Whoosh! Issue 49 - October 2000
Editor's Page




From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE CONCOMITANT CASUALTIES

From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE CONCOMITANT CASUALTIES

Things are looking pretty grim for JACK OF ALL TRADES and CLEOPATRA 2525. Bruce Campbell, an executive producer of JACK, recently confirmed that JACK has been cancelled. Just as CLEO was gearing up to become a one hour show it has been put on "indefinite hiatus" in the wake of the recent quandary by Studios USA regarding whether to cut the sixth season of XENA short at 16 episodes or continue with the original planned 22.

We now know that XENA will go the full 22 episodes of Season Six, but the cost for that seems to have been CLEO. Unless some financial restructuring is done or another source of funding (perhaps another "buyer") is located, CLEO's "indefinite" hiatus will become "definite", and JACK may never be revived.

In the long run, it's all about money. XENA is an expensive show to produce. In the last couple of seasons we've had several episodes that involve sundry combinations of large casts, complex action and battle scenes, exotic locations, and intense special effects. The bigger the production the longer the shooting time and thus added pressures even on the "core" group of production and post production personnel. This all has to be paid for.

Unfortunately, the corresponding ratings have meant that fewer people, not more people, are watching the show. In its heyday, XENA could count on ratings numbers in the 6's and 7's. This summer, averages in the 3's were the norm and the last part of summer has seen a plummet into the 2's. This can only translate to lower advertising revenue, and in turn, smaller budgets to retain profitability. As I've heard before from many sources, "It's show BUSINESS". A show exists to sell products. Fewer people watching mean less revenue. If the show is to continue to turn a profit, that money must be made up somewhere, either in sales (home or abroad) or lower production costs. It is perfectly true that XENA is still at or near the top of the list when compared to its competition, but being "best" and being "profitable" are two separate issues. I'm not faulting the creators of the show for their artistic vision; they may well be happy with the direction they've taken the show and indeed I've enjoyed a few things from the last couple of seasons quite a lot. Translated into ratings over time, however, the public does not seem to have agreed.

The irony of the situation is that XENA did its best when the stories were smaller scale. Bigger budgets and grander special effects have not translated into higher ratings. More than any other factor, many fans that remain active lament the "loss of relationship" between Xena and Gabrielle as their largest bone of contention with the progress of the series. One of the most loved episodes of XENA, according to many fan polls, is A DAY IN THE LIFE, which was essentially a "bottle" show (defined as few minor characters, minimal sets, few scene changes).

With the potential destruction of JACK and CLEO in the wings, the future of Back2Back action as a concept is in jeopardy. Even though Back2Back ratings are very respectable when compared to their competition (RELIC HUNTER, LOST WORLD, etc.), they are casualties more because of their association than by their own shortcomings.

And this is the most puzzling aspect of all. Pacific Renaissance Pictures sits atop a potential gold mine of resources. Located in New Zealand, where the U.S. dollar is stronger than ever, with a pool of acting and production talent capable of competing with productions in the U.S. or Canada, and with a strong inventory of costumes, props, equipment and skilled personnel whose solid work ethic produces top quality work from set construction to cinematography and everything in between, it would be difficult NOT to be able to make something profitable.

Hopefully the added bonus of a full Sixth Season of XENA will allow the show to wrap up its run with dignity and with a sense of closure that the remaining fans can relate to. We've been promised a return to "relationship" between the main characters and many fans are eagerly looking forward to that. The addition of a popular fanfic writer to Sixth Season script contribution is a sign that the creators view fan input as important.

After XENA, who knows? Renaissance has a lot of Roman costumes and props left over, and GLADIATOR was a big box office success. With more and more fantasy type shows coming to the market in future, perhaps something more historical is in order (and we all know Renaissance could use some practice with history). Then again there is the intrinsic beauty of New Zealand and the talent of its citizens. If New Zealand can produce a show like XENA and a star like Lucy Lawless, what else might we be missing?

Bret Rudnick
Graphics Editor
Executive Committee
Hermosa Beach, California
19 September 2000









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