Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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JackwithOneEye
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

Post by JackwithOneEye »

I watched Twin Peaks in 90-91 on ABC.

i was in 7th grade, and my memory is that there were virtually no viewers left who wanted to watch ep 28/29 when it aired as a 2 hr movie.
i remember writing a letter to Bob Iger asking him not to cancel it, that I typed up on like an Apple IIe or something. There was fan club called COOP and a physical newsletter called The Twin Peaks Gazette that I subscribed to, which encouraged you to write letters to ABC.

I seem to remember there was one girl in my social studies class who was interested in TP during the Palmer mystery, who I tried to get to write a letter, but I think she mighta bailed towards the end.

It was off the air already for a month or so by the time ep 28/29 came around, ABC had moved it from saturday back to thursday in the spring (around ep24 maybe), and then just took it off altogether. I do remember ABC airing ad's that promised answers to things like what the white lodge was, and stuff like that. they tried to make an advertising campaign work around the Windom Earle storyline, but at least in the community I was around at the time, Beverly Hills 90210 was the show everyone wanted to talk about, which was airing on Thursday night at the time.
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Jonah
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Mr. Reindeer wrote: Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:33 pm Jonah— Came across this old post and thought of you. ;)

https://alttvtwinpeaks.com/ep25/1991040 ... ks)-150277
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Jonah
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Mr. Reindeer wrote: Wed Apr 28, 2021 3:40 pm Here’s one example: https://alttvtwinpeaks.com/ep28/1991061 ... one-148437

I’ll say that this wasn’t necessarily emblematic of the overall immediate reaction (which seems to be positive-ish). But it’s crazy to me that this was anyone’s takeaway from E29.
Jonah wrote: Wed Apr 28, 2021 3:59 pm I wonder if that person would later be one of the ones complaining about LOST or GOT.

In the midst of his complaints, I did pick out some interesting tidbits, though. So they knew a movie was forthcoming but the show was cancelled? Interesting. Another reason people were probably geared up early on to expect FWWM to directly follow on from that cliffhanger.

Does he/she make a good point about Bob no longer needing a host yet taking over Coop? Or is that coming from nowhere? I'm not sure if the show spelled out that he no longer needed a host unless it was the ending of Episode 27 that implied that.

Interesting too that people apparently predicted what the last shot of the series would be.
Reading through this comment again, I realised they had been waiting a couple of months for the finale - which ABC aired in the summer - and probably weeks and weeks between certain episodes, and ABC probably heavily billed this as conclusion, a finale that would answer all questions. They said they didn't expect all the loose ends to be tied up but ABC probably did bill it in a way that made people think it would be a more conclusive ending.

I wonder if this person ever changed their opinion. My own thoughts on Part 18 of The Return were initially quite negative. I later revised them but left the original comment up to show how an episode, particularly a final episode of something, can lead to such strong feelings and sometimes initial very negative feelings. I believe my initial reaction to the end of LOST was also a bit more negative - I cried when Jack closed his eyes but felt the church scene was too cheesy, thoughts I no longer feel. But my opinion on Part 18 (not 17) was very negative.

So this person could very well have changed their mind on rewatch not long later - and maybe considers Episode 29 a masterpiece by now. Or at least no longer hates it.

I also wonder how many people in the Profoundly Disappointed Support Group on here have either come around on The Return or at least no longer feel very critical of it. (Edit - started a poll: http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... 86#p126686) I was someone who always fell between both camps, a mixture of disappointment (but never profoundly disappointed) and a longing for the original 90's series, and trying to appreciate The Return (which I called "The David Lynch Variety Show") for what it was. I still feel the same way, my appreciate for The Return has grown/is growing, but I still vastly prefer the original series, but try to appreciate the newer show for the parts I think are brilliant.
Last edited by Jonah on Sat May 01, 2021 12:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Jonah
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Here's my original thoughts about Part 18 (which I had updated with a comment - a retraction of sorts loL! - after rewatching a couple of years later:
http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... RS#p107305

It's pretty much as negative, if not moreso than the old post on Episode 29. I began with "Ugh. It was just awful. Single-handedly the worst episode of any TV show I've ever seen. The worst finale ever." !!

I softened a good bit on rewatches:

http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... RS#p117774

http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... RS#p121131

(This probably all fits better in the Usenet Archive thread but the discussion about these old posts started here.)
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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I was reading about China Beach. Apparently, it was never a ratings hit (don't know the numbers, but they must have been lower than Peaks if it was never a hit as TP was initially) but because it was a critical darling/award winner, ABC kept it going for 4 seasons amounting to a total of 61 episodes. Perhaps if TP had stayed a critical darling too they might have kept it going but it did win awards so I'm still surprised (as I've said numerous times) they didn't give it another season or two, at least one more.
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Jonah wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 3:02 pm I was reading about China Beach. Apparently, it was never a ratings hit (don't know the numbers, but they must have been lower than Peaks if it was never a hit as TP was initially) but because it was a critical darling/award winner, ABC kept it going for 4 seasons amounting to a total of 61 episodes. Perhaps if TP had stayed a critical darling too they might have kept it going but it did win awards so I'm still surprised (as I've said numerous times) they didn't give it another season or two, at least one more.
China Beach carried quite a bit of prestige, was always up for multiple awards, and Bob Iger’s mom really loved the show. I think anyone who has seen the last season of CB (which was the lead-in to TP on Saturday) would agree it was every bit as inventive and challenging - perhaps even moreso! - than TP s2. It did not survive the Saturday move either.

The Saturday move is a cruel “what if.” Maybe TP would have survived a week night slot, or maybe there would have been more fan backlash with a bigger audience? Really tough to say. There were obviously still millions tuning in, devoted to the product, but the drop off and declining viewer engagement speaks for itself. This is merely my educated guess, but ratings aside, TP was a property ABC just didn’t want to deal with another year.
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Jonah
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Brad D wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 6:36 pm
Jonah wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 3:02 pm I was reading about China Beach. Apparently, it was never a ratings hit (don't know the numbers, but they must have been lower than Peaks if it was never a hit as TP was initially) but because it was a critical darling/award winner, ABC kept it going for 4 seasons amounting to a total of 61 episodes. Perhaps if TP had stayed a critical darling too they might have kept it going but it did win awards so I'm still surprised (as I've said numerous times) they didn't give it another season or two, at least one more.
China Beach carried quite a bit of prestige, was always up for multiple awards, and Bob Iger’s mom really loved the show. I think anyone who has seen the last season of CB (which was the lead-in to TP on Saturday) would agree it was every bit as inventive and challenging - perhaps even moreso! - than TP s2. It did not survive the Saturday move either.

The Saturday move is a cruel “what if.” Maybe TP would have survived a week night slot, or maybe there would have been more fan backlash with a bigger audience? Really tough to say. There were obviously still millions tuning in, devoted to the product, but the drop off and declining viewer engagement speaks for itself. This is merely my educated guess, but ratings aside, TP was a property ABC just didn’t want to deal with another year.
I only started rewatching it, having not really seen it since I was a kid. Also been watching Wings and some Northern Exposure (both of which I've seen the full way through as an adult, though it's been several years with NE). Love early 90's shows. I don't know much about the later seasons of China Beach, only that they started showing future timelines. Did the Gulf War affect its ratings too - was it shuffled around on the schedule and pre-empted like TP was? I know that, according to Wikipedia, the last few episodes of the final season didn't air until summer 1991, like the last two episodes of TP, but I think that was more because it was cancelled, wonder if the Gulf War led to ABC finally pulling the plug and affected both shows/ratings, even if they had been planning to cancel CE for awhile. Still surprised they made such a definitive move on TP only after 2 (or 1.5) seasons.

Some interesting comments from Iger about the move to Saturday night, that some reddit commentators point out the flaws in the rationale. He also discusses his reasoning behind wanting a resoltuon to the Laura Palmer mystery, saying he felt viewers were frustrated and so was he, but is no longer convinced he made the right decision and that Lynch was proabably right. Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/twinpeaks/comm ... ynch_from/
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Brad D
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Jonah, if memory serves correct, CB was on hiatus for six months, and kind of aired that last season in two big chunks. If you love early 90s tv, the fourth season is just incredible. Acting, writing, direction, and the historical significance to Vietnam is just a tour de force like no other.

The third season has some incredible moments, but almost burned itself out w 22 eps, much like TP. Making an ambitious show to cover that many hours is a recipe for disaster. A 13 ep season of TP might have given the original run more juice... but would you chance it, never getting the s2 finale?
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Just hypothetically, I wonder if had the show not revealed the killer when it did, would Peaks have gotten repetitive and predictable with a new "Did character (x) kill Laura?" arc every couple of episodes..?

I don't think the fact that they revealed it was the problem, more so the rushed nature of eps 14-16 (specifically episode 16), and the abrupt way episode 17 shies away from the fallout.
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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TheArm wrote: Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:00 am I've never quite understood this and wondered if anyone had any insight. I always feel like a lot of time and energy in the TP fan community is spent on pinpointing all of the creative failures in Season 2 that led to its cancellation, and I've never really felt it's quite fair to the writers/producers. While I will happily admit that the show hits major creative problems midway through the second season (Evelyn, Lana, Little Nicky, Super Nadine goes back to high school, Crazy Ben reenacts the Civil War, the Pine Weasel, splitting up Cooper & Audrey, etc.), I also don't think TP's second season is so godawful that it warranted being cancelled, especially since I think they managed to course-correct by the end of the season.

....

Its first season couldn't have been more successful and it ended with heaps of accolades, a slew of Emmy nominations (after only 8 episodes), and was an international cult phenomenon. And yet just as the first season was ending and ABC announced its renewal, they also announced at the same time that they were moving the show to Saturdays, a move that even at the time I felt was a fairly obvious plot to kill it. Given its serial nature and how very complicated it was, clearly it was a show that needed nurturing, and it felt like ABC gave up on the show at the height of its success.

----
Another weird thing about ABC cancelling the show so relatively quickly and not giving it at least one more season to pick up, it just occurred to me that it won Golden Globes in its second season. Not only was it nominated for lots of Emmys in its first season, but it actually won Best Television Drama at the Globes in 1991 (plus actor and actress wins too) mere months before ABC cancelled it. Given its ratings hadn't slipped that badly (they were down a lot but 7.4 - 10 million people were still tuning in on average) and all these accolades, it still puzzles me, despite all we've discussed in this thread.

Season 2, despite its stumbles, was an award winner just like Season 1. So the above post is correct - it really still was at the height of its success in many ways, even if the ratings were down and there was still some backlash, it wasn't at the very bottom of its run by any means, it had just won Best Television Drama four months before cancellation, still very much a new show only on the air for a year, with a bad run of episodes behind it but still very much successful with the possibility of greater success (in my opinion) when ABC hastily (again, in my opinion) cancelled it prematurely. We tend to think it was at the end of its run and the critical reviews and ratings were so poor there was no choice to cancel it, but that's not true - it had just had a bit of a bad run it had already pulled out of. I'm still really surprised the Golden Globe win came in the second year, I think I had thought it was during the first season. Brad mentioned above that part of the reason ABC kept China Beach on the air (apart from Bob Iger's mother loving it) was because it was an awards darling, but looking back, so was Twin Peaks. I think Iger even said later he regretted cancelling it (he definitely said he regretted forcing Lynch to reveal the killer, though I think that was necessary). So yeah, just me saying what I keep saying in this thread - I just continued to be surprised they didn't give it a Season 3 back then, given the accolades at least.
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Wasn't the Golden Globe win for the first season, though? I'm quite certain it was. The Globes air at the beginning of a year, and so an award in 1991 would be for a season in 1990. I know Twin Peaks began its second season in 1990, but the Globe was almost certainly for the first season, also 1990. The Globes in 1990 would have been honoring programs from 1989, which is why Peaks wasn't nominated for anything in 1990. There's no way to spin Season 2 other than as a failure at the time it aired, critically, publicly, etc...which is unfortunately why there was no third season.
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Well, I don't think there's any need to spin it as anything, but I still think the show was a success. Even the bad critical reviews didn't really start until FWWM. The Globes were in January, the show won Best Drama only four months before it was cancelled, whether the awards were for the first or second season doesn't matter in that ABC still had an award-winning show on their hands that had just bagged one of the biggest awards at the Globes.

The reviews for the first several episodes were good, the ratings were down but they only started going down gradually, and only after the six-week break after Episode 23 aired (they didn't go down that much during the notorious weak stretch). Point being, the show was still relatively new, had bagged a lot of awards, but was cancelled due to a rough stretch. Even before then, ABC had shifted it to Saturday, then pre-empted it a lot due to coverage of the Gulf War, so it still begs the question the thread poses - why did ABC treat the show so badly? And cancel it so quickly? I don't think we can peg it just due to the murder being solved (which Iger later admitted was a mistake) or the weak stretch of episodes.

I still think there was enough juice there for another few seasons, one more at the very least. And ABC had kept China Beach going. Considering TP had just bagged Best Drama (even if it was technically for the first season, they bagged the award in 1991 meaning it was for that year, when a third season would have aired), I think they could have given Frost/Lynch (who were both willing to get back on board, as evinced by their Coop interview) another chance, given them a better timeslot, insisted maybe on a new mystery, and heavily billed the show as an award-winner.

Point being - with a little bit of work, they could have potentially turned it into a hit again - and if it hadn't worked, they could have at least tried, when they've been known to keep other shows with less ratings and less success afloat until they took off. I mean, TP was huge, incredibly huge, it was a global hit before the backlash, but I think it could still have been turned around. The real backlash only settled with FWWM (I know there was some before this, the audience was tired of no reveal, etc., but it wasn't that extreme yet, and people were still tuning in - even during the weak stretch!).

Anyway, I've said all this before so I'm just repeating myself now. I just think ABC pulled the gun too quick and treated the show fairly shoddily from the start, and I think Frost said they never liked it or believe in it enough to begin with - I think he said they were "uncomfortable" with it?
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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https://alttvtwinpeaks.com/ep23/1991021 ... ion-151140

Episode 22 was #85 out of 89 shows in the Nielsens. That’s pretty awful. And yes, the network sabotaged the show with a Saturday night slot. But it’s tough to imagine any network renewing a show with those numbers.
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Oops. I meant the ratings didn't really plummet hugely immediately after the murderer was revealed (the show was getting 11-12 million just before the reveal, went up to 17 for the reveal, then back down to 11-12, so they did drop but they were still okay to solid-ish during half of the weak stretch (up until Episode 20 or so, which got 10 million), then they started going back up a bit after the show come back, then down a bit, then up a good bit for the finale. I don't know what the China Beach ratings were or other shows on the network at the time, but I wonder if any of them had even worst ratings or nearly as low ratings and were pre-empted due to the Gulf War too, yet were still renewed? I know CB was critically acclaimed and won a lot of awards, but did ABC renew other shows from that timeframe with bad ratings and that weren't a success with the critics and the award circuit? If so, then what Frost said would be true.
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Re: Why exactly did ABC treat the show so badly?

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Jonah, I appreciate your perspective and I see your reasoning, but I don't know how true it even is that the first couple episodes of Season 2 got good reviews. From what I've recently seen across vintage reviews they were very mixed. That stuff with the waiter and the giant really took its toll right off the bat, and even the now-classic killer reveal episode was divisive. Perhaps some push could have been made based on awards momentum in early 1991, but I don't think ABC would have looked at any Globes wins as being for the second season, and so they were probably reluctant to even try. I'm sure they were uncomfortable with it in the first place!

Reindeer or Jonah, what exactly were the ratings of the episodes directly pre- and post-killer reveal, and how did they compare to the first season?
Last edited by LateReg on Mon May 24, 2021 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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