Executive Meddling: Jerking around with TV shows (good and bad, though mostly good) since the dawn of the television age (the 1950s).
open/close all folders
American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
An old-timey example: Harry O, which ran from 1974-76, was conceived as a realistic take on cop dramas such as Mannix and CHiPS. Titular Harry Orwell (David Janssen) was a cop forced into semi-retirement from a bullet lodged in his spine. Because no surgeon will touch it, Harry is stuck with permanent pain (a precursor to House) and must supplement his disability checks by working as a private eye. Perhaps most shocking of all, Harry's Cool Car is a pile of junk; until he has enough money to fix it, he'll have to rely on the city bus routes, of which he has encyclopedic knowledge. Film Noir by nature, the show was retooled halfway into its first season to be more sexy, with the middle-aged Janssen juggling beautiful women (including pre-fame Farrah Fawcett), and his spinal cord making a miraculous recovery (a simple shove was once enough to knock his lights out permanently). Ratings indeed improved, but the president of ABC decided to take the network in a different direction and canceled the series in favor of Charlie's Angels. D'oh.
The first instance was between seasons one and two, when ABC forced the writers to retool the show. They added more action (the show was about Lois and Clark, not so much about Superman), more sex, less Cat Grant (despite being a nymphomaniac gossip columnist, they'd rather sex everyone else up than have an extraneous character in a show that was becoming less and less about the Daily Planet), and they switched Jimmy Olsen out for a younger actor (some fans think it was because the first guy looked too much like the lead; it was likely both).
The second instance was their insistence on removing focus from the relationship. Clark couldn't reveal his Secret Identity. They could only kinda sorta hint that she already knew. When he proposed to her, they gave them a whole arc devoted to their wedding. The executives made them switch Lois out for an (evil?) clone at the last minute. They finally got married towards the end, and found a foundling. And the Execs canceled it because it had "run its course." It would not have "run its course" if not for the fake-out wedding, after which they lost a large amount of their viewership.
ABC executives tried to meddle around with LOST a few times:
At one point in the season 2 finale, the foot of an otherwise missing statue was revealed, sporting only 4 toes. As stated by executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse here, the statue was originally stated to have 6 toes in the script, but the network asked them to change it to 4 toes. According to their own words, Damon and Carlton didn't mind as long as it wasn't 5 toes.
Lindelof also revealed here that ABC had mandated some changes to the original draft of the season 2 episode "Dave", which implies that all the events from the entire show had merely taken place inside the mind of Hurley, one of the main characters who had once been an inmate in a psych ward. Supposedly, ABC execs were afraid that the episode might offer an explanation for the mysteries of the show as a whole, years before it would actually end. Since the general implication is still included in the final episode, it's uncertain what changes, if any, have been made to the draft to accommodate ABC's concerns.
Oh, no, they succeeded, all right. Originally, Jack was supposed to be a one-shot character shown only in the pilot (and played by Michael Keaton), who would be killed off by the Monster before too long. Instead of Jack, it would have been Kate leading the Losties. The ABC executives allegedly had a problem with this, protesting that it would lead to reactions of "betrayal, anger, and bewilderment" in the audience, and insisted that Jack be kept on as a main character, permanently altering the show's dynamic.
Before fans of Kate as she exists now get uppity about this change, Kate was going to be slightly older, not a fugitive and traveling with her husband whom she believed was alive somehow even though he had been in the rear section of the plane. If this sounds familiar it is because those elements were incorporated in the recurring character of Rose.
Home Improvement actually depicted in-universe Binford Tools executives meddling with Tool Time, the Show Within a Show. Among examples were an executive threatening to fire Tim if he didn't promote an inferior power tool on Tool Time, and another one making the cast wear tacky yellow jumpsuits with the Binford logo on them (except Heidi, who got a yellow bikini), allowing only Binford tools to be used on the show and confiscating all non-Binford tools, and finally trying to Trash the Set for a Grand Finale of Tool Time by staging an accident. (Ironically, the last idea was overturned, but Tim ended up accidentally starting a fire on the set, nearly trashing it except the firefighters were on hand.)
Positive example: When Penn & Teller did a special for ABC, a trick involving Teller "drowning" in a water tank came in the middle of the show, resulting in an uncommented-on "resurrection". The network suggested that the trick come at the end, leaving Teller "dead". As Teller would later tell The Onion AV Club, "I was amazed and stunned... I think they were absolutely right [about the water tank trick placement]. This may be the first time I've ever said that sentence in relation to some television activity. They were right."
The original '60s run of The Outer Limits was rife with executive meddling from ABC. First, creator Leslie Stevens wanted to do a serious science-fiction show, but the network wanted a "Monster of the Week" kind of show. Stevens and producer Joseph Stefano reluctantly agreed, calling the monsters "bears", from an old vaudeville saying "bring out the bear", as in when the audience is restless, bring out the dancing bear. The original air date for the episode "A Feasibility Study" was delayed for months because a network censor objected to the ending where a community sacrificed itself to save the rest of Earth from being enslaved. The last straw for Stevens and Stephano was when the network decided to move the show against Jackie Gleason for the second season. They walked. The network then put one of their own executives in charge of the show, in a hope to keep the budget under control. It ended up being cancelled in mid-season.
The American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? came extremely close to suffering from this. The higher-ups wanted the show to appeal to a younger audience, so they were going to get rid of most of the cast (particularly Colin) and replace them with celebrities with no improv experience. Luckily, the producers of the show (including executive producers Drew and Ryan) managed to override all the ABC execs' ideas, bringing the show across the pond with nearly the exact same format as the original. The only meddling that remained was that the credits reading was removed for being too "weird"—but it was brought back in season 2 when the execs found out that people were switching channels during the vanilla credits.
The finalized show suffers a more active form of Executive Meddling: the producers will step in and veto game ideas and order redos if they don't like certain elements. (Like vetoing "Songs of the Mortician" for the game Greatest Hits, prompting Greg to snark, "Wouldn't want dead people calling in.") In one famous example, the audience suggested "Cosby and Hitler" for the name of an unlikely Sitcom pair, only to get shot down because of the Hitler reference. The rest of the episode is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the performers as they work in Take Thats against the director for the veto. This is apparently one the producers will cop to, because the final episode shows all of this, even the part where "Cosby and Hitler" is shot down.
Several games were unaired in the first season; probably because they were a little too afraid to air some of them. Part of the reason was that Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops, whenever they messed up on a Hoedown, swore like mad. Later seasons they didn't censor as much.
Executive pressure forced David Lynch to reveal Laura Palmer's killer in the second season of Twin Peaks, essentially guaranteeing its decline and fall.
This is probably one of the worst examples of this trope. In a lot of these cases, Executive Meddling is merely irritating, ludicrous, confounding, or, on some rare occasions, justified. In this case, however, it was fatal. Concerned by the show's declining ratings, the execs pushed the creators to reveal the identity of Laura's killer - the central mystery of the series - in the middle of Season 2, thirteen episodes away from the finale. Without the focus provided by the search for the killer, the show quickly ran out of steam; the sub-plots, which before added colour to the story, soon became all Twin Peaks had to offer. The rationale for this case of Executive Meddling was ludicrous; attempting to end Twin Peaks' ratings slide by revealing the identity of the killer was akin to trying to stop the Titanic from sinking by blowing a hole through the middle of it.
In a blunder reminiscent of the rounding of Spock's ears in early Star Trek promotional material, some executives at ABC insisted that the new series Happy Days dress the character of Fonzie in a red nylon windbreaker and loafers, because they were afraid that Fonzie's black leather jacket and biker boots would make him out to be a greaser (those 1950s thugs who actually did wear leather, ride motorcycles, and basically said, "Fuck you!" to polite society by committing petty crimes and not doing anything considered beneficial to the world at large). After the pilot the network compromised, agreeing to let Fonzie wear the jacket and boots only when he was on or beside the motorcycle, so that they could be perceived as "safety gear". Naturally, this spawned the Running Gag where Fonzie took his motorcycle everywhere, even into living rooms and stores, in order to completely eliminate any moment where they would be forced to put him in the windbreaker and loafers. Audiences were just as repulsed by the character of Fonzie as they had been by the character of Spock nearly a decade earlier; and once he became the show's breakout character, the leather jacket and boots suddenly, mysteriously, became far less threatening to the executives, to the point that they later demanded that the producers rename the show to Fonzie's Happy Days, or just simply Fonzie. Threatened resignations from the entire cast (including Henry Winkler) nixed this idea.
The Battlestar Galactica spinoff Galactica 1980 had to deal with this constantly. Its spot in the day-to-day schedule caused it to be labeled as a "kid's show" by the network, forcing them to work kid-friendly Aesops into every episode along with a cast full of unprofessional kids, stage moms, and teachers that insisted that they were from on high when they told the show's executives something. The show's ABC censor also apparently saw something wrong with everything, making production almost impossible. She even had problem with the mention of meatballs in one episode, thinking that it was some kind of innuendo. The director got her back for this, sprinkling several more meatball jokes throughout the rest of the episode and its second part.
Aaron Sorkin fought vicious battles with ABC over Sports Night, most notably in regards to the laugh track (he hated it, ABC wanted it). Interestingly, the Executive Meddling was introduced into the show itself as a Reality Subtext plot point; most of the second (and final) season focuses on the fictional show's fictional executives meddling and planning to cancel it for low ratings. The plot is a representation of what was going on behind the scenes at ABC.
Scrubs got a beautiful send off and series wrap at the end of its eighth season. For some reason, it has a ninth season with a third of the original cast.
Actually that had more to do with Bill Lawrence, who could've easily rejected offers to do a ninth season but didn't because it meant the crew would get to do work during a difficult economic period.
The executives at ABC cut Grey's Anatomy budget for the current season leading to Eric Dane's departure and his character being killed off.
The reason the first season of Baretta in 1975 had an instrumental theme instead of the vocal version heard from season two onwards is because of this; star Robert Blake had gotten the ball rolling for what ultimately became "Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow" by Dave Grusin and Morgan Ames, but it was nixed because (so the powers that be told Ames and company) "the reason was, you can't open a white show with a black singer." (Times havechanged since then.) Several high viewing figures later the song got vocals (by Sammy Davis Jr., instead of original singer Jim Gilstrap).
Although Roy Huggins created Maverick (one of ABC's first real hits), Warner Bros. compelled him to base the official pilot ("The War Of The Silver Kings") on a property they owned so that they wouldn't have to give him "created by" credit and the royalties thereof (something they hated to do on ANY of their television series in the beginning). Huggins understandably wasn't thrilled.
One notorious example came with Mork and Mindy. After the first season was a hit, ABC executives wanted Pam Dawber to wear sexier clothing, hoping to bring a Jiggle Show element to the sitcom; Robin Williams and others on the show protested and the idea was scrapped. Later, in order to appeal to younger audiences, Mindy's father and grandmother were written out of the show, and instead of Mork and Mindy hanging out in Mindy's dad's music store, they moved the hangout spot to a downtown delicatessen and wrote in a younger brother and sister couple running the deli as M&M's friends. More bizarre supporting characters were written into the sitcom to play off Robin, and the one-shot character Exidor, a hit with viewers, became a series regular. The second season's theme was given a disco feel, and the schedule was moved around so many times that the show lost viewers. Finally, an attempt to win back viewers led to Mork and Mindy officially married couple, and son Mearth (played by Robin's hero Jonathan Winters) was a regular character. The show went from the #3 show on network television to #60.
Fridays, ABC's answer to Saturday Night Live (and the only dueling show that can legitimately be seen as better than SNL, though don't tell that to fans ofMADtv) was doing well after a rough first season and was poised to take SNL's spot as the edgy, late-night sketch show, owing in part to SNL's wretched sixth season under Jean Doumanian. Sadly, ABC didn't see it as a golden opportunity to overtake SNL. The censors began cracking down on the show after network affiliates got complaints for the sketch "Diner of the Living Dead" (about a human couple who have dinner at a restaurant catering to zombies) and three ABC affiliates banned Fridays from ever airing (the ones that didn't just cut the sketch in reruns), which, actually didn't hurt the writing of the show (in fact, it pushed them to go farther). What really hurt the show was ABC's decision to move the show from 11:30pm to midnight. Why? Because they wanted Nightline (a news show) to be on five days a week instead of four (since Nightline actually got good ratings due to the Iranian hostage situation in the late 1970s-early 1980s). Ratings plummetted as a result, and, worse, Saturday Night Live was, slowly, but surely, getting its second wind (thanks to NBC firing Jean Doumanian and most of her cast, except for Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, and Brian Doyle-Murray, and hiring Dick Ebersol to rebuild the show). In a last-ditch effort to save Fridays, ABC aired it as a primetime sketch show — where it got its butt kicked by Dallas (as a lot of shows back then did. Dallas was a force to be reckoned with) and was canceled. And that, fair readers, is the story of how the obtuse network executives killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
Two episodes of the Reality TV show Criss Angel Mindfreak, both dealing with gun-related illusions, including the infamous Bullet Catch trick, were kept from airing by executives due to concerns of viewers attempting the stunts themselves. This wouldn't have been too much of a problem... had the executives not gone so far as to remove the rights to the episodes from the show's Executive Producer and star Criss Angel himself to ensure they couldn't be aired. He eventually regained the rights, and is attempting to gain permission to release them in upcoming DVD specials.
The Walking Dead merits an expansion. Just before beginning shooting of the second season, AMC ordered twice the expected episodes, slashed the budget in half and vetoed a big budget flashback episode that would center around the soldier that Rick finds inside the tank during the Pilot and reveal how Dale met Andrea and Amy among other things, even though several scenes had already been filmed. The result was a very questioned second season that moved at a snail's pace and took place mostly in a highway and Herschel's farm. The same plotline was visited and done for in the source comic in the span of four numbers.
For his part, Newman admitted during an interview years later that opposing the Daleks hadn't been one of his better ideas, contrasting it ironically with his reputation as a "brilliant" TV producer.
Originally the Doctor would merely have a young companion, but that might seem "improper" unless they had a familial relationship, so Susan turned into his granddaughter.
Ironically, a few years later, however, Newman's boss, the head of BBC TV, suggested the 12 episode story featuring the Daleks, allegedly because of his mother liked them so much, much to the displeasure of Verity Lambert's replacement, John Wiles.
Modern Doctor Who isn't necessarily free of this, by all accounts; it has reportedly been mandated from above that every story must feature some kind of monster, regardless of whether it is appropriate to include one. The episode "Father's Day" was reportedly meant to not include any monsters at all, before this executive degree mandated the inclusion of the Clock Roaches that power the plot.
Michael Grade, BBC Controller in the mid-eighties, is the king of Executive Meddling. He openly hated Doctor Who and decided to have the show put on hiatus for 18 months... scrapping pre-production on an entire season of the franchise, including three fully-scripted and partially-cast episodes. The series was allowed to come back at a drastically reduced episode count (14 episodes at twenty-five minutes each, compared to the 13 45-minute episodes they had the season before the hiatus, and the 26 25-minute episode count of most earlier seasons) and with a lower budget. For years afterwards he claimed that one of the reasons he hated the show due to the lousy effects, DESPITE THE FACT HE COULD HAVE ALLOCATED MORE MONEY TO THE SHOW. Eventually, he fired Colin Baker from the role of the Doctor and forced the producer to recast the role - whilst dating Colin Baker' ex wife. The series survived to have three more seasons on the air... but Grade placed the show against another network's incredibly-popular series without bothering to note it to the general public... and then the series was put on hiatus one more time in 1989 until the 1996 movie and the 2005 revival series.
Michael Grade has become infamous for both this and his actions later on when he became head of rival Channel Four, where he continued his meddling. Chris Morris pretty much said all that needed to be said in a few frames of Brass Eye.
And chew on this: All of the controllers of the BBC have been knighted... except for Grade. The Queen is a huge fan of Doctor Who.
In 2011, North American broadcasts of Doctor Who suffered from another form of meddling; feeling viewers needed an explanation about what the show is about, BBC America required that a pre-credits introduction be added to the episodes of Season 6. Narrated by Amy Pond, and using flashbacks from Season 5, the sequence quickly explains what the show is about, even though as written it suggests the Doctor is imaginary! Aside from breaking the rhythm of the opening teasers of each episode (which normally would lead straight into the credits), the intro was not very popular with viewers who wanted to see the same show the Brits saw. Not surprisingly, the intro is omitted from the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Season 6 (even the North American release), and was dropped altogether when Series 7 aired.
For whatever reason, these intros also were broadcast in Australia.
Series six episodes on Netflix in North America still display this version of the intro.
Monty Python's Flying Circus occasionally suffered from this. A particularly blatant example is the final sketch of the second series set in a funeral parlour where the funeral director suggests that the grieving widower eats his wife. The BBC said they could only broadcast it if the studio audience was shown reacting with disgust. The audience reactions were not particularly convincing.
The original series concept for The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about a young divorced woman, but CBS executives were afraid that viewers would think that meant Mary had divorced Dick Van Dyke (Moore having previously played Van Dyke's wife in The Dick Van Dyke Show). To protect their investment from the legions of morons they believed were watching, the execs forced the producers of the show to turn Mary into a young unmarried woman fleeing a failed romance.
Some tropers may also not recall that in 1970, a divorced woman was usually thought to be morally suspect and deeply flawed (even at that late date, divorce was still thought to be almost always the woman's fault). Having a divorced young woman as the main character would have been a problem no matter who she'd been played by.
The American version of Big Brother has had numerous cases of Executive Meddling. Obviously such cases would wind up slanting the game... but slanting it towards a few houseguests won't always work. (Janelle winning would have been best for ratings... yet Maggie wound up taking home the prize in the end.) But there were several notorious instances where it severely affected the outcome of the game on top of player stupidity.
In season 3, they found out the hard way that letting the houseguests see what was going on in the house after they were evicted and would cast votes for who should win made a large impact on the game. Daniele was known for playing the best game and by all means, they'd vote for her to win, right? Well even if she made it with Jason in the finals, the other houseguests saw her insulting them in the Diary Room and would have picked the person who was nicer to them. (Jason or Lisa.)
Though less apparent on Season 7, Executive Meddling happened in that season as well. On one of the live feeds, James and Janelle agreed that a particular veto challenge was "fixed for George to win." James said, "What's the point of winning HOH and giving Big Brother your strategy when they're going to create contests that are ultimately going to fuck up your strategy?" He said his comments against Big Brother would probably result in his getting nominated next week. "So myself and the other nominee get there," James said, "and all of a sudden, it's an Arabic-speaking contest when it's me and Kaysar up on the block."
Howie also explained on one of the live feeds how Big Brother influences contestants to vote a particular way in the Diary Room. "If Big Brother shut up, this game would be so much easier," he said. "They go in there and they incite them to do things. ... They say they don't cheat and help people? Bullshit!" He said in one of his Diary Room sessions, Big Brother had tried swaying him to put Dr. Will on the chopping block.
Season 8 tried to keep the Jerkass and his whiny spoiled daughter around because they were good for ratings. The idea of "America's Player" wound up affecting the game in their favour because they loved to see Jerk Ass prank people and just be mean. There was also a time in which he was practically assaulting another player with cigarettes. If anyone else did that, they'd have been kicked out of the show in a heartbeat. Then there are also rumors of how they allowed Jerk Ass and whiny spoiled brat to break rules that would have earned other players reprisals because they were good for ratings, and how one player's machinery during a crucial veto competition was malfunctioning and they never noticed. If it was Jerk Ass or Whiny brat, they'd have stopped the competition in a heartbeat.
Evel Dick also revealed on one of the live feeds that the letters he got from his son had secret codes the two of them had come up with before the show. The first and last letters of the last paragraph were initials of houseguests Dick shouldn't trust. Whether Dick could trust his tightest alliance or not, his son would put in a letter that either everything was going well with his girlfriend or, alternatively, that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. When Dawn from BBUK pulled a similar tactic, she got kicked off the show for cheating. But the Jerkass seemed exempt.
On top of this, America's player also revealed that when he could have turned the game around with a crucial veto win, he was ordered by producers not to use it. (Subsequently... his #1 ally was evicted the following Thursday. Oy...) Then there were other rumors about how he wasn't even in the option to play for Veto for similar reasons. ("But we can't decide who to use it on without spoiling it ahead of time!")
Season 9 also had a highly controversial head of household competition. One houseguest who needed that one question to win Head of Household (in the final four, the 2nd most important one in the game) managed to get it wrong...well that was her fault, right? Her fault for not being on the same train of thought as the producers. The question was "True or false...There were more than two pre-existing relationships in the house". She answered false, like every person who had been watching the show would have in her boots. But then there is a slight pause and Julie Chen reports there were three. What was this third relationship? Were two houseguests' lies about being a lesbian couple true? Nope....it was the guinea pigs that served as the house pets. Now how on earth was anyone supposed to figure that out? This wound up screwing houseguest Sharon.
Other conspiracy theorists believe that in the slight pause in between the houseguests revealing their answers and Julie Chen revealing the Guide Dang It answer that she was even told right there on the studio on live TV that it was three, and that for the MST-PST feeds that this was edited out.
In season 13, it seemed kind of convenient that instead of the usual Majority Rules competition, they had a competition where the outgoing Head of Household was allowed to pick the order which people would make their shots in. Rachel's alliance, the Veterans, are the returning players and are obviously on the producers' good sides, so people are watching and wondering if they had this in mind. It's been pointed out numerous times that producers may not be able to flat out fix the shows, but they can certainly slant them. (See the Survivor example.) Rachel has said on the live feeds that they (the veterans) were promised to at least make the jury.
Season 13 is known of amongst some of its fans as being the most slanted season of the series. It even features the most blatantly contrived bailout in reality TV history. When the game suddenly turned around and resulted in Jeff being voted out, Porsche (Who was not on Jeff's side anymore) won the next head of household. Before she even makes nominations, she is forced to open Pandora's Box (she confirmed she had to open it) which re-introduced the "Duos" twist meaning that people would be nominated and saved as duos for the week. Conveniently; she didn't get to pick the duos herself. The following Veto required the houseguests to grab onto a dummy that was suspended above the ground and hang on as much as possible - The exact same challenge as the first head of household, which was won by...Rachel. Rachel then proceeded to win the next veto and take herself and Jordan, another Ratings Machine, off the block and forced Shelly to be completely and utterly screwed. A few days before the live eviction, Rachel talks about the first have not competition in Big Brother 12, which she said she did very well in. What was the next Head of Household competition? The exact same challenge as that have not competition. Rather obvious who they wanted to win 'that'' competition, isn't it?
In Season 14, when Frank won HOH and fan/producer favorite Dan came under threat, a new Pandora's Box appeared, which entered a second Power of Veto into the game. Ian won the POV, and was heard on the live feeds saying that in the Diary Room, the producers are trying to influence him to use the POV.
Frank has also benefited from Executive Meddling. On the edited CBS show, he came across as a class act, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, but constantly nominated by his meanie fellow houseguests for no real reason. Those who watched the live feeds saw a completely different person. Verbally abusive to others, he called Ian "a little f——t" at one point and Jenn "dirty brown dishwater." Other antisocial behavior included farting on others and laughing about it or kicking Dan so much at night that Dan begged Big Brother to allow him to switch beds. While drawing names for one POV competition, he "dropped" the bag and the chips fell out. He palmed the "Player's Choice" chip and "withdrew" it from the bag. On the feeds, he told Boogie what he did. Boogie told him never to mention it again. Frank cheated and not only did Big Brother allow it, they gave him a generous edit that didn't let anyone know it had happened at all. He's also bragged on the live feeds about Big Brother giving him advance information about the challenges, which would help explain why he's done so well at them. The week the coaches entered the game, Frank was on the chopping block and set to go home, but Big Brother canceled the eviction entirely — only time in show history that they've canceled a promised live eviction — essentially negating the meaning of the HOH and Veto competitions that took place. Allegedly, one of the Big Brother producers was friends with Frank's Dad, Sid Vicious, when he worked at the WWE. (It has actually been assumed that the eviction was canceled because of Willie's Non-Gameplay Elimination as well.)
One example where it was for the better was an Obvious Rule Patch between seasons five and six. In season five, several houseguests noticed a loophole in the rules which allowed them to eliminate a player without giving him a chance to even compete for the veto. The houseguests plotted and nominated two people who the Head of Household had no intention of evicting, and selecting players for the veto who were in on the plan or would have used it to take themselves off anyways. Then, Jase is placed on the block without even getting to play the veto.
Some have also argued that the act of selecting people for reality TV is Executive Meddling in itself. The people in charge try and pick a diverse series of contestants (There is almost always at least one openly gay guy, one princess, one dimwit, etc) but they try and pick the contestants who are most likely to clash and fight with each other because that's what gives ratings. If they pick huge fans of Big Brother they won't pick the people who can practically predict the flow of the game a week in advance because they'll be sitting around observing...they want people who'll be up and about picking fights and confronting other houseguests. The same has often been said for other shows like Survivor or The Amazing Race.
Obviously in Survivor, if they picked people who really knew how to play the game, they'd be constantly trying to one-up one another and it'd turn into Death Noteand wouldn't be very interesting to watch, especially when players like Brett, Cassandra, and Vecepia wind up in the end despite spending the entire 39 days sitting around the camp with their mouths shut. Crystal and Randy made Gabon.
The commentaries on the DVD release of The Weird Al Show reveal the truly epic levels of stupidity that were constantly forced on the show, mostly from the network's constantly fluctuating standards of behavior they were worried kids would imitate. For example, one of Al's few victories was to keep a gag about sticking his arms into a barrel full of melted chocolate, by arguing that most kids wouldn't have a barrel full of melted chocolate on hand to imitate the scene.
Survivor's later seasons not only overuse Manipulative Editing highlighting a Creator's Pet, but many fans suspect that they're slanting the actual game in the Pet's favor as well. (Disclaimer: None of these have been confirmed as deliberate producer interference.) Examples include:
In Heroes Vs Villains, there seemed to be a preference for the Villains. Isn't it amazing how James (from the Heroes tribe) had to sit out of a challenge, yet the challenge continued without the Villains being asked to sit someone out or asking the Heroes to put Colby back in?
It's obvious that the game was borderline-fixed towards the villains that season. Not only was one immunity challenge much more easy for the villains (due to "Villains" having more recognizable fragments than "Heroes" on the box-stacking challenge) but the villains team is almost entirely composed of players who are good at Puzzles. And guess what all the immunity challenges have been? Puzzles. What a shocker. And what happened to the puzzle immunity challenges after Rob was voted out? They mysteriously disappeared...it's amazing nobody noticed that in the game! To be fair; the box-stacking challenge may not have been intentional, but that's some amazing luck to have so many puzzles in the first part of the game.
One that has been confirmed: Russell somehow knew that he didn't win Samoa during Heroes vs. Villains...This is rather strange. Considering that the filming for Heroes vs. Villains begun less than a month after the filming for Samoa ended, and that the finale for Samoa didn't air until December. There would have been no way for him to know unless somebody in the crew told him. However, it's not clear whether other players were told this as well, and it would have had little effect on Russell's chances in the game so is not as bad as the other examples here.
Redemption Island either was slanted or the players were just idiots to let Rob walk away with the win (or both, if you think production deliberately cast idiots, but you'd think they would have done the same for Russell's tribe). The players of Ometepe were just that dumb to not realize there's a huge threat sitting right in front of them, with the exception of Kristina. This shows a good example of how producers might have the ability to slant these kinds of shows. Take a look at the challenges post-merge for Redemption Island - Balance, then obstacle course, then endurance. Then after that, Puzzle, Logrolling, Memory, Puzzle, Puzzle, Puzzle race, and the final immunity challenge wasn't the traditional endurance, but a maze and a puzzle. It may have looked more diverse, but those are the challenges that Rob had to compete in. The Redemption island duels were card stacking, Shuffleboard, tile breaking, table maze & Puzzle, Endurance. Note the disproportionate amount of puzzles on the ones that Rob had to compete in. And again, What's Rob good at? PUZZLES. Rob really got the equivalent of the Royal Flush if the producers weren't trying to slant the show.
Jeff Probst seems to be conveniently forgetting who was sitting out of the challenges.
Eliminating the Purple Rock from being used as a tiebreaker...only at the Final Four, though. Instead it was replaced with a firebuilding (And later Firemaking) Challenge between the two contestants. (Why they still do that at other parts instead of a nature quiz or vote countback like in previous seasons is beyond several viewers, though.) Jeff Probst admits that using the purple rock in the final four was a mistake because there was no fair way to do it at that point - as if there's actually a fair way to do it period. (A way to eliminate someone who had no votes cast against them without evacuating them or them quitting? sounds fair to me! They only keep it in for drama's sake.)
The removal of the "$1,000,000" fan favourite prize. Producers feared that people would be trying to cater to the fans instead of playing the game since it was as much as the prize for winning the game. While it still exists today; it is only $100,000 and is awarded by a third party company. (Sprint) The winner is also eligible to win this prize, too, but so is anyone around the final six. (If you're not in the final Five and are even a finalist for the Sprint Player of the season prize? You're lucky.)
When Russell Hantz came in third place, he gestured towards the audience as proof that "America needs to control a portion of the votes" should have been part of the game. Jeff Probst immediately told him "That's not Survivor".
Several times they stepped in and gave the players food outside of a reward challenge when they had run out. This did not come free; as the two times they did this they had to either give up their shelter and start from scratch or have a player give up the reward.
Changing how the Hidden Immunity Idol worked. In Guatemala, you had to play it before the votes. Granted; this didn't affect the outcome outside of some dramatic blindsides in later seasons. In Cook Islands, it more or less made Yul nigh untouchable and gave him a free ride to the final three. In later seasons, it could only be played as late as the Final Six.
In Nicaragua and above, the clues to Hidden Immunity Idols were changed and they were hidden in different spots due to Russell managing to find them before clues were even given.
It's rumored that this is why they changed some of the challenges in Nicaragua. Specifically to avoid injuries like those in the previous few seasons that caused sometimes numerous evacuations/people being voted out, and the challenges pre-merge were more puzzles and tribal cooperation efforts. It's another case of positive meddling because the theme of Nicaragua was "Young vs. old". Fighting/Wrestling type challenges would be a very bad idea not only to avoid evacuations which potentially set the show behind a week but also for balance issues. (Only Yve, Tyrone, and Jane would have survived such a challenge.)
Due to Kelly and Naonka quitting yet still landing on the jury, the rules around quitting have changed. (ie, the producers are now allowed to take quitters off the jury.)
Frosti was actually allowed to play in China despite being too young at the time.
CBS insisted that All in the Family be carried on past its obvious ending point (season eight) - which they informed Carroll O'Connor was strictly for ratings. Five seasons later, they would cancel the show, which had struggled in the face of numerous changes necessary after Mike and Gloria (and later Edith) departed. O'Connor insisted that they allow for one final episode to give Archie a proper exit; CBS refused.
In The Amazing Race, they often step in with a sync point, Double-Length, or non-elimination leg if teams get too far ahead or behind. This is actually showing that this is not always a bad thing for several reasons. One was because they do like to save fan (or network) favourites, but another was because it's easier to film and edit when the other races aren't a couple legs behind. However; they don't always step in as there are a couple cases where a team got about a day behind or another team got extremely lucky and manage to walk right on to the checkpoint a day ahead of everyone. Normally they manipulate hours of operation or put in charter buses.
Jeff and Jordan were not originally wanted by the show's producers; it was CBS who wanted them in.
Season 11 had a very blatant sync point when one team managed to get 36 hours ahead of everyone, wherein one team was kept on an island and told a storm was making it too rough to depart (Despite no signs of it) and by the time they were allowed to leave, three other teams caught up with them.
Dustin and Kandice once got stuck waiting half a day for a charter bus.
While Margulies says she was originally worried that doing a procedural drama might get boring — "One of the reasons Murder, She Wrote was on for so long was that America loves an ending after each show, where you can solve it and it's done" — she and the rest of the cast have been pleasantly surprised to see CBS continue to ask the writers to keep the Florrick family drama front and center. "You'd expect a network to say, 'No, no, no! More cases! More cases!'" says Robert King, who created and executive-produces the series along with his wife, Michelle. "Our biggest challenge is figuring out how little we can tell about the courtroom case and get by."
Forever Knight very nearly fell victim to it-the execs wanted to get rid of the focus on Nick's redemption and get rid of Natalie and Janette because they felt Debora Dunchenne and Catherine Disher weren't sexy enough for their demographic. Fortunately, Geraint Wyn Davies threatened to quit if all of the changes went through. Duchenne/Janette was still cut, but the rest of the change ideas were dropped. (although Lisa Ryder's Tracy character was probably an attempt to up the sexy factor a bit.)
In the sixth season of Criminal Minds, the execs announced that they were going to fire A.J. Cook and limited Paget Brewster's screen time for "creative reasons" note It was to fund a spin-off. The fans were not happy. After many protests and letters, A.J. was able to come back for the first two episodes of the season, Paget's "goodbye" episode, and the season finale to announce she was returning next season. Paget was brought back as a regular for season seven as well.
An older, and baffling, example from The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner was changed to David Bruce Banner because, according to Lou Ferrigno, somebody at the network thought the name Bruce "sounded gay".
60 Minutes had a shameful example of this when the tobacco industry managed to pressure the network executives to force the show's producers to expurgate a damaging anti-tobacco industry story on the threat of being sued for tortious interference. The journalists on staff managed to make the story public to embarrass CBS to run the story completely. This incident was dramatized in the 1999 film, The Insider.
There is also the altering or pulling of reruns due to various rights issues would be considered executive meddling. This tends to mostly happen when they're released on DVD, usually manifested in changes to the show's soundtrack because the asking prices to certain mainstream tunes cannot (or will not) be met. Most infamously seen in the DVD release of WKRP in Cincinnati's first season, and any TV release to come from CBS DVD since the inception of CBS/Paramount.
There has also been the extremely annoying habit of releasing Edited for Syndication episodes on DVD. Perhaps the most infamous example of this was Alf, where the arrogant studio executives continously ignored the complaints from fans and released the entire series in a butchered form.
This as well happened to Mission Hill, where every single song that was played in an episode, except the theme song ("Italian Leather Sofa" by Cake), was replaced with cheaper music in order to be released on DVD.
This reason is probably the largest that Daria has took so long to come to DVD. The show at the time used every single song played on Top 40 and/or alternative radio during the show's run. This meant that the show used hundreds of songs, most only 5 or so seconds, the longest being the credit closer. The two movies released, Is It Fall Yet? and Is It College Yet?, have their music intact; the two regular episodes included as bonus material are silent, beyond the opening, actual speech, and a generic closer.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was notorious for its continual battles with network executives over content like censoring jokes, making jokes about the network censoring jokes, taking jabs at politics and religion until the network had enough and abruptly pulled the show off its schedule in 1969.
Smallville's shift from a grittier reboot of Superman into a more nostalgic, campy series was the result of flagging ratings in Season Three. A whole fleet of writers were shipped out and replaced, and the show ended up resembling its immediate precursor, The Adventures of Superboy.
Supernatural Season 3's Bela Talbot was the result of Executive Meddling.
Disney Channel/XD (Toon Disney)
In general, almost all Disney shows have suffered from this under the 65-episode limit that was imposed. No matter how popular, shows were canceled after their 65th episode to make room for new shows.
The original ending of Hannah Montana was an All Just a Dream scenario. The show was revealed to be the dream of a young Miley Cyrus. Thanks to Executive Meddling it was thought to be too confusing for children and the ending was changed to Miley giving up the movie in Paris to attend college with Lilly... The original ending however was later added as a alternate ending in the Final Season DVD set.
Power Rangers S.P.D. got hit especially hard; Executive Meddling caused a good chunk of the budget to go into the final episodes, meaning Disney didn't have enough money to hire an actual actor to play the Sixth Ranger. Their solution? Come up with some contrived plot about him being a time traveler who manifested as a ball of light when not morphed, and just get a voice actor to play him. Sam only ever appears as a stuntman in the ranger suit or as the CGI ball of light, making interaction between him and the other characters exceedingly awkward; the creative team was apparently so frustrated that they just wrote around him more often than not, and probably would have sent him back to the future, if not for Stock Footage constraints. Fans despised this move, even before the Grand Finale threw in the sucker punch of Sam appearing unmorphed for about two seconds before returning to the future. Sam rivals Cousin Oliver Justin as one of the most unpopular characters in the franchise's eighteen-year history. It's been pointed out that at least Justin was a character, as Sam was treated like a weapon or a Zord.
The short-lived E! reality show Living Lohan, which centered around the lives of Lindsay Lohan's family (though Lindsay herself never appeared in the show ((she was heard on the phone in one episode)) supposedly because she thought it was exploitive and wanted no part of it) ended because the producers started demanding the family to do more "crazy" things for the sake of drama, like Dina faking being pregnant and Michael Jr cheating on his girlfriend, which did not go over well with Dina, she refused the demands and quickly ended the show.
However, when Star Trek: The Next Generation had its pilot, the Meddling was a positive. "Encounter at Farpoint" was originally just the crew visiting a strange starbase, in a one-hour pilot show. When the Execs wanted a "Two Hour Event", Gene and DC were forced to add in a new alien threat to pad the show out. This would be Q, one of the most beloved and important "villains" in Star Trek history.
Roddenberry actually invokedExecutive Meddling when he cast Picard. Initially he and Patrick Stewart were worried that the producers would not allow Stewart to take the role because he was bald, Gene then had Patrick do a reading for the producers in the silliest wig he could find. In the end, the producers approved Stewart on the condition that he not wear a wig.
Roddenberry became the meddler himself, to the detriment of the show, unfortunately. There are accounts now that some of the real reasons the first couple of seasons of TNG were so weak was because he had actually flanderized his own Federation from simply being a futuristic society where all human cultures got along, to a future where Earth literally had all of its problems solved and there were no conflicts of any kind. This extended to the crew, he didn't want there to be any drama between anyone, but then he had to have his writers come up with a drama in order for there to be anything on the screen. The writers called this being put in the "Roddenberry box" and it reared its head during the first draft of a script where a boy's mother gets killed by a land mine and Gene said that in the Federation, they don't grieve, they just accept death and move on. The writers had to pull a crafty Writer Revolt by showing off the kid not grieving as a weird coping mechanism that was totally unhealthy. Ultimately, Roddenberry got Kicked Upstairs.
Andromeda executive producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe was constantly fighting with the Tribune suits, and he was ultimately fired halfway through Season 2. The plot of the show changed drastically at this point; Dylan's attempts to create a new Commonwealth were rushed to completion so he could be at odds with them instead.
Season 6 of Highlander was made of this. The producers got an offer to fund it if they could find a female spinoff lead other than Amanda.. Most of the eps were attempts that didn't fly. The funders backed out eventually,but spinoff plans went ahead. They kicked around a concept based on one of the characters, Alex Raven, but ultimately went with Amanda after all. The show, incidentally, kept the name Highlander: The Raven despite the character shift.
This also appears to have caused Richie's demise at the end of season five. The execs thought killing a main chracter would boost raitings. Cue huge backlash among the fans.
Food Network viewers, as shown on the network's Facebook page, went up in arms after the second episode of The Next Iron Chef: All Stars. There has been violent disagreement with the decision to eliminate Robert Irvine, whose hummus was "a little too thick," as opposed to Geoffrey Zakarian, who broke rules during the competition.
Dark Angel, to the sadness of its fans, was canceled after the cast were informed they got a third season. Jessica Alba was even in the airport to fly out to film the series when she got the call. And then, irony upon irony. Fox replaced it with a show that lasted only one season (Firefly, also sunk because of Executive Meddling), causing an outbreak of fan wars on the internet.
Arrested Development had attempted Executive Meddling all over the place. After a first season in which it won Best Comedy at the Emmys, the ratings still weren't good so they asked the writers to dumb it down. David Cross angrily rants about this in the DVD commentary, saying that if the show is so critically acclaimed and won awards, and it still doesn't have enough viewers, maybe they should market it better.
Fox insisted that Firefly have a "space hooker" and required Joss Whedon to write a second pilot because they wanted more action and less drama. They also threatened to pan-and-scan crop, no matter how it was shot, necessitating reshoots. Then they aired the episodes out of order and pre-empted a bunch of them for baseball. The series didn't even get to finish its first season.
The space hooker turned out OK; the second pilot, the reshoots, the out of order broadcast, and the general Screwed by the Network definitely count, though.
The first season of Dollhouse was heavily meddled with. The pilot was reshot because Fox found it too confusing. They also saw it prudent to make the writers focus on a Monster of the Week format for the first five episodes. They also decided not to air Episode 13, which is perhaps the most critically acclaimed of the series.
Arguably, though, Executive Meddling saved Dollhouse. When notice came of Dollhouse's second season renewal, the press release stated that Dollhouse wasn't axed because Fox didn't want "floods of emails".
Fox didn't "decide not to air Episode 13." Whedon's contract with Fox was worded in such a screwy way that the unaired pilot actually counted as a 13th episode, meaning that Whedon was only contracted to air 12. The DVD distributors, however, needed a thirteenth.
And now that the original pilot has been seen, one can understand why it was redone.
Tracy Torme was forced out of the Sliders staff by Fox executives, who wanted less political and philosophical exploration in the show, and more action and sex appeal.
Because of the general subject matter and dark sense of humor, Titus was eventually cancelled because of Executives who didn't want to worry about it any more. Christopher Titus was on the phone at least twice for every episode trying to convince an executive why the current episode works the way it is. "It's funny that we are having an intervention to convince my Dad to start drinking again."
The Vogler arc on House. An article in the New York Times described how ratings for the initial episodes were low, which led to executives proposing a "bad guy" who would conflict with House. The writers acceded, but before any of those episodes made it onto the air, the show was moved next to American Idol. Ratings soared, giving the writers enough clout to do away with Vogler. Given that fans generally regard the arc as a low point in the season, it was a fortunate break. And for those keeping score, the show is on (what else) FOX.
The X-Files suffered from this terribly, especially in later seasons. On the whole, the show was not supposed to go 9 seasons; it was originally supposed to go five seasons and then be completed in a series of feature movies. When Fox extended the contract, it was agreed that seven seasons was long enough. "Requiem", the season seven finale, was written and designed to be the series finale, pulling in almost every major character from the series and setting it in the same place the pilot took place. But executive meddling wins again, and the Chris Carter and Co. ended up with the terrible task of writing two more seasons when most of the plotline had already been resolved. New, confusing plotlines were developed, new characters added, and it dissolved by season 9.
Ironically, a more positive example came right when the show first began. The network brass told the writers to include plotlines that had to do with Earthly monsters, as opposed to just UFOs and aliens. Chris Carter agreed that the series couldn't have sustained itself that way, and the first Monster of the Week plot was the extremely memorable Squeeze, featuring cannibalistc monster Eugene Tooms.
Practically the majority of reality TV shows, especially talent shows like American Idol. Some things that are staged are so blatant (such as shoving someone with almost zero skill in whatever the show wants onto the show) that it can feel like you're really just watching unpaid actors that are doing improv for a season. Most reality and talent shows seem to have scenes that are filled to the brim with drama on screen due to careful editing. This all works as people keep tuning in to watch.
They aren't even trying to hide it on American Idol anymore. The last two seasons, they've implemented a "Judge Veto" system. So if a fan-favorite performer gets voted off, the judges can veto the decision. To keep it somewhat fair, they can only use the veto once per season. Now Kara Dio Guardi has been fired and Ellen De Generes and Simon Cowell quit with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joining as the new judges.
American Idol always have extremely bad singers appearing in the start of the season just to grate the ears of the judges and the people watching at home. What isn't shown is everyone entering the show has to display their talent to the producers of the show off camera and those people determine who can go on to audition to the judges. More often than not, the people with horrible singing skills tend to pass through because their laughably embarrassing singing will attract viewers into watching just because the bad singers are hilariously horrible. It also doesn't help that the show also gets people that sing badly on purpose just to get attention on TV and that is what the producers usually look for.
In the original draft for the show Glee, there was no Sue Sylvester. FOX decided the show needed a villian, so Sue was created. She quickly became one of the most, if not the most, popular characters on the show. It was a case of Executive Meddling working out for the better.
Just to show that this trope can go both ways on the same show, Sue Sylvester has become increasingly more and more out of place and less popular on Glee, but Executive Meddling demands that the writers keep her on instead of disposing of her.
It's also become a meme among many fans, supported by evidence of cut scenes and certain comments from producers, that Executive Meddling is behind the significant disparity in the number kisses shown between the show's straight and widely disliked Alpha Couple (Rachel and Finn), and it's gay and adored (arguable) Beta Couple Kurt and Blaine, as well as the Ensemble Darkhorse pairing of Santana and Brittany. The producers, cast members and FOX all deny it when asked directly if this happens, but when Finn and Rachel can kiss more often in one episode than both Kurt and Blaine and Santana and Brittany have kissed on-screen in the whole course of both their relationships, it's not hard to see why the fandom suspects something's up.
Method Man and Redman's short-lived sitcom Method And Red suffered in part because FOX execs decided to among other things, add a laugh track to the show against the creators wishes, Method Man and Redman were so dissapointed with how the show show turned out that they told people to not even bother watching it, apparently they listened because the show got cancelled after a mere four episodes had aired.
Subverted in the short-lived show Action, which itself was subject to meddling by executives at...you guessed it, Fox. In the series' primary story arc, the screenwriter for the movie Peter Dragon is producing is constantly being given notes to change his script from everybody involved in the film until he has a nervous breakdown under the pressure.
Many fans of Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen accused Fox of this during the 2011 season, when Manipulative Bastard Elise managed to stay until the final three despite pulling all sorts of stunts, up to and including outright lying to Ramsay on two different occasions.
The show has a nasty history of keeping the worst chefs or the chefs with zero teamwork skills for as long as possible as if the executives aren't bothering to hide it anymore or are possibly hinting at the chefs to act in a certain way. Chefs that horribly suck at their cooking skills can last several episodes but chefs that can't work with anyone and resort to cliched reality TV tactics, but are skilled in their cooking will usually last a lot longer like with Elise.
The show always seems to have people who only have basic cooking skills outshining their veteran peers (one famous example is a waffle house cook that shined so brightly that when she was eliminated, Ramsay personally offered to send her to a culinary school on his behalf) and people that should do well all the time because they are an executive chef or specialize in certain foods but always fail in their field when it comes to put those skills to the test. It could be possible that the executives nudge the chefs into certain acts, even if it goes against their skills, for the sake of drama and higher ratings.
This was attempted on Living Single. Kim Coles (Synclaire) was told that she needed to lose weight for her character, but her castmates said they would quit the show if the exectutives made her do that.
Bones Season 5 had an episode with a rather silly subplot (even by the show's standards) devoted to Hodgins, Sweets, and Fisher going to see the movie Avatar - which not incidentally was made by FOX.
General executive meddling
Virtually all American television shows produced before the late 1960s were subject to a particularly malevolent form of Executive Meddling. It was common at the time for stations in the Southeastern United States to edit shows to remove black characters who weren't in stereotypic roles — maids, criminals, sharecroppers, etc. If the black characters were pivotal to the story, then the episode, and in some cases the entire show, would simply not be broadcast in the southern market (one station in Jackson, Mississippi, WLBT, lost their license because of this and the outright refusal to carry their network's newscasts because of their critical coverage of the Civil Rights Movement). There was therefore a tremendous amount of pressure on producers to not cast a black actor unless the character he or she was playing was a demeaning stereotype, because losing out on the southern market meant losing out on a lot of money.
Parodied by a sketch with Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie in which Shakespeare (Hugh Laurie) complains about the changes that Rowan Atkinson's executive is making to his script of Hamlet. The twist is that the changes made by the executive result in the play we know today. The sketch can be found here.
G 4 (Tech TV)
This was what killed Tech TV: Upon their "merger" with G4, the executives demanded that all the TechTV staff either move to Los Angeles (where the G4 studios were already located) or simply get sacked. Less than a third of TechTV employees, only 6 of which were actual cast members, picked the former option. To make things worse, all of two TechTV shows — Anime Unleashed and X-Play — survived the "merger" unscathed. (Three if you count The Screen Savers, which itself saw a ridiculous amount of Executive Meddling — see below. Though some fans say it doesn't exist.) The end result was massive Network Decay and a sharp decline in the network's ratings, both of which may be the fastest in the history of cable TV.
The Screen Savers was also subject to heavy meddling during the merger. Practically overnight, it went from a tech show to, well no one really knows how to describe it. Yoshi DeHerrera's went from doing computer and electronics mods on the show to demonstrating a messy homemade blender and doing a report on drift racing full of rap slang and bikini-cladwomen. Mere months after he moved to Los Angeles to stay with the network, they fired him to Retool the show.
Meanwhile, G4 has turned into something which, aside from X-Play, bears no resemblance to either original G4 orTech TV, having been Retooled into a Spike TV clone with WAAAYYYYY too much Cops. After cancelling X-Play, parent company Comcast planned to change it to the Esquire Network, but decided it would replace the Style Network instead, leaving G4 in such a living-dead state that Comcast plans to pull the channel from its cable systems in January 2014.
A rare positive example in Generation Kill: the first episode had major issues running over-time, partly because HBO kept re-inserting a lengthy scene that the director and producers were perfectly willing to live without and kept taking out of the cut. In the end, HBO simply allowed the episode to run over the original limit.
The Lisa Kudrow vehicle The Comeback features fictional examples of this before it was canceled by executives who couldn't see the humor.
The usual manifestation of this trope was inverted with HBO's famous note to the Six Feet Under writing staff after reviewing the first few scripts: "Can we make these people even more fucked up?"
Shockingly, The Sopranos nearly underwent this in its first season when David Chase had to fight for the network to let him have Tony murder someone because the execs were unsure that the audience would still sympathize with Tony after such an act. Chase prevailed and the execs never messed with the show again.
Benioff and Weiss estimated that they needed 9 ships to recreate the Battle of Blackwater properly. HBO replied that they had money to build one. So the massive naval battle involving catapults and a fantasy version of Greek Fire from the novels was changed to a surprise explosion that destroys most of the enemy fleet in one hit.
Neil Marshall, who directed Blackwater, also told of his surprise when an unnamed producer who claimed to represent "the perverted side of the audience" demanded the inclusion of a scene featuring full female frontal nudity.
Bam Margera became incredibly fed up with MTV during the run of Viva La Bam - for example, an elaborate first episode that involved Bam turning his parents' entire property into a skate park went mostly unused, ending up as ten minutes' worth of filler when another episode resulted in scanty material. (To ensure that the amount of work put into the skate park was seen and appreciated, two lengthy compilations of unused footage from this episode appeared on the Season One boxed set and Viva La Bands Vol. 2 DVD.)
Another example of wasted footage was the "CKY Challenge" episode, rendered almost unintelligible by MTV's editing. On the DVD commentary, Tim Glomb is watching the finished episode for the first time, and becomes angry at how terrible it turned out.
The constant on-screen graphics proved to be another major annoyance to the cast. In an episode where Bam and friends plan an elaborate European vacation for Phil and April, Ryan Dunn tiredly comments that time is running out, and tells MTV to superimpose a clock in his outstretched hand. (They did.) The biggest issue concerned "Bam on the Bayou," in which the cast's numerous antics prompt an ever-increasing "Fun-o-Meter" to appear on the screen. Bam spends much of the commentary complaining about how stupid the Fun-o-Meter is, noting that it doesn't actually match how they felt. (Likewise, Bam gripes about a superimposed spedometer that appears on-screen during his race with Ryan in the fifth season.)
The John Larroquette Show started off as a quirky off-beat comedy focusing on the main character's 12 Step recovery from alcoholism. Network executives forced the producers to eliminate the 12 Step material after the first season, which took much of the original unique and edgy flavor away from the show.
From there it turned into another "single people with relationship problems" type of show, the exact sitcom stereotype the series was trying to stray from. John Hemingway also lost his cool, brooding, intellectual demeanor in the process.
Larroquette himself despaired when they moved his character, who worked as a night-shift bus station manager, out of his rat-trap boarding house to a nice apartment that he obviously couldn't afford with a couch facing the cameras. The Hooker with a Heart of Gold character had to find another career, too.
Spock's pointed ears on Star Trek: The Original Series were almost the victim of panicky NBC executives, who were afraid that superstitious hordes of TV viewers would think he was Satanic. They went so far as to airbrush the points out of a number of promotional photographs. Gene Roddenberry managed to save Spock's ears by promising plastic surgery for the character if audience response was poor. As we know, it was anything but bad. After Spock's popularity was established, no one at NBC would ever admit to being anything but for pointed ears.
Similarly, Roddenberry's original plan for perfect 50-50 gender equity among the crew of the Enterprise was scuttled by nervous suits who said, "Don't you see? It makes it look like there's a lot of fooling around going on up there!" It was only with great effort that he was able to retain a 30% female crew.
Uhura, the most visible female character, was denied a chance to command the Enterprise in one episode because an executive flat out told Roddenberry "we don't believe her in charge of anything". Nichelle Nichols got a lot of crap thrown her way by the executives for reasons that today are obviously both racist and sexist; for the first season, she wasn't a regular member of the cast, and her fan mail was kept from her. She almost left the show, until she met Martin Luther King Jr. at a party, who convinced her to stay on and serve as a black role model.
The original pilot episode for the original series, "The Cage", was considered "too intellectual" by the executives, so a new one was made. Gene Roddenberry then created the two-parter "The Menagerie" as a Framing Device in order to utilize footage from "The Cage". "The Menagerie" won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. And in a wonderful bit of serendipity, the story also established the concept of a "Star Trek universe" spanning decades which later became one spanning centuries with later revival series and spinoffs (with the exception of soap operas, TV series of the era rarely established any sort of long-standing history of their fictional universes).
The series Homicide: Life on the Street was a repeated victim of Executive Meddling, with NBC pulling the series off the schedule so frequently that only thirteen episodes were aired in the show's first two years, and several episodes in the first season aired out of order. Critical acclaim and a vocal cult audience kept the show on the air. Later, NBC pressured the show to cut loose veteran actors Ned Beatty and Daniel Baldwin and add younger, more photogenic cast members, including two unrealistically glamorous female detectives in seasons six and seven. Similarly, the show's original gritty, idiosyncratic camera style became much more polished and traditional as the series went on. Even the original squad room set was repainted and modernized. Finally, NBC agreed to renew the show for an eighth season... if the show moved to Miami Beach rather than Baltimore, became about a private detective agency rather than a homicide unit, and fired the entire cast save Richard Belzer and the two aforementioned glamorous female detectives. Luckily for all concerned, the creators of the show refused to play ball.
Law & Order suffered when the show was forced — in the name of expanding the demographic reach — to replace Lt. Cragen and Paul Robinette with Lt. Van Buren and Claire Kincaid, respectively.
This is arguably a positive example. Claire Kincaid quickly became one of the show's most popular characters (as well as one of the most well-beloved female characters on the show, to the point that the show repeatedly tried to recreate the character after the actress left the show) while Merkerson remained until the end, having stayed for 17 of the show's 20 years. The execs probably were not only right in the Law and Order case, but actually ahead of their time...
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis published a novel called It Can't Happen Here, about the election of a fascist government in the United States. In 1982, Kenneth Johnson adapted it as a possible TV miniseries called Storm Warnings, but it was rejected as "too cerebral". Eventually it was modified such that the American fascists became extraterrestrial invaders who ate people. The result was V.
NBC's Green/Earth Weeks; weeks in November and April respectively where every NBC show had to contain environmental themes. It was a great way for the suits to show off how "green" they were without actually doing anything.
My Name Is Earl lampshaded this one when Earl is required to organize a "Scared Straight" Program and Executive Meddling forces him to include environmental themes. He protests, because it wouldn't have anything to do with the story and would just be awkwardly shoehorned in.
30 Rock lampshaded this one as well, when David Schwimmer's character who is initially a "Corporate-Friendly Enviromentalist" starts to assume his eco-hero personality even when off the set.
Meanwhile, The Office simply relegated its "green" moment to a deleted scene, available only on DVD. One wonders if that editing decision was made deliberately late into the process...
Knight Rider kills two birds with one stone (Product Placementand lampshading): Dr. Graiman and KITT show off a 2010 Mustang concept to the visiting Eco-Friendly inspector as a ruse of it being KITT's next shell. It's made obvious to the viewers that the green statistics KITT gives are either a full blown Ass Pull, or, at best, a theoretical guess by Dr. Graiman.
As for the other NBC networks (USA, Bravo, CNBC, The Weather Channel, etc.)... all it means is their corner logo turns green for a week and we get some PSAs about how it's easy being green, and maybe a lettuce quickfire challenge on Top Chef.
And why is NBC doing "Green Week" every year? Because their parent company General Electric is trying to make a ton of green products, therefore they are using all of the networks they own as a way of advertising their products!
Well, now Comcast owns NBC Universal; but they've still carried on doing it.
In late May 2011, NBC decided to force their networks to do another theme week called "Healthy Week", which didn't go so well as it was the last week of sweeps (when NBC didn't have any programming at all except The Biggest Loser to tie in a healthy theme), which only the Today Show and some MSNBC shows took seriously, while for every other NBCU network, it was just 'throw on inane health tips on the screen and PSA's during commercial breaks to satisfy the brutes upstairs'.
You know that infamous episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun where a race of super-hot Venusians, all played by supermodels, attempt to take over Earth during the Super Bowl? Well, it's revealed on a DVD Commentary that that episode was the result of Executive Meddling. Yeah, we're not surprised either.
Portrayed over season 4 of Seinfeld, which features a story arc of Jerry and George trying to pitch a show much like Seinfeld itself to NBC, which is slowly ground down into another lame cookie cutter sitcom. Unusually, no one seems to notice and they seem pretty proud of the final product. The most notable is Jerry pitching an idea to spend an episode simply on the characters waiting for a table in a restaurant (the setup of one of the show's most popular and iconic episodes) which the execs don't get. A flustered Jerry then gives an alternate idea for a ridiculous story where a man is sentenced to be Jerry's butler after hitting his car, which cracks all the execs up and becomes the story of the pilot episode.
In the last episode, where Jerry's sitcom is finally greenlighted, an exec forces him to make his character and the character based on Elaine a couple.
This may be in reference to an actual bit of Executive Meddling; when Seinfeld was in development, the character of Elaine was created because of an executive mandate that there needed to be a female lead. Seinfeld would later admit that this actually improved the show dramatically.
The first season of Last Comic Standing nearly had this backfire on the producers. After the last round of auditions, the final cut for who was going to be in the house and actually contestants was supposedly going to be decided by a panel of celebrity judges including Drew Carey. When the final cast was announced, the judges stormed out because their picks for who were the best comedians had been overruled by the producers' picks for who would generate the most in-house drama. The producers managed to turn this around for themselves by turning the judges' anger into a drama spot.
Actually, it was revealed later within the episode mentioned that the producers had votes themselves. While the judges were initially angry at the outcome, they were reminded of this fact and apologized for the outburst. It's still executive meddling, but not underhanded like is suggested above. This was how the voting system worked from the start of the show.
Another example that ultimately worked: Mel Brooks and Buck Henry originally wanted Tom Poston for the lead role in their spy comedy Get Smart. NBC insisted on Don Adams because he was already under contract.
In one of the more controversial aspects of Heroes, Claire Bennet was given a lesbian relationship, despite previous seasons heavily implying that she was straight. According to some sources, the issue was Hayden Panettiere's idea, although the E! preview before the first episode of the fourth season indicated that Hayden and Madeline Zima were not too happy with what happened. The change among other factors, needless to say, not only got the show cancelled, but also killed the franchise.
On the flip side of the coin, way back in season 1, Claire's friend Zach was originally supposed to come out as gay. This was scrapped due to pressure from Thomas Dekker's agent who believed him playing a gay character would affect Fox's interest in hiring him for the role of John Connor.
Another positive example: Hill Street Blues, which was famous for stretching multiple intertwining plotlines over several episodes. (For example, the shooting of Officers Hill and Renko in the pilot wasn't resolved until the end of the first season.) One of NBC's conditions for renewing the show for a second season was a requirement that at least one storyline had to be wrapped up in each episode.
Ironically, this wasn't just a rare example of positive executive meddling at NBC, it was a rare example of executive meddling at NBC overall, as it occurred during Grant Tinker's tenure as chairman and CEO. With rare exceptions, Tinker generally hated executive meddling as he felt that it stifles creativity and that TV writers and producers do their best work without interference.
SCTV faced this numerous times, mainly from NBC, who gave them almost No Budget, and tried to influence the show's content.
One instance of meddling in particular resulted in the creation of one of the show's most famous sketches. When the CBC picked up the show, they requested that an extra segment be included in the Canadian airings that was "identifiably Canadian content" ... which the show's staff thought was a bizarre request since it was already a Canadian production. So what did the show do? They came up with a Take That in the form of "The Great White North", an ad-libbed filler sketch featuring two Overly Stereotypical Canadians, eh? Shockingly, the purposely crappy sketch backfired, as Bob and Doug became the most popular characters on the show.
While Roy Huggins experienced bad Executive Meddling on Maverick (see the ABC folder) it was a different case on Run For Your Life: NBC (and the American Medical Association) asked Huggins not to name the terminal disease which Ben Gazzara's adventure-seeking lawyer was suffering from (he was told it would kill him within two years - the show lasted for three) so viewers wouldn't start thinking they had it. Which is certainly possible.
An extremely unusual, and possibly unique, case is found in Land of the Lost. The executive in charge of the show directly ordered the Krofft brothers to hire a properly trained linguist to create the language of the proto-human Pakuni. Victoria Fromkin, Ph.D., is listed in the show credits, and the DVD set of the first includes the entire 200 word Pakuni vocabulary, which makes it clear Pakuni isn't just English with other words.
Norm MacDonald's firing from Saturday Night Live. Don Ohlmeyer, NBC's West Coast Executive, stated that he thought Norm simply wasn't funny and demanded his removal. Interestingly, Don had two justifiable reasons to get rid of Norm that both parties agree had nothing to do with this. Don forgave Norm for accidentally launching a Precision F-Strike live on air (and then calling attention to it), and Norm denies that his removal had anything to do with his attacks on O.J. Simpson, who was a close friend of Don's.
It should be noted that Saturday Night Live doesn't get this treatment as much as other shows — unless the season is doing so poorly that NBC is forced to intervene. Cases in point:
Season six (1980-1981): The first season without Lorne Michaels. Jean Doumanian was hired as the new showrunner (it would have been Al Franken, but he pissed off Fred Silverman with his "Limo for the Lame-O" segment on Weekend Update, and Harry Shearer even expressed an interest in being showrunner, as he felt the show's current sensibility didn't mesh with his brand of humor), and, with every agonizingly unfunny episode, it became clear that Doumanian was in over her head (though Doumanian claims that she was doing the best she could with a limited budget and NBC staff treating her like crap because she's a woman). Add to the fact that she rejected a lot of potential cast members (Jim Carrey being one of them), relegated Eddie Murphy to background roles (which would be her undoing, as Eddie Murphy's stand-up piece on the Ray Sharkey episode would be the guarantee that he'd be the show's next big star), and was accused for setting up Charles Rocket saying "fuck" at the end of the Charlene Tilton episode (though Rocket himself has stated that it wasn't a set-up and he didn't know he said anything wrong until the backlash), and NBC had to be rushed in to save the show with new blood, knowing full well that they would probably have to give it a mercy kill (they didn't, but back then, they were thinking it and jokes were made about how Saturday Night Live should be called Saturday Night Dead due to its drop in quality).
Season 11 (1985-1986): Another bad season, only this time, it was Lorne Michaels' fault. After his sketch show The New Show got canned and learning that NBC was going to cancel SNL after its 10th season due to low ratings and Dick Ebersol deciding to quit after NBC nixed all the ideas he had planned for his vision of SNL, Michaels swooped in to rebuild his show, with a new cast and new writers. With the exception of Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, and Nora Dunn, no one cared much for the new cast (which included such now-famous faces as Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Damon Wayans, and Randy Quaid, along with the first time the show hired homosexual cast membersnote Terry Sweeney, an openly gay white man, who was on the show before as one of Jean Doumanian's writers, and Danitra Vance, a black lesbian and the only time the show hired a teenagernote Anthony Michael Hall was 17 when he joined the cast, making him the youngest white male cast member. The youngest black male cast member is Eddie Murphy, who was hired as a cast member at 19), and, after the bizarre debacle that was the March 1986 episode hosted by George Wendt with Francis Ford Coppola and musical guest Phillip Glass, NBC rushed in again and decided to shut the show down for good. While the season 11 finale did end with everyone locked in a room with Lorne setting it on fire and saving Jon Lovitz, Lorne begged NBC to give his show another chance, which they did, but only for 13 episodes of season 12 (they later rescinded this after season 12 brought SNL back from its early 1980s slump). Lorne fired everyone (except for the three aforementioned newcomers who were actually good, along with Al Franken and A. Whitney Brown), brought in people like Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, and Kevin Nealon, and everything about season 11 was written off as a bad dream.
Season 20 (1994-1995): Unlike seasons six and 11, which were bad because of new cast members who were barely experienced with working in sketch comedy and/or as an ensemble and writing that wasn't top shelf, this season was plagued with an overcrowded cast that hated each other, Phil Hartman leaving for other projects (mostly The Simpsons and News Radio), and overexposure of Adam Sandler and Chris Farley. Once again, NBC confronted Lorne Michaels about it and told him that the show was ending due to low ratings and bad reviews — and Lorne Michaels, once again, dodged cancellation by weeding out the bad cast members and writersnote though most of them left on their own accord because they were tired of the show, in the cases of Kevin Nealon and Ellen Cleghorne, or found out how daunting working at SNL is, in the cases of Morwenna Banks and Chris Elliott, keeping in the good ones, and hiring newer, better talent. Lorne Michaels has cited season 20 as the closest he's been to being fired and having his show canceled.
NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt admitted to burning off part of the final, half-length season of Chuck by airing episodes during the low-viewership year-end holidays so that the season and the series would be finished with as quickly as possible. His reason? The rabid online fan community that had pushed NBC into renewing the show wasn't actually watching the show in its Friday night timeslot (where several cult favorites were competing for the already smaller Friday audience). His frustration over this dissonance between popularity and Nielsen audience decided him to get the show off the air as soon as he could.
Greenblatt: Unfortunately, that rabid fan base that was going crazy on the net didn't come to the show. And maybe they didn't come to the show because it was Friday, but you would think that audience would find the show. The show was getting a 1 rating. So I think Chuck's time had come. ... Chuck is over, let's alert the masses.
Community - oh sweet god, Community. After getting okay ratings the first season (this is NBC we're talking about), Community was moved to Thursday nights, 8 pm EST. The problem was that this put it up against The Big Bang Theory, and the ratings suffered. It also didn't help matters that creator Dan Harmon was utilizing whatever Protection from Editors he had to introduce more and more weirdness into the show. While this was appreciated by the cult fanbase, NBC did not take it well. After a forced move to mid-season during Season 3 (which was widely protested by fans), Community was finally renewed for a fourth season... and then NBC (possibly pushed by Sony) pulled a dick move and ejected Dan Harmon from showrunner position, replacing him with the consulting producers from Aliens In America and Happy Endings. The following exodus of executive producers, directors, and writers, coupled with circulated letters suggesting the actors only speak positively of the new show direction and the explosion of fan outrage, suggests the executive meddling here will not be taken well if Community does not perform to expectations.
The casting of the female lead for the first season of JAG is a case of this. Creator and Executive Producer Donald P. Bellisario wanted Andrea Parker who'd starred in the pilot episode, but NBC wanted Tracey Needham instead. Needham got the part.
30Rock provided an in universe example when Dot Com pitched a show called Let's Stay Together about a family growing up in early 70s Detroit. NBC agreed to show it if numerous changes were made, including the addition of a talking dog.
Up All Night is one of those examples of a show being meddled into suicide. The show had a history of meddling - Maya Rudolph's Ava character got a more inflated role in the wake of Bridesmaids, turning the show into a blend of subdued Dom Com and wacky Work Com, then had her show cancelled at the start of Season 2, turning the show into pretty much pure Dom Com - but nothing compared to the planned changes in the middle of Season 2. First came the idea of turning the single-cam, laugh-track-lacking sitcom into a multi-cam show with a studio audience. Attempts to cope with the change included a portal between the "single cam" and 'multi-cam" universes that only baby Amy could see, or the revelation that the main characters were all actors playing their own characters on a show called Up All Night. At this point, Christina Applegate left, and while there was talk of recasting her, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph jumped ship soon after.
Friends: The Season Six episode "The One With The Proposal" was subjected to this. Originally, the episode was supposed to depict a Big Showdown between Chandler and Richard, ultimately ending in a cliffhanger with Monica deciding who to marry. However, there was last-minute speculation that Season Six would be the final season of Friends. Thus, the writers were forced to retool the episode to end with Monica and Chandler proposing, so that if the series was cancelled, there would be no cliffhanger left dangling.
To be fair the writers also changed the 'showdown' ending because they realized it would be obvious that Monica was going to pick Chandler. They didn't like playing the proposal for cheap laughs and drama, so changed it to the more private, romantic proposal we see. They explain it all on the episodes commentary.
NBC execs forced Marcel on the show, because apparently Friends needed a monkey for comic relief. Both cast and crew found it to be a pain in the ass and give it a Take That in season 6. They also attempted numerous spin-offs and crossovers with the show to try to piggyback off the show's success.
Nickelodeon/The N (Teen Nick)
The Nickelodeon Sci-Fi series Space Cases had two examples of Executive Meddling in the Season 1 finale. First off, Catalina was meant to be killed off. However, Nickelodeon decided that was too dark for kids and had the writers add a new ending at the last minute that showed that she had survived by being shoved into another dimension. It's an understandable change, but it completely ruins the scene before it and death had already been brought up on the show before, so the logic behind the decision is a bit questionable. The second change was the removal of the character Elmira. You see, following Catalina's Disney Death the creative team was going to bring Elmira to the show as a full-time cast member. This made perfect sense as she was already introduced in the past season, had a connection to the crew and the central story line and was liked by fans. However, Nickelodeon felt she was too alien and would keep kids away from the show. So, instead they brought in Suzee, a character previously only seen by Catalina and was utterly unlikable. Fans hated these alterations and season 2 is widely viewed as inferior to the first because of them.
As they have co-funded Degrassi: The Next Generation, the "N" Channel has exerted more and more influence over the writers and producers of the show. Their meddling can be seen most notably in the opening credits for the seventh and eighth seasons, which have moved away from showing the ensemble cast during an average school day and towards emphasizing the individual characters, much in the style of Beverly Hills 90210.
In-universe Executive Meddling by the school board has to take a lot of the blame for Degrassi's slide from "high-tech magnet school" to "rough school with metal detectors, standing police presence and a bad reputation".
iCarly: Parodied in iCarly Saves TV. iCarly was given a TV contract, but proceeded to be meddled with by a director fixated with a traditional sitcom and not the original idea of expanding iCarly into something of a variety show. This included replacing Sam, making Freddie an errand boy for the director, and eventually adding a talking Barneyesque dinosaur.
Eventually happened to the actual show. . After the writers spent an entire double length episode telling people not to watch the show for the Shipping that had taken over the fandom, Nick pushed to have the exact same Shipping fandom stoked into a Shipping War by hooking up one of the two main couples on the show. With the official network twitter accounts, the writers and creator of the show all expecting mega ratings over the 12.4 million of the previous highest rated episode (ironically featuring the opposite couple getting together), it could only pull 7.4, which on the surface was good. The problem manifested itself as the arc went on, with the final episode of the arc getting some of the lowest ratings in the history of the show. Once the arc was over the viewers were already gone, the show tanked severely.
Victorious also suffered from some executive meddling, although in this case, it was executive meddling in it's favour. As mentioned above, the second main cause for the ratings issues on iCarly was a lack of promotion for the show after that romantic storyline. Because iCarly looked to be coming to a close, Nick needed to push their promotional focus onto Victorious, which was slated to 'take over' as the flagship show of the network. The problem was that Victorious wasn't especially popular outside of it's lead-in from iCarly. Even with iCarly getting renewed a couple more times, the poor advertising for iCarly hurt Victorious, as did the splitting of the show from a pairing where one lead into the other, to airing almost at random without being together.
These ratings were so bad that it pulled the network as a whole down, Victorious was cancelled at the same time as iCarly ended, along with numerous other shows on the roster, as the Nick execs wanted clear space to try and revive the network with a series of new pilots. To come full circle, the new pilot is Sam & Cat, which is a spin-off between two characters, one from iCarly, and one from Victorious.
Sam & Cat was originally intended as a show by Dan Schneider built just for Jennette McCurdy. There was never any mention of Ariana Grande appearing, or that the show itself was going to be a Spin-Off of iCarly. It is likely that the Nickelodeon executives, seeing how poorly the story arc that involved Jennette McCurdy's character Sam was received, along with poor ratings for an episode of Victorious where she guest starred as a completely different character, pushed them to direct Dan to change the show to a Sam spin-off, by adding Ariana Grande, who is extremely popular with the tweenage twitter set, and heavily push the show into social media.
Power Rangers and Nickelodeon have a very odd relationship and the oddness of Power Rangers Megaforce is showing how it is. Under contract with Nickelodeon, Saban can only do 20 episodes per season. Not so bad - Megaforce happens to be airing during the 20th anniversary of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, so let's use Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger! "Not so fast!", says Toei - Saban's contractually obliged not to skip over Super Sentai series, so they have to use Tensou Sentai Goseiger. End result? 2 20 episode seasons that decide to hit the fast forward button on two different series because of two stupid contracts.
Sci-Fi Channel/Sy Fy
The Sci Fi Channel has apparently implemented a policy that any series that has only middling ratings instead of stellar ratings will be canceled, despite whatever vocal, devoted following it has. Three examples that jump out include Mystery Science Theater 3000, Farscape, and at the end of its 10th season, after being the longest running U.S. hour-long science fiction show ever, Stargate SG-1, which annoyed the two main factions of the fanbase for different reasons — half wanted it to continue, and half wanted it to have ended two seasons before it did. Each of these series replaced the last. They have more generally replaced cancelled shows with such things as Monster movies, Professional Wrestling, and whatever syndicated series they could get on the cheap.
And when MST3K came over from the abusive Comedy Central, the execs decided that it needed more sci-fi movies (which is partially justified, this was before their Network Decay started to kick in), and eventually feature wacky subplots during the host segments such as Pearl Forrester wanting to become a licensed mad scientist, because that's what the audience will care about. Proof that you can run a network with no clue about why people watch your programs. Luckily, none of this hurt the ratings and they made that stuff funny.
At least Atlantis got the dignity of a five-season run. Stargate Universe only got two.
Which was two too many for a lot of fans.
The fan reaction to Universe's two season run was the same as the reaction to SG-1 getting ten. Half thought it deserved a longer run, and half thought it should have been canceled after the first season.
SG-1 also got meddled by Showtime. The pilot featured a minute-long shot of full-frontal female nudity that the writers said they were forced to add to mark the series as "adult". The shot remains on the DVDs of season 1, but was cut from all syndicated airings and from the pilot's '09 recut as a DVD movie.
The Sci Fi Channel was unhappy with Battlestar Galactica's plot-heavy story arc-based episodes, since it required a lot of background and internal knowledge to understand and made it difficult to pick up new viewers. When the first two seasons didn't pull in the ratings Sci-Fi desired, the executives pressured Moore into creating more standalone episodes that weren't as plot-heavy. This plan backfired and the third season took heavy criticism from both fans and critics, particularly the infamous episode "The Woman King". Fortunately, the executives decided to let Moore call the shots in the 4th season.
In one of the weirdest examples of Executive Meddling ever, a higher-up at Sci-Fi insisted that the show's intro tune be changed. This is why, on Sci-Fi's airings, season one has a different intro theme, for apparently no reason. The intro theme you hear on the Sci-Fi channel in later seasons already existed for season one everywhere else it was broadcast. The reason for the insisted change? The original music was deemed too depressing. Yes, for a show about the end of the world via nuclear holocaust, an ominous Sanskrit chant is just going to drive the audience over the edge for how much angst they can take. The original was changed back because of a negative fan reaction that surprised Sci-Fi by how disproportionally large it was compared to the actual issue at hand. Anyone who hadn't seen the first season of BSG via Bittorrent before it finished airing in the United States, but after it finished airing everywhere else, probably heard the original theme on Youtube.
That pro-wrestling mentioned above didn't even escape the meddling: when WWE revived the "ECW brand", their contract with parent company USA got the show put up on the then-still-named Sci Fi Channel. An odd choice to be sure, but not fully without logic, thinking they'd pull in some of the historic ratings spikes the WWE could muster. Then the executives stated "Well you're on SFC, so you need sci-fi elements." This lead to such memorable characters as "The Zombie", who were already in the ring by the time the commercial break was over so you didn't even see their intro, and then old-school ECW Original "The Sandman" would come out and smear them across the ring. SFC backed off after the first few weeks.
The Showtime executives objected to an episode of the Genre Anthology series Masters Of Horror called "Imprint", directed by Takashi Miike, for its extremely graphic and disturbing content. Executive producer and creator Mick Garris made cuts to the episode, but it was shelved anyway, and is now only available on DVD. Another episode, "Jenifer", had several cuts made for violence, with the deleted scenes being available on DVD.
One example that was actually for the better was in Big Brother Canada. In the Head of Household competition, Emmett was found to have cheated. Rather than simply let it happen, they shut down the feeds for all of Friday, wherein they redid the competition and did not let Emmett compete.
Heavily subverted by Kenny Everett; when he devised for his show a new character called Mary Hinge, he was ordered by Thames TV executives to change the name because the Spoonerism was "too blatant". So change it he did — to Cupid Stunt, which is far more blatant.
In the second season of Babylon 5, The WB execs insisted on the creation of a hotshot fighter pilot character that they actually called "the Han Solo of Babylon 5", a phrase series creator J. Michael Straczynski hated due to its implication that the viewer would be unfamiliarwith any kind of science fiction besidesStar Wars. Since it was the only way the show would survive past its first season, he went along and created Lt. Warren Keffer. However, he got his revenge by giving Keffer as little to do as possible, and at the end of the season, killed him off in a very painful manner. By this point, the executives had completely forgotten that they insisted upon the character in the first place.
J. Michael Straczynski's experience creating the Babylon 5 sequel series Crusade for TNT was full of meddling; Turner execs reportedly asked him to add more sex and violence, and write a second pilot directly under their oversight. They even forced changes in the color scheme of the sets and uniforms after filming had begun. A lampshade was hung on this in one episode, with a sarcastic comment about interfering higher-ups back on Earth. The series was canceled before it even aired, and to add insult to injury, the episodes were aired out of their intended order.
After the intended first episode was thought to be too cerebral and therefore uninteresting, the execs actually insisted on a new pilot that would open with a fist fight.
One name in Toku is synonymous with Executive Meddling: Kamen Rider Hibiki, as best described by this article. To summarize: Intended to reverse the ratings and toy sales slump the Kamen Rider franchise was facing — to the point of appointing Shigenori Takadera, the man responsible for reviving Kamen Rider with Kamen Rider Kuuga, as lead producer once more — the unusually introspective and character-driven Hibiki quickly gained popularity and achieved a higher ratings average than its predecessor Kamen Rider Blade — but even lower toy sales than Blade.note As of 2013, Hibiki still retains the dubious honor of having the lowest toy sales record of any Kamen Rider series Additionally, the filming went over-budget and over-schedulenote The series contained location shoots in remote areas and complex CGI monsters of the weekon a regular basis, two oddities for the franchise., further compounding the revenue problem, and Moral Guardians complaingned about the high density of Nightmare Fuel.
So around episode 30, Takadera and lead writers Shinji Oiishi and Tsuyoshi Kida were sacked and replaced with Shinichiro Shirakura as producer and Toshiki Inoue as lead writer, and the series was Retooled to be more action-centric, less costly on the budget and less scary. This also included Eiki and Shoki being Demoted to Extra, as well as the introduction of The Scrappy Kyosuke Kiriya.
Shigeki Hosokawa, Hibiki's actor, reported that the new writing staff was "fraudulent" and harder to work with, to the point where they were re-writing the final episode while the final battle was being filmed. Just to cap it all off, the ending was changed at the last minute, denying Asumu the chance to become an Oni, the staff actually scrapping his costume in order to enhance Kiriya's; fans were livid at this revelation, and several Toei executives were upbraided for letting things go so far.
As for the cast and original crew: Takadera has completely burned bridges with Toei and later reunited with Oiishi to create Spiritual SuccessorDaimajin Kanon for Kadokawa, Kida was given a second chance on the franchise with lead writing duties on Kamen Rider Wizard, Hosokawa has said that he'd gladly reprise his role as Hibiki, provided a more competent director were in charge; Kiriya's actor Yuichi Nakamura redeemed himself with his performance as Yuto Sakurai in Kamen Rider Den-O; and while Asumu remains screwed, his Kamen Rider DecadeAlternate Universe counterpart (played by a different actor) receives the justice the original universe incarnation should have got, as he himself becomes Hibiki after his mentor passes on his powers to the boy.
According to interviews with various cast members and writers, the decision to introduce a female Captain was handled poorly. Characterization was wildly inconsistent, with Janeway being lionized by the female writers and painted as an unstable autocrat by the males. The writer's room was deluged with chauvinistic hate mail. The original actress quit when the producer told her to act as buttoned-down and robotic as possible. (This was actually Rick Berman's decree to the whole cast, believing their emoting would detract from the believability of aliens they encounter.)
UPN wanted Voyager to have TNG ratings, and figured that the easiest way to do that would be to make Voyager like TNG, meaning no character conflict (which having the mixed Starfleet/Maquis crew was meant to allow), no story arcs (the one attempt at it was given a greatly disliked ending that neatly avoids any consequences), and the enforcement of Status Quo Is God. Garret Wang famously explained that the reason his character, Harry Kim, remained an ensign for six years was because the show needed a Wesley.
Ironically, this is also what saved Harry Kim's life. His character was scheduled to die from an alien infection at the end of the third season. Then the actor made the list of 'Top 50 Sexiest Men on TV' that year and Harry was kept and Kes was booted off instead to make way for Seven of Nine.
And that was because ratings were falling, and the network execs said sex sells, and the one attempt to make Kes sexy (complete with much longer, wavy hair for only a single episode) apparently failed miserably, and thus Seven of Nine and her oxygen-depriving catsuit were invented. (In fact, a TV Guide interview with the actress at the time indicated that she was hired because she had had a baby and her breasts were therefore larger than normal. There were apparently complaints when her figure went back to normal.)
It was so bad that when Ron Moore joined the staff after Deep Space Nine ended, he wrote one episode, was there three weeks, and left in disgust. When he asked about how to write a character, the response was essentially "We don't know, do what you want."
Robert Beltran slammed his employers at a Star Trek convention for ignoring him and the rest of the cast (especially Tim Russ, who played Tuvok, and Garrett Wang, who played Harry Kim), over Seven of Nine and the Doctor. He then threatened to leave. As a compromise, the producers introduced a relationship between his character and Seven of Nine, who was at that time the most popular character on the show. Not a good compromise. The relationship was not hinted at until past the half-way point of the last season; and was actually a simulation. Their actual relationship was not shown until the last episode.
The common narrative is that, if Star Trek: Enterprise did anything to please the fans, odds are good the producers went fishing that week. Executive Producers Brannon Braga and Rick Berman are thus often assumed to have penned the lowest-rated and most derided episodes of ENT's four-year run—despite all the times when their episodes were...well, good. ("Cogenitor", anyone?) In reality, many of the creative choices seen as negative by viewers were imposed upon Berman and Braga by UPN.
UPN forced the show to use a power ballad, being the much-loathed “Where My Heart Will Take Me” pop-song for its theme tune instead of the purpose-written classical piece "Archer's Theme", which ended up being used for the closing credits.
Executives were also responsible for the Temporal Cold War arc. The original idea for the series was to have the first season based on Earth before going into space the very next season, but higher-ups disliked that idea and insisted that it be similar in tone to Voyager; weirder yet, to have a Time Travel element to make it "more futuristic," despite it being a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. The execs later realized the TCW was going nowhere and demand that it be removed, which is why it was abruptly finished in "Storm Front."
"E2" is often remembered for ripping off half a dozen episodes. What isn't too well-known is that the writer was specifically asked to make a number of edits for it to mimic previous ideas.
The most egregious example from Enterprise is the episode "Dear Doctor", in which Doctor Phlox discovers that an apparent pandemic among the Valakian species is actually a widespread genetic disorder. Phlox is able to create a cure, but wants to withhold it because the disorder came about naturally, and the fall of the Valakians will make way for the ascendency of a second intelligent species which are currenly oppressed by the Valakians. In the original version of the script, Phlox refuses a direct order from Captain Archer to give them the cure, ending the episode with tension between the characters. UPN execs, however, were unhappy with the characters holding so strong a disagreement, so the script had to be changed for Archer to agree with Phlox instead. There is still significant argument over whether or not this counts as genocide.
As part of an "HIV awareness week" the network asked all series to do an AIDS-themed episode, even the one set 150 years in the future ("Stigma"). This turned out as bad as you'd think, and while HIV did not make an appearance, the series did contract a major Plot Tumor.
The inconsistent behavior of the Captain was par for the course by that point.
This happened when they changed "Best Week Ever" to "Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins".
In the pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the character Willow wears drab clothing that her mother picked out for her. Network execs told creator Joss Whedon that they wanted Willow to "look more like Buffy" who wore brighter, preppier, and more stylish clothing. This had a positive result, however, as Whedon decided to give Willow colorful, if geeky clothing, leading to the famous fuzzy sweaters and silly clothes.
Willow's character was the subject of a lot of meddling. In the unaired pilot, she was played by Riff Regan, who actually looked like she could be a geeky social outcast, as opposed to... say... Alyson Hannigan. She wasn't recast for this reason, however — she frequently flubbed lines and generally played the character as too nervous.
But the most famous example of Buffy meddling involves The WB's notoriety for jumping to ridiculous conclusions about what would upset the audience (see also the X-Men: Evolution example in Western Animation). Remember when the "Graduation" season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer almost didn't air in the wake of the Columbine tragedy? True, it involved the image of a class full of students coming to school armed to the teeth... to fight a giant demon-thing in a showdown between good and evil that had been set-up as the climax for the entire season. This was apparently considered Too Soon. Yeah...
The WB also postponed the Buffy episode "Earshot," as the episode involved a plot to mass-murder students (with a Red Herring that it would be by shooting). It was supposed to be the next episode to air following Columbine, so the network instead aired a rerun of "Band Candy". The irony is that Buffy keeps the character Jonathan from killing himself in "Earshot", which makes it all the more significant that he is the one to give her the Class Protector Award in "The Prom", the episode that was originally to air after "Earshot". Out of Order like that, it makes little sense.
To be fair to The WB, these examples aren't entirely as ridiculous as they're made out to be. Both involve potentially or actually violent confrontations involving members of the student body armed with lethal weaponry in a school, one of them has very very strong hints throughout the episode of setting up a school shooting (to the extent that Jonathan's suicide attempt arguably looks like a little bit of an Ass Pull to set up the Red Herring Twist; he's planning to kill himself with a sniper rifle in a clock tower for cryin' out loud), and the other of which involves the heroes actually blowing up the school, albeit as the only way to kill an extremely powerful demon. The mood immediately after Columbine (when both these episodes would have aired) was very on-edge regarding both media violence, especially material involving violence in schools. This public mood can be understood given that a lot of kids and teachers had only recently been murdered in one. In light of the content of the episodes, and the likely reaction of the Moral Guardians, the WB likely saw the postponements as the safe thing to do.
More importantly, those who didn't think it was Too Soon might have thought it was Ripped from the Headlines, which might have been seen in an ever worse light by fans.
Joss Whedon's comments regarding the decision to postpone "Earshot" indicate that he agreed with it wholeheartedly. However, Joss was very angry about the delaying of the Season Finale, to the point of advising fans to "pirate the damned thing," a rare (maybe unique) instance of a producer encouraging fans to pirate copies of his own show. A key difference was that "Earshot" was not significant in the seasonal arc (likely why Whedon was okay with its postponement), but making viewers wait months to see the payoff of the season-long Story Arc was pretty cruel. TV would be much better without the Moral Guardians.
Whedon has confirmed that the "Buffy Working At A Fast Food Place" plotline would have been taken further in Season 6, due to network worries that it would alienate advertisers... and thank God for that.
Angel, in order to get a season 5, changed location, Mind Wiped the characters, changed their jobs from detectives to clueless employees of the same evil corporation that had been laboring for years to dismantle, shifted from a Arc based format to a Monster of the Week setup (for the first 1/3 of the season; after that they had at least somewhat of a Story Arc), and transplanted Breakout Character Spike from Buffy into the show. It worked to some extent, as season 5 was better received than the previous one, though not enough so to bring about season 6. (Joss Whedon tried to leverage the property to obtain an early renewal, but overestimated his own clout and was canceled instead.)