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Screwed by the Network
aka: Screwed By The Studio

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"Starting now on Channel 4 is a brand new show that we paid a ridiculous amount of money for which we'll launch in a blaze of publicity, and after a few weeks, we'll get bored of it and move it around the schedule where no one can find it, then we'll brand it a flop, take it off the air for six months, then reluctantly put it back on at three in the morning."

The prototypical network executive's time revolves not around nurturing talent for the benefit of all, but around making him or herself look competent. That means appearing responsible for every success and innocent of every failing that the network might have, irrespective of whether this was actually the case. Plus, the people that the executive is trying to convince are his or her fellow executives, who are likewise having the exact same neurotic crisis day in and day out.

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Nevertheless, the need to keep their channels populated with new shows means that their commissioning bodies will keep putting forward all kinds of shows that may or may not appeal to the network executives' sensibilities.

For this reason, the execs will sometimes find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in charge of a show that they do not understand and therefore do not know what to do with. This presents them with a tricky situation: if the show is a failure they risk losing face, but if the show is a success then they'll look redundant.

Alternatively, the show may be a legacy commission under your predecessor, which is worse — because if it's a success, they'll have one up on you, but if you cancel it straight off, you'll lose all plausible deniability when people call you petty and small.

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The answer to both of these problems, of course, is to screw the show over completely. Put it in a different time slot each episode, show it in the wrong order, bury it at midnight or in the Friday Night Death Slot, put it up against the other networks' strongest shows... do everything you can for it to build up a regular viewing audience that's not quite big enough to warrant the budget, but just big enough to cause some trouble when you cancel it for not "attracting the right audience."

Okay, okay — not all network executives are like this. There exist the individuals who intentionally seek out creative people to make shows that don't just copy one or another, and as they get promoted, they may become the very predecessors these shows are inherited from. However, screwing a show happens more often than you may wish to believe, and typically it's because they were apathetic.

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Please try to avoid listing shows as being "screwed" just because of a disagreement over the reasons for their cancellation. Plenty of shows are canceled simply because they just weren't making any money even with the network backing it. This is about intentional sabotage (or at the least making decisions so stupid it looks like it was intentional), not "the mean network executives canceled my favorite show".

Often the cause of Follow Up Failure. Compare Executive Meddling, Executive Veto, Invisible Advertising, Screwed by the Lawyers, and Screwed by the Merchandise. Also compare No Export for You, though that doesn't affect the actual production, but the export of a given product.

Rarely, the situation will invert itself with Network to the Rescue. Contrast with Adored by the Network.


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    Literature 
  • V. C. Andrews' first novel, Gods of Green Mountain, got this in a way; written sometime in the 1970s, it was supposed to be split into three books and published in 1986, but wasn't (presumably due to Andrews' death that year). It seems that her publisher and estate sat on it for almost 20 years, and when it was finally published, it was as an ebook in 2004, when ebooks weren't as widespread.
  • Disney heavily underutilized the Star Darlings series, with near-invisible advertising, a lack of merchandise in general, focus on the Star Darlings band of 5 instead of all 12 girls, and a shallower, shorter webseries compared to the more serious books, but the dolls are where things really get bad. Of the 12 Star Darlings, only the core 5 had both a Starland outfit and Wishworld outfit in the US (Cassie's Starland look was UK-only), none of the supporting cast got dolls, and Scarlet's doll barely resembles her official art and cartoon look. The books were canceled in January 2017 with three planned books being shelved, the webseries last aired in late 2016, and the toyline is similarly inactive, with Jakks Pacific ceasing producing the toys.

    Radio 
  • Democracy Now! was infamously, albeit temporarily, screwed over by Pacifica Radio in the year 2000 after Pacifica executives suddenly fired key staffers in the middle of the night and made its flagship station WBAI adopt an all-jazz format at the expense of its talk programs. Amy Goodman and others, fearing that this decision would allow Network Decay to set in, left WBAI in protest and temporarily Channel Hopped to another station. After five months of negotiations, Pacifica management caved and allowed Amy and her staff to return in January 2002.
    • As of 2015, Pacifica Radio has been mired in public spats between presenters and executives over (among other things) promoting alt-med quackery and conspiracy theories; cutting hours and pay, and laying off some staffers, in violation of union rules; and failing to pay Amy Goodman an estimated $2.1 million in broadcast fees.
    • WBAI's very survival has been an issue for two decades. Several disparate studio locations, millions of dollars owed to the Empire State Building for not paying for their transmitter, and a whole 'too many cooks in the kitchen' issue where a simple sale of the frequency to someone else in exchange for a smaller-range signal is a no-go have exhausted most New Yorkers (and the radio community at large) so much, the end of WBAI would be a mercy killing to most.
  • Ronald Reagan's cuts to NPR's federal funding meant that the KUSC-FM radio play adaptation of Return of the Jedi got shelved for over a decade.

    Theatre 

    Theme Parks 

Disney Theme Parks

  • In 2005, Disney, J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros. were in negotiations to create a Harry Potter theme park in Singapore. Around that time, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who was the main architect of the negotiations, was fired and replaced with Bob Iger, who had little care for Harry Potter and significantly downsized the project to just a single ride, where guests could shoot at screens with interactive wands. Naturally, Rowling rejected Disney's plans and the negotiations broke down. Warner and Rowling eventually got better treatment when they went to Universal Studios, who proceeded to create The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which became a major threat for Disney's place in the Orlando theme park market in the years that followed.
  • The closure of Disneyland's iconic PeopleMover in 1995 was part of an attempt to revamp Tomorrowland (which, in reality, was more or less a replication of their Paris park's "Discoveryland"), the attraction's residing area. Its replacement, Rocket Rods, was marred with mechanical issues, and park-goers ravaged the ride for its constant breakdowns and potential damage to the PeopleMover structure it utilized. The ride closed just two years in operation, from 1998 to 2000. It is today regarded as one of Disney's biggest failures in amusement park history, and it's telling by Disney's refusal to acknowledge its existence.
  • Journey Into Imagination was closed in 1998 despite it being the park's most popular attraction due to sponsorship issues. A year before the closing, Fujifilm, the rival of the ride's original sponsor, Kodak, wanted to turn the ride into a rollercoaster unrelated to the original concept. Kodak did not want to lose their sponsorship, so they wanted to make a cheaper version of the ride focused more on the science behind imagination. Disney accepted the latter company's idea and reopened the ride in 1999. Visitors did not like how the ride removed Dreamfinder and Figment (though he did have cameos during the constellation scene and at the end of the ride) and felt it was nothing but a tie-in to Honey, I Shrunk The Audience by theming it around the Imagination Institute. They also felt that the new Image Works after the ride was nothing but an ad for Kodak's products. After Disney heard all these complaints, they shut down the ride and revamped it again to be about Figment ruining an open house tour of the Imagination Institute, which recieved mixed reception and is viewed nowadays as a ride that you either like or a ride that you don't like at all. The revamp was eventually made pointless in 2010, when Kodak decided to drop sponsorship of the ride anyway despite spending all the years prior trying to keep it.

Universal Studios

  • The Creature of the Black Lagoon stage show in Universal Studios Hollywood had its run cut short when the theater it was housed in caught fire and was forced to close. An investigation revealed Universal rarely cared about the theater's condition and ignored multiple safety violations. As a result, Universal was forced to revamp the theater, and a year worth of millions of dollars later, the refreshed and much-more successful Special Effects Stages opened in the theater.
  • Despite its popularity, the Hollywood version of Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time was shuttered so that Universal could make a clone of Florida's Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. It's possible Universal wanted to cut licensing fees for the Terminator franchise (which is not owned by Universal) while increasing the value of their own IP, so while the Japan and Florida rides (their two bigger markets) remained, the Hollywood ride wasn't very lucky.
  • Universal Studios Florida closed The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera and Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies in 2002 and 2003 respectively, citing lower attendance for both attractions despite being the most popular with Universal enthusiasts. Their respective replacements? Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast and Shrek 4-D, two of the most polarizing rides the park had ever opened (not helped by the fact that Universal had little to no involvement in either ride's development), and ended up laying the groundwork for the park's drive toward intellectual property-driven attractions. While Neutron was eventually shuttered to make way for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem in 2012, the Shrek 4-D ride remains to this day. Many of said Universal enthusiasts felt that these attractions served as examples of everything wrong with the park during its decade-long Dork Age.
  • The Shrek 4-D attraction at the Hollywood park got its queue and pre-show screwed in 2015 when Universal decided to add a real-time Donkey animatronic interact with the guests in the queue. Many complained over how annoying it was, and were caught off by the truncated pre-show with no backstory whatsoever.

    Other 
  • Played with by AMC regarding Knoxville-based Windsor Square 7, a Cinemark acquisition inherited from Carmike. The cinema has not once been renovated since the Cinemark days, meaning the very '80s color scheme of the interiors remains to this day, but, proving Tropes Are Not Bad, the now-dated, tacky, and shabby interior look has been taking on a "vintage" appeal for having had to be put up with by more modern moviegoers for a long while.
  • This trope is the reason Apple created its own retail stores. One of the problems compounding the company's Dork Age in The '90s was a lack of attractive displays in stores. Retailers devoted floor space to more popular (and profitable) PCs instead of Macs, usually relegating them to a corner of the store, if they sold them at all. They also often left the machines turned off, crashed, or set them up without a mouse, leading to an unfavorable first impression with potential buyers. The fluorescent lighting also didn't help, helping show off the various PC beige boxes, but doing no favors for Apple's machines. Apple stores were created to give Macs and other Apple products an aesthetically pleasing showcase. Apple has since gone back to selling their products in major retailers, though they insist on its products on being presented on specialized displays.
  • Jumbo Pictures, producer of many fine Nickelodeon and Disney cartoons and shows, can be said to have been screwed by both Disney and Nickelodeon. The company started out producing Slice of Life puppet shows like Gullah Gullah Island and Allegra's Window, and animated shows like Doug for Nickelodeon. However Nickelodeon started showing less interest in educational values and more towards generic slapstick as time went on, and Jumbo's terms with Nick started degrading. Disney then made them dump Nick and subsequently bought them over. So far so good, right? After Disney's version of Doug, Jojos Circus and PB&J Otter, Disney went against their wishes and used some of their characters in a music video that aired on multiple children's channels entitled "We Are Family: A Musical Message for All". They've broke up with Disney and renamed themselves Cartoon Pizza, although their only success since then was Pinky Dinky Doo, done in partnership with Sesame Workshop.
  • Polygram Home Video did this to two of their kids' properties: The Crayon Box and The Noddy Shop. Both were supposed to be released on home video. The Crayon Box's releases were cancelled for unexplained reasons, but the Public Service Announcement based on the poem still appeared on other Polygram releases. The Noddy Shop, however, only had the Noddy's Toyland Adventures segments released, which hurt the sales of the videos and may have played a role in the show not being renewed for a third season, as the live-action segments in The Noddy Shop were the most popular among the target audience.
  • Regal Entertainment Group is doing this to Downtown West 8 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where it is headquartered. When one moviegoer complained about having to go all the way to Asheville, North Carolina, just to see Pina in 3D, Regal's official excuse was that 3D was too expensive to install in Downtown West 8.
  • This seems to have happened to Thug Notes. When Wisecrack took over the channel and switched to being slightly more entertainment based over educational, viewers would often be left unaware of new episodes, as the other content would overshadow the show. Apparently, Wisecrack aren't putting new episodes out on YouTube, anymore, and have switched over to a podcast format.
  • Channel Awesome:
    • Obscurus Lupa's story of her departure reeks of this. First, Mike Michaud (and later Doug Walker) ripped into Lupa for putting extra midroll ads into her videos, saying that it was hurting everyone else by making people use AdBlock, even though she needed the midrolls to pay her bills. Then, Mike and Rob Walker forbade Lupa and the other reviewers from promoting their Patreon pages until a bad PR incident involving Suede forced them to relent. Finally, Mike and Doug tried to chat with Lupa while she was away from her computer and didn't know they wanted to speak to her, and waited fifteen minutes. When she got in touch, they told her she would be let go and have her videos removed for "ignoring them." The move clearly backfired as it caused Phelous and Andrew Dickman to leave the site in protest. Kyle Kallgren also left about the same time, but for unrelated reasons.
    • Mike "The Birdman" Dodd was dropped from That Guy with the Glasses in April 2014 without being told, and he only found out about it a few weeks later when he tried to submit a new video to the site.
    • Benzaie was similarly dropped in December 2014, though he found out when none of his videos were moved from the old TGWTG site to the new Channel Awesome site.
    • T.J. Kincaid (The Distressed Watcher) claims that he started to get this treatment after Mike Ellis left the company. According to him, all of his new videos were pushed to the bottom of the upload feed, despite him being one of the more popular producers on the site, which led him to start to lose interest in making content. It came to a head when his "Gayest Music Videos of the 1980s" video was rejected - he initially thought that the channel heads had mistaken it for being homophobic, but was later told that it wasn't uploaded because Channel Awesome thought their audience would be too homophobic to accept it. Shortly after, he was called into a meeting with the company heads who told him that they'd be letting him go because they were afraid that his YouTube alter-ego (The Amazing Atheist) would scare off potential advertisers to their site.
    • A document of stories from former staff and producers, released in April 2018, brought to light that this was and is a much more common occurrence than was previously known. A particularly egregious example detailed is Dr. Gonzo's account of his tenure at TGWTG, in which he was isolated from the rest of the contributors by Mike Michaud and was subsequently singled out for Michaud's gaslighting and abuse. Michaud also dismissed Gonzo's idea for the tribute show for JewWario following his suicide, reportedly telling him: "Nobody knows who you are. They won't care about anything you're gonna put together. We're gonna have Doug or Lewis or someone put something together. Someone people actually come here to see." Gonzo's show was abruptly and unceremoniously erased from the website during TGWTG's transition to Channel Awesome.
    • According to the same document, MarzGurl was also targeted by Michaud. After she took Linkara's suggestion of starting her own channel on the now-defunct Blip, Michaud berated her for doing so without his permission, and only backed off after she apologized profusely and told him that Lewis had done the same thing. He repeatedly mislabeled her videos when they were posted on TGWTG, and attacked her again when she explained one miscommunication to confused viewers, accusing her of trying to make him look bad. He also frequently neglected to post her videos across TGWTG's social media platforms, giving her the impression that he was trying to make her "invisible" on the site and compel her to quit. When she did leave in September 2017, all of her videos were unceremoniously erased despite her nine-year contribution to the site.
    • Another allegation put forward by former creators was that when To Boldly Flee was being filmed, nobody was told that the plot involved the final appearance of the Nostalgia Critic, since Doug Walker wanted to retire the character for good. Naturally, once the creators found out about it, many were less than pleased since the Nostalgia Critic was the main draw to the TGWTG site and his unilateral departure meant everybody else would likely see decreased views on their videos.

In-Universe Examples:

  • American Flagg!: Reuben Flagg, star of the hit series Mark Thrust, Sexus Ranger loses his job to his own CGI Tromplographic™ duplicate, then gets drafted into the actual Plexus Rangers.
  • Lampshaded In-Universe in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
    Hobbes: We can't stay here forever? What if Red Dwarf: The Movie comes out while we're trapped here?
    Calvin: Pfft! As if.
  • The Mr. Potato Head Show: happens often, with the TV executives changing their minds about things in the middle of filming an episode of Mr. Potato Head's Show Within a Show, such as telling them that their superhero episode needs to be educational or a musical.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: This happens to Haggis Mc Haggis's The Scotsman Show in the episode "Hard Times for Haggis."
  • Seinfeld: Jerry and George had been pushing for a long time to get their "show about nothing" approved by NBC. Finally, their first episode is aired and is successful. However, at the same time, the head executive who had approved the show goes AWOL and is replaced by a vindictive woman who cancels the show out of spite.
  • The Splinter: The network in charge of the games in the Realm has zero problems with killing players for the sake of boosting ratings and creating drama. Dying in the game means you die in real life. It's tough to get screwed harder than that.
  • In Toy Story 2, Stinky Pete claims the Woody's Roundup TV show was cancelled in the middle of a cliffhanger when space toys surged (and, consequently, Woody's Roundup toys declined) in popularity following the launch of Sputnik. He lied. Eagle-eyed viewers might be able to spot the conclusion to said cliffhanger playing in the background in one scene. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's the same scene where Pete reveals he's a villain.
  • In The Amy Virus, the teenage singer Amy Zander is forced by her label to record a song she hates. When she can't get it right, the label drops her and gets another girl to record it, and Amy herself falls into obscurity

Alternative Title(s): Screwed By The Studio

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