Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Wives' pressured into the showers before the big game?

There could be a lot of reasons why FOOTBALL WIVES was not picked up by ABC. Its sudden drop from the schedule spawns several ripe conspiracy theories. The truth is, we’ll never know for sure what exactly transpired within 24 hours of being almost 100% green-lighted to “you’ve been let go from the team.”

For the last couple months, rumors have been running around that the show was experiencing some problems. The initial focus group testing didn’t yield the results that they expected. They found what the possible trouble spots were and re-edited the episode.

The re-edited episode did better and scored well among women viewers, but scored poorly among male viewers. A problem for any show, but it continued to go forward.

But then, the bottom sort of have fell out and this where the conspiracy theories come into play. There could be some element of truth to the theories. After all, image is everything and money buys that and everything else.

One could easily point out that ABC is owned by Disney, which owns among other things, ESPN. A few years ago, ESPN had a series called PLAYMAKERS. The NFL front office was not thrilled—they hated PLAYMAKERS and forced its cancellation.

FOOTBALL WIVES was not going to paint their fictional characters in a rosy, feel-good light. No, they were going to make the egocentric-you-play-me-or-else types that exist in about one percent of the football players of real life. And having the wives be as egocentric as their superstar husbands and having “issues” probably isn’t going to sit well either.

Majority of real life football players make the league minimum or slightly above and they aren’t egocentric individuals. They are responsible, law abiding citizens who have very community orientated and family goals.

It’s an image problem. And art imitating a small portion of the bad boys isn’t going to win you viewers or advertising dollars.

If your advertisers are shaky on the product, then you have a problem. This is probably the most likely culprit because your advertisers aren’t about to advertise on a show that portrays players as skanky, overpaid, under talented, drug and alcohol abusing losers; given the amount of money they spend during Monday night football and so on.

Another plausible scenario is the budget. The cost of the WIVES pilot was around $6.7 million. That is about normal for a pilot. However, it did take some extra money to entice at least one actor (reportedly) to join the cast. This was for the pilot. Perhaps that amount went up after it was known the series going on the fall schedule. It happens.

When you have a cast with the likes of Holly Robinson Peete, Lucy Lawless and Ving Rhames, it’s probably not going to be very cheap as they probably aren’t working for scale. Not blaming the actors and the number of zeroes on the studio check.

In the end, it comes down to money. Not censorship.

Now, you would have thought that someone at ABC would have remembered PLAYMAKERS on ESPN and the trouble that show went through. Perhaps they did and felt it would be okay. But my guess and hunch is, it goes beyond being as simple as that. And we’ll never know for sure because if the producers weren’t given a solid reason (or anything that they’re saying) and ABC isn’t talking about the reasoning beyond the sudden change of heart. It could be that it goes beyond the scope of the traditional line of rumor and conspiracy theories.

Is it such a horrible thing that the series was not picked up? No, because after having sat through five minutes of the pilot, I can see why the NFL and advertisers might have “concerns” especially when you’re focusing on the negative aspects of the sport for entertainment. Not saying it would have to be all clean and ultra positive, but that some more care should be shown.

I can handle characters having issues such as self-esteem problem and realistic problems and maybe not so realistic problems. It’s not to say that the NFL doesn’t have its boys of the gridiron, but it’s hard to focus a series on something where 99.9% of the real life players play by the rules.

What I can’t handle is the complete disrespect for the men and women who work in the sport by portraying a handful of people (on one team no less) as sex crazed nymphs with drug and alcohol problems. There’s a decency line and WIVES crossed it. And given what the British series did, it’s safe to assume the Americanized version would have taken a step in that direction.

I wasn’t expecting HAMLET, but I was at least expecting some level of middle culture in WIVES. What I got was sleaze. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, which I absolutely hate and find it senseless crap, was more appealing than what WIVES could ever hope to achieve.

I can’t be honest about Lucy Lawless’s performance in WIVES because it would bias talking. She’s an actor and for the type of crap she was given to deliver, she delivered it on a silver platter.

From the way it looks, it looks like the actors are being let go and free to pursue other offers. Although, there are reports that the producers are shopping the show around to other networks, but if the NFL is the one who put the pressure on ABC it’s likely they’ll do the same to other networks.

Is there anything fans can do? Probably not. Because if it was corporate pressure that did end the show before it ever got into the game, it's likely that pressure will exist no matter where it goes. Nor is it likely you'll ever see the pilot unless someone actually lets it out into the open.

I think we fans should be thankful that the series was sent to the showers because Lucy is so much better and deserves better than the mindless series that was FOOTBALL WIVES. Lucy will rebound. Just you wait and see.

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