Sometimes, viewers are so afraid that a show will be Screwed by the Network that they refuse to watch it, even if it sounds appealing to them.
Effect refers to viewers being afraid of committing to a new series because they don't believe the series will last long enough to make up for the investment of time and emotions. "The network is just going to cancel this, so I'm not giving it my heart." If enough viewers think this way towards a particular TV series, it may become a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
— people don't watch because they think the show will be canceled, and then the show is cancelled because
no one is watching it.
don't tend to want to invest in intelligent or overly complex series, because they worry that the given show will be less popular, (and thus draw in less money from ratings) if viewers are required to use their brains
. As well as the Trope Namer Firefly
, Star Trek: Voyager
was a quintessential example of this trope — it had an initial premise which was very similar to that of Firefly
in some respects, and although the show didn't get cancelled, said initial premise was basically scrapped...along with the series being made a lot less intelligent and a lot more violent.
This trope usually only applies to science fiction, or anything similar which is likely to be weird, non-mainstream, or otherwise cause the suits to worry that it won't rate well. It can be a real problem for all the LOST
clones and other Ontological Mysteries
, which aren't worth watching if they don't get more than one season, and especially if they don't even get a full season — and they often don't. That is also the sort of TV shows most likely to be hit by this effect, but it can hit any
show that makes it clear up-front that you need to be involved
in the characters and/or overarching plot to make sense of the show in the long run. That up-front demand plus the uncertainty that there will be
a long run allows The Chris Carter Effect
to start before the TV show does, meaning the fans never start
In contrast, people usually
don't think that they'll get overly attached to Crime Procedurals
, Soap Operas
, or even Reality Shows
; thus, they'll feel free to watch episodes "casually" until the attachment to the show (or characters) sneaks up on them.
Even some shows that seemed feasible only over one (22-episode) season (such as Reunion
, Day Break
, and Drive
) suffer from this effect, due to the episode order getting shortened to 13. In Reunion
's case, the producers didn't even bother finishing the storyline, because it only made sense over a full 22 episodes rather than the shortened 13.
A subtype of this trope can occur with specific characters in a series rather than the entire series itself. In this case a series will contain a particular character who isn't getting much screen time because the authors are having difficulty coming up with story ideas for him or her.
Science-fiction shows often have scenarios that are based on a ship and characters have designated roles (captain, medic, science officer, etc.) but the pilot/first season will have these one or two extraneous characters who don't fill a specific role, and don't tend to do much
. If the ratings start to slide, the executives will usually want these characters written out
, and often replaced with a character and actor which have a better backstory and much more obvious charisma/appeal, which will then cause fan rage
among the portion of the audience who liked said character(s).
Incidentally, many of these shows (including Trope Namer Firefly
) were on Fox
— basically because Fox was likely to give the sort of show that gets this effect an initial run, but tended to be too Nielsen-sensitive to be patient. Fox has recently been experimenting to test the nature of this effect, as evidenced by Fringe
(which seems to have escaped this trope, airing for five seasons) and Dollhouse
(if this trope can apply to a show that has run for more than one season, then Dollhouse