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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old May 16 2014, 04:36 AM   #241
Harvey
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Now that I have the internet, some longer comments about Cushman's ratings thesis.

These Are The Voyages, Season One, p.260 wrote:
As in past airings, Nielsen’s National survey, factoring in rural communities, gave Star Trek a couple of percentage points less than the “overnights” conducted only in metropolitan areas. But Nielsen wasn’t the only service counting noses.

Home Testing Institute, A.C. Nielsen’s competitor, had a survey of its own called TVQ. For the month of October, which “Miri” closed out, TVQ prepared a Top 10 list and ranked Star Trek as being in a three-way tie for the fifth most popular series on TV, under Bonanza, I Spy, Walt Disney and Red Skelton, and tied with Mission: Impossible, Family Affair and the NBC Saturday Night Movie. The Time Tunnel and Gomer Pyle were at nine and ten, respectively.
There's two things here. First, Cushman is admitting that the ratings numbers he reports for the first few weeks the series was on the air were later adjusted to include rural communities, decreasing Star Trek's share. We know this because the numbers Cushman prints for "Charlie X" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" show it beating My Three Sons both times, but the revised numbers put the sitcom several ratings points ahead of Star Trek. Second, there's the matter of TVQ.

Cushman is right in as much as there was a TVQ survey that ranked Star Trek among the top ten series on TV in terms of TVQ, but his characterization of it as a nose counting service is a misrepresentation of what TVQ is actually measuring. Here's the TVQ report he's referencing (from Broadcasting, 12-5-66):



For a little detail on how TVQ is measured, I'll quote from Television Magazine (August 1967; note the part I've bolded):

Another major grey-area yardstick for Klein is the “Q Number,” a service of TVQ. It is found by taking the number of people who consider a show among their favorites and dividing it by the total number of people who have seen the show. Thus a “high-Q show” has a dedicated following among people who have watched, although it may not have attracted a large audience.

Such a high-Q situation can occur when a good new show is put on the air against an established popular show; it may get a high-Q number as it picks up an interested audience from among those who tune in, while the majority of viewers are so busy watching their old favorite that they don’t soon get around to trying the high-Q show.
EDIT:

Another part of Cushman's argument:

These Are The Voyages, Season One, p.279 wrote:
In the 1960s, A.C. Nielsen delivered the gospel that the networks swore by. But there was an air of secrecy surrounding the gospels -- the ratings reports were not for public consumption. Nielsen would “loan” the survey documents to its customers -- NBC, CBS and ABC, who were very selective with whom the information was shared. Unlike today, those all-important life and death numbers for a television series were confidential. The theory was that if an actor, or producer for that matter, knew exactly how popular his show was, he would be all the more difficult to deal with. Time has proven this thinking correct. Consider how much more a star of a popular series is paid today compared to the 1960s. Shatner was a top-dollar star in 1966, but was only making $5,000 per episode. That would be comparable to around $35,000 now, a paycheck that most TV stars wouldn’t even get out of bed for. (Try a quarter of a million dollars per episode…or half a million…or, in some special cases, a cool million.) Somewhere along the line the stars and their agents got smart, and the networks and the studios lost control. In Star Trek’s day, however, the power was still held in check by the networks, and NBC was not about to share it with Gene Roddenberry.
Some points to consider:

--Cushman considers Shatner's first season salary of $5,000 an episode to be chump change, but consider the fact that the cast of Bonanza, which was TV's number one drama going into the 66-67 season (its eighth) were "only" earning $12,000 an episode (after seven years of contractual raises, no less). $5,000 for an unproven television lead on an unproven series wasn't bad in the least.
--Cushman belief that the ratings were withheld from the producers (i.e. Roddenberry) holds up until you look at the files at UCLA, which include several ratings reports in Roddenberry's files.
--Cushman's belief that the ratings were secret in the '60s, but public now, doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. Then, as now, many ratings are published by various press outlets, but the detailed Nielsen ratings reports are still unavailable for public consumption.

That's it for tonight. More, perhaps, later.
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Last edited by Harvey; May 16 2014 at 05:44 AM.
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Old May 16 2014, 08:29 AM   #242
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Excellent. Clear as can be.
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Old August 12 2014, 01:41 AM   #243
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Daddy Todd wrote: View Post
My hardcover arrived yesterday; I'm waiting for the ebook to show up on Amazon and planning on reading that version. The "dead tree" version is too bulky for convenient reading...
It's finally available in the kindle store at $14.99. I signed up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited to get a copy. Read Walter Koenig's foreword (pleasant enough) an trying to grind through the preface (less pleasant.) I'm hoping it takes off once we get to the actual episodes.
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Old August 25 2014, 12:35 PM   #244
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

I'm up to chapter 34 (82%, according to Kindle) and I've been enjoying the read. Much better copy edited than the first edition of the first volume (I haven't read the revised edition yet).

There seem to be far fewer moments than the first volume as well. I never knew there were so many almost-cancelled moments during season two, but the timeline makes a lot of sense -- initial order of 16 episodes, after which Coon left, a mini-order of 2 more, followed by a final pick-up of the "back 8" while filming was underway for the 18th episode. Yeah, NBC was letting Star Trek twist in the wind there.

John Meredyth Lucas comes across as a classic beneficiary of Hollywood nepotism, and it won't be a surprise to see him go at the end of Season Two.

I'm looking forward to Season Three.
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Old August 25 2014, 12:51 PM   #245
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

I can't wait to get started on these.

But no, I must finish my current books first.
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Old August 25 2014, 04:29 PM   #246
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Daddy Todd wrote: View Post
Yeah, NBC was letting Star Trek twist in the wind there.
Sounds like how a network would treat a show with marginal ratings to me...
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Old August 30 2014, 04:34 AM   #247
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Let me make sure I have the narrative right.

Star Trek was a huge ratings hit. NBC's success naturally made them angry; they hated Roddenberry and only commissioned the series in the first place because they wanted it to fail and make Roddenberry look foolish. NBC somehow covered up the ratings information which would prove Star Trek's success. Desperate to kill the show, they never, ever, not even once, promoted it and -- most egregious of all -- moved the show to a different night and time. Finally, they left it for dead on their Friday night lineup. Star Trek went quietly away, and NBC was pleased they had taken an unqualified hit and destroyed it.
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Old August 30 2014, 01:33 PM   #248
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Let me make sure I have the narrative right.

Star Trek was a huge ratings hit. NBC's success naturally made them angry; they hated Roddenberry and only commissioned the series in the first place because they wanted it to fail and make Roddenberry look foolish. NBC somehow covered up the ratings information which would prove Star Trek's success. Desperate to kill the show, they never, ever, not even once, promoted it and -- most egregious of all -- moved the show to a different night and time. Finally, they left it for dead on their Friday night lineup. Star Trek went quietly away, and NBC was pleased they had taken an unqualified hit and destroyed it.
Something like that, although Cushman spends far less time in "Season Two" trying to make that narrative fly, as the ratings numbers clearly put Star Trek in second place (behind CBS, with Gomer Pyle and the Friday Night Movie) every night of the season.

Star Trek was NBC's best-performing series on Friday nights, improving over lead-in Tarzan and massively exceeding lead-outs (I may have just made up that phrase) like Accidental Family (?) and Hollywood Squares (which replaced Accidental Family). Star Trek was a middle-tier show - not highly rated, but not a bottom-of-the-barrel affair, either.

The exact kind of show networks cancel all the time, especially as it was expensive to produce.
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Old August 30 2014, 01:51 PM   #249
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

I skim over any mention of ratings or NBC's negligence in promoting the show. The book's greatest strength is the analysis of the development of each episode draft by draft, with long excerpts from the multi-page memos that Justman, Coon, Fontana and Roddenberry were so fond of.

Much like TOS, after Coon exits, this book runs out of steam for me, because Coon's replacement, John Meredyth Lucas actually put a stop to the reams of memos flying around, preferring face to face meetings. I mean, thank god those guys worked that way: it's given us Trek historians a great insight into the way the show was put together, but Lucas had a point -- what an inefficient way to work. No wonder they all did 16 hour days! Imagine the pace of communications : record memo on tape/assistant types it out/send to recipients...

Anyway, here's hoping for the sake of Volume 3 that Freddy Freiberger was a memos-guy.
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Old August 30 2014, 04:02 PM   #250
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Cushman could have bolstered his argument if he had cast his net further afield. There are documents and evidence to show there have been shows with poorer ratings than Star Trek that were allowed to continue as well as shows with better ratings that were cancelled.

His basic point is that Star Trek was not the ratings disaster that has been accepted all these decades. There were other forces at work that contributed to the show's difficulties and its eventual cancellation. Studio and network suits are not mere analytical robots that make only impartial and reasoned decisions. They are human beings with feelings, likes and bias and also personal agendas. They can be influenced to take a stance that in retrospect can be seen as perhaps not the best possible.

Star Trek had a lot of things going for it to support keeping the show going and doing what was reasonably possible to make it work as well as possible under the circumstances. In counterpoint there were things going on that undermined the show and could well have influenced some to take an opposing position to it.


Gene Roddenberry was an imaginative guy with a reaonable amount of talent and ability. But he was also a human being with blind spots and failings in judgement. By all rights he shouldn't have been going out of his way to alienate studio and network executives. His tendency to paint network suits as the bad guys, particularly publicly, was a very short-sighted and stupid move that could only hurt him--which it did. It not only hurt him, but also a lot of people brought onboard to make Star Trek work as well as contributed to creating obstacles in producing the show. A little sugar and humility on Roddenberry's part might have saved them some grief along the line.

Another problem was Desilu. Many Desilu execs were also alienated, perhaps more so than NBC execs, and they couldn't stomach what the show was costing them to make. At the heart of it an outfit like Desilu had no business trying to make a series like Star Trek because it wasn't financially healthy enough to do it. It might have helped if they had been getting more money from NBC (as they were getting from CBS to produce Mission: Impossible, another expensive show to make) but that isn't how it played out. On the other hand a small outfit like Desilu did offer more of a more conducive atmosphere to unconventional and freer thinking needed to make shows like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible work. A bigger outfit like MGM and (eventually) Paramount might well have not allowed GR and company the lattitude they had initially with Desilu. Indeed when Paramount took over things did go from difficult and challenging to practically impossible for TOS.
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Old August 30 2014, 06:46 PM   #251
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Botany Bay wrote: View Post
The book's greatest strength is the analysis of the development of each episode draft by draft, with long excerpts from the multi-page memos that Justman, Coon, Fontana and Roddenberry were so fond of.
The more research I've done, unfortunately, the weaker I've realized this work is, too. Cushman's chronology is often wrong (for example, he messes up his dates with "The Enemy Within" and references a Matheson first draft which doesn't exist), he gives creative credit to the wrong people (he lauds Coon for coming up with ideas that were clearly Norman Spinrad's on "The Doomsday Machine"), and he crafts narratives that simply aren't supported by the documents (See, especially, "The Alternative Factor").

Anyway, here's hoping for the sake of Volume 3 that Freddy Freiberger was a memos-guy.
He wasn't, I'm afraid. With Fontana and Coon gone from the staff, and Roddenberry off the lot, the amount of documentation over the third season is minimal compared to seasons 1 and 2. Roddenberry wasn't completely absent, but he didn't write memos about every episode in season three. Justman still wrote his memos, but once he left, there's hardly any correspondence about the making of the show.
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Old August 30 2014, 07:26 PM   #252
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Warped9 wrote: View Post
His basic point is that Star Trek was not the ratings disaster that has been accepted all these decades.
You're reading more nuance in his argument than is actually presented, I think. Cushman claims that Star Trek was a top 40 series during its first season. Outside of the first few weeks the show was on the air (competing in week one against re-runs, and in weeks 2-4 against The Tammy Grimes Show, a notorious flop) this is just not true. Indeed, it's average ratings spot from October-April in the National Nielsen ratings was 52nd place.

Moreover, I think it's pretty telling that Cushman spends the book arguing against a generalized critical consensus that Star Trek was a "ratings disaster." I think if one looks at the actual literature, you'll find a much less hardened view, at least in any book one can take half seriously. Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, for example, is pretty plain that the ratings started strong, but then began to drop.
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Old August 30 2014, 07:48 PM   #253
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Throughout all these years the usual characterization of TOS' ratings has been that it was a failure in its initial run. We can debate how Cushman has framed his argument, but his essential point does come across that show's ratings were not an outright failure and other factors contributed to its demise.

People often frame things in a simplistic way, but what we're getting--bolstered by references in other works as well as further afield outside of Star Trek--is that the situation wasn't so clear cut as simply bad ratings.

I see this as little different from GR being deified as a great visionary by one camp and demonized as a shallow yet lucky hack by another. The man was multi-faceted like most other real people. He had some talent and ability and some good ideas even as he had blind spots that undermined him.
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Old August 30 2014, 08:24 PM   #254
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Throughout all these years the usual characterization of TOS' ratings has been that it was a failure in its initial run.
At the end of the first season, Star Trek had mediocre ratings that put it "on the bubble." In season two and three, the ratings got worse. The one sentence version of that is "Star Trek was a ratings failure in its first run."

We can debate how Cushman has framed his argument, but his essential point does come across that show's ratings were not an outright failure and other factors contributed to its demise.
His essential point is grounded in a claim that is patently false.

If the point is that Star Trek wasn't a ratings bomb when it premiered in 1966, I'm not going to argue with that. I think few people would. Ratings disasters don't last three seasons, they barely last three episodes. The aforementioned The Tammy Grimes Show was dropped from the schedule after just four weeks on the air. Star Trek wasn't that kind of failure until the end of its run, but it wasn't a hit or even really much of a success outside of its first few weeks on the air.
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Old August 31 2014, 12:04 AM   #255
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Re: Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Just on the ratings, Harvey, if you have a copy of Volume 2 handy, what are the "safe 17's" in terms of ratings points that Roddenberry tells Art Wallace that Star Trek has been unable to achieve in Season 2, making it touch and go whether the show would be picked up again. The letter is on p. 585.

In the same letter, Roddenberry mentions that Star Trek's audience share is mired in the 25%-30% range. Tick. Every week. Suggesting NBC has a big problem here with Star Trek getting trounced by CBS (getting nearly 50% of the available 8:30pm to 9:30pm eyeballs, and presumably, revenue) in this slot, and generally just matching ABC or edging it out for 2nd. Not good enough in a 3 horse race, and ample justification for another change of timeslot or cancellation you'd think.

But I'm curious what the "safe 17's" might be, and if meeting that criteria was more important than in-timeslot share of revenue for marginal shows to stay on the air.
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