouldn’t say the soap opera is dead.

Think about it. The following products were on the brink of cancellation back in the day, but now are leading International franchises like:

Batman- In the late 60’s the campy “Batman” TV show was all the rage. But you couldn’t GIVE a Batman Comic book away back then. Yes, back then DC Comics was actually considering cancelling Batman.

Then DC comics editorial decided to hand the book to a young writer named Denny O’Neil and an young artist named Neal Adams who took the character back to his darknight detective roots and re-defined the character, and renewed interest in him. Since that 1970’s revival, Batman has been Warner Brothers top franchise and is a character recognized all over the world. His likeness is featured on everything from movies, to party favors.

The X-Men. Way back in 1974, X-men was one of the worst selling comics at Marvel. It was doing so poorly that editors put the series on hiatus after issue #68 and reprinted old issues until issue #94. It seemed the whitebread mostly white male team of superheroes making a commentary about discrimination and intolerance appealed to no one.

Then Editors hired a new writer Chris Claremont and created an international X-team consisting of people all over the world in 1975. With his complex, three-dimensonal stories paired with the art of Dave Cockrum then John Byrne, X-men went from being one of Marvel’s poorest sellers to its best selling comic of all time. Since that definitive run back in the 70’s, the X-men have grown into a franchise featuring Movies, three TV series, action figures and everything else.

Daredevil- Another one of Marvels poorest selling titles, DareDevil was one of Marvel Comics’ poorest sellers and was in serious consideration for being cancelled. The blind lawyer turned superhero was originally a suave swashbuckler in red. While he had an interesting rogues gallery, he never really caught on with readers.

Then writer and artist Frank Miller came in and wrote a gritter darker hero who defended Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. Sales took off and DareDevil became of Marvel’s most popular characters. So popular he’s been immortalized in several action figures and had his own movie in 2003 starring Ben Affleck.

Iron Man –A comic series that struggled for close to a hundred issues without focus or direction Iron Man was the third of several poor selling titles at Marvel Comics. In its earliest days didn’t know whether it wanted to be an action comic, a political comic, or a romance comic. With a whitebread supporting cast and cold-war communist villains the book was directionless and out of touch with readers. By the late 1970’s the title was in serious consideration of cancellation.

Then editors hired new writer David Micheline, and artist Bob Layton They re-defined Tony Stark as a man in an ivory tower who needed to be reconnected to the society he served in his alter ego as Iron man. The resulting storyline from their re-imagining of the character Demon in a Bottle, was one of Marvel’s top sellers and now considered a classic. Currently the Iron Man franchise has had two blockbuster movies, cartoons, numerous video games and is one of the best-selling action figures in the Marvel Legends Line and his own toy line.

NBC- In the late 1970’s former ABC president Fred Silverman was running NBC into the ground. By 1982, the network was on the brink of bankruptcy. Shows like Cheers, Hill Street Blues, and Family Ties weren’t doing well for the network.

Then Brandon Tartikoff took over as NBC’s president. Under his management, he slowly rebuilt the network schedule around niche audiences like seniors, children, and African Americans and turned the last place network into a first place network that dominated television for most of the 1980’s. His Thursday night lineup was #1-4 in the ratings for five straight years. And many of the shows he stayed with like Cheers, Hill Street Blues, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, L.A. Law and Seinfeld are now considered Television Classics.

WWF- Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation was the leader in sports entertainment in the for the 1980’s But in the mid 1990’s the company was in a huge slump and headed in for bankruptcy. It’s competitor WCW, World Championship wrestling was dominating ratings with its popular nWo storyline.

Then came Stone Cold Steve Austin and Austin 3:16. And by Wrestlemania 14 in 1998, The company was building new stars like The Rock, Kane, Mankind, HHH, and began the Attitude era which brought a new generation of fans into wrestling and made the WWF popular again nationally.

And the WWF’s competitor WCW? It went bankrupt and was BOUGHT by the WWF in 2001.

I’m sure if DC comics, Marvel Comics NBC and the WWF(Now WWE) had given in and cancelled their products during those slumps back then, there’d be no movies, action figures, and no billion franchises today. But those executives rode through their slumps and found a way to make their content fresh again. I feel that’s what ABC needs to do instead of cancelling All My Children and One Life to Live. Soaps go through peaks and valleys. But a smart executive finds a way to navigate through the rough periods and finds a way to sell stories that appeal to today’s audience.

There won't be a blog this Saturday out of respect for the Resurrection Weekend. Remember, this Sunday isn't about eggs and candy, but how Jesus came back from the dead and paid for all the sins of humanity.

1 comment:

  1. It was a real dellight to read about entertainment that had been in a slump, then after a time and new blood blossomed into high glory. Many of the guys making decisions on all levels are as stupid on the one hand as they are brilliant on the other.

    How well I remember Batman especially and was happy to see this phoenix rise high from the ashes. These comments are why I value your blog so highly. It's one of God's many gifts to you, Shawn. Use it wisely and well and you will continue to give us valued commentary on our social scene that is as valid and as useful as any we have going today. Not to mention that it's light years ago of so much of the drivel we're watching and listening to.