Matttttt's Unpublished Article (Continued)


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#(DK) Tuesday will be the last time Ben dons the uniform
#(DK) of Commander John Crichton.
#(DK) We are as helpless as anyone.
#(DK) And we are sad
#(DK) And we are shattered.
#(DK) And we are sorry.
#(DK) And we wanted to come online
#(DK) and talk to YOU,
#(DK) our core fans who have stood
#(DK) beside us for such a long and great journey.
#(DK) We just wanted to set the rumor mill straight and make
#(DK) sure everyone knew the truth so they could deal with it.

        Kemper is executive producer of Farscape, one of the showís head writers, and a frequent voice in weekly chat sessions on Sci Fiís IRC chat forum.  Because the show is filmed in Australia, and many of the staff and crew are American, Kemper and company participate in these chats often to ease their homesickness.  Such frequent communication between the showís personnel and their fans abroad has served to strengthen the bonds between both.  Which is why, after the staff had been told that the promised fifth season had been cancelled, Kemper joined with Ben Browder and producer Richard Manning to break the news directly to the fans via the Internet.

            The reasons cited for the cancellation were twofold:  poor ratings, and rising production costs.  Sci Fi's brass had examined the Neilsen ratings for Farscape, which normally averaged between a 1.3 and 1.6 share.  Based on these figures, they decided that, due to a recent decline in ratings (one episode topped out at a 0.9 share), the revenue generated by advertising during the program could no longer offset the show's high production cost of approximately $1.5 million per episode.  So Sci Fi exercised an out clause in the recent contract for two more seasons, and the planned but not yet filmed fifth season was canceled.

            As a press release on Sci Fi's Web site later proclaimed:

"[Farscape] was one of SCI FI's first original series and quickly became a critical and fan favorite. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to reach a broader audience, Farscape has been unable to grow beyond its core fan base. That, coupled with the extreme and growing cost of production, has led to the difficult decision to end the series at the conclusion of season four."

        Within hours of Kemperís announcement in IRC chat, the Internet was abuzz with fans in the throes of disbelief.  A site was immediately established on the WD Section Web messaging service, whose purpose was to disseminate information to other fans.  At first, the Web page consisted of little more than a few pages of HTML text, mostly chat transcripts and other messages from the cast and crew.  Later, some images were added, including a rather humorous one depicting the classic ìRosie the Riveterî of World War II fame calling the Scapers to duty.

            Soon, calls for massive letter-writing campaigns began to ring out.  Scaper groups encouraged each other to write letters of protest to top officials at Sci Fi and USA; to Vivendi, USA Networkís parent company; to EM.TV, the German entertainment conglomerate that owns the Jim Henson Company; to companies that advertise during the program.  By the time that weekend had ended, it was clear that the fan community was not about to let Farscape perish without a fight. 

        In Chicago, on October 5th, battle is joined.  A small group of about fifteen people meet at the base of the John Hancock Center in Chicago, passing out flyers to passersby, asking them to join the ìInternational Rallyî to save Farscape from cancellation.  (One pedestrian was confused at first, believing the flyers to be for one of the anti-war rallies so numerous of late.  The fact that some flyers were printed on deep red paper did not appear to help this confusion.)

*****

       I'm among these Scapers, standing in the wind-tunnel chill of the Loop, accosting strangers with flyers in my hands.  I try not to read too much into the fact that, on our way here, Linda and Carlos and I managed to get lost on the way to the second most famous building in our own city.

        But we have made it here, and along with some of our new friends -- Scapers like Brigitta, who doesnít say much yet; Linnea, who arrives late but brings some terrific printed info with her; and Jon and Aimee, a couple who seem to beam endlessly -- we are getting the word out to the Windy City.  We are also attempting to do the nigh-impossible:  raise the allegedly poor ratings of a show that's not even currently on the air.

*****

        Farscape's ratings have indeed suffered through its run of late, and it's not difficult to understand why.  The most recent season saw some very strange time-slot manipulation by Sci Fi, including a nine-month gap before the final four episodes of the third season were shown.  The show's regular time slot was bumped from 9 P.M./8 P.M. Central to an hour later, in order to accommodate the recently acquired Stargate SG-1.  Advertising for new episodes of Farscape, which had previously been shown almost exclusively on Sci Fi or USA, dropped significantly in frequency.  As of this writing, the show is not even being played in reruns; the first half of season four is scheduled to run on Sci Fi as an eleven-hour "Chain Reaction" programming block on Christmas Eve -- when most viewers will likely be watching It's a Wonderful Life or other, more traditional programming.

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