Anyone receive "These Are The Voyages..." Season 2 yet?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by CrazyMatt, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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

    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):

    [​IMG]

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

    EDIT:

    Another part of Cushman's argument:

    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.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2014
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Excellent. Clear as can be.
     
  3. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Captain Premium Member

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    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.
     
  4. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Captain Premium Member

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    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 :vulcan: 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.
     
  5. EnriqueH

    EnriqueH Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I can't wait to get started on these.

    But no, I must finish my current books first.
     
  6. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Sounds like how a network would treat a show with marginal ratings to me...
     
  7. Hober Mallow

    Hober Mallow Commodore Commodore

    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.
     
  8. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Captain Premium Member

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    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.
     
  9. Botany Bay

    Botany Bay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  10. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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").

    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.
     
  12. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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."

    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.
     
  15. Botany Bay

    Botany Bay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  16. Hober Mallow

    Hober Mallow Commodore Commodore

    But that doesn't tell us the whole story. Of the series with worse ratings which were allowed to continue, how many cost as much to produce as Star Trek? How much did it cost to produce those cancelled series which had better ratings?
     
  17. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I don't have a copy of Cushman's second volume. I think his work is sloppy and I have no interest in supporting it (the first edition of volume one was enough). All I've read of volume two has been supplied by blog readers and Cushman's various websites.

    I presume "safe 17's" means a 17.0 National Nielsen rating, which would (roughly) put a series among the top 50-55 shows on television, and make renewal much more likely (though not guaranteed).

    [​IMG]
    Given how lousy the ratings were in season two, it's actually pretty remarkable that NBC brought the series back for another year, and no surprise that the series' future was unclear until the very last minute.
     
  18. Botany Bay

    Botany Bay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Thanks for that. I assume the National Nielsen ratings for Star Trek deteriorated after those early shows when it was up against "Tammy Grimes", and for season 2 were as mediocre as its timeslot viewership percentages which Cushman prints at the end of each chapter.

    I tend to agree with you -- given the ratings it was fortunate the show was picked up twice in Season 2, and then renewed for year 3.

    My speculation is that despite their antipathy toward Roddenberry, NBC were proud of Star Trek, and wanted to give it every chance. I wouldn't rule out Solow's NBC contacts and reputation being a factor at play keeping it on the air, nor would I rule out Justman and Solow's theory about Star Trek helping to sell colour TV's.

    It's a shame to hear Cushman's work evaluating the drafts has some issues too. I dunno, I just find these book maddening : one minute I'll be engrossed in a well written analysis of an episode's creation, learning some new bits of trivia, and enjoying the read, then on the next page it will tell me D.C. Fontana directed "Friday's Child".

    It's just a shame such a monumental effort was undone by sloppiness that could have been easily fixed. If these interviews started as far back as the 80's, would six more months of editing time have really killed them?

    Anyway, one valuable thing these books have achieved is cementing Gene Coon's place in Trek history as its most important writer (IMO). I was under the incorrect impression he left abruptly 2/3 of the way through Season 2, but these books show he was involved much deeper into Season 2 than was generally thought. I think we can safely say that without Roddenberry's hiring of Coon, we wouldn't all be here on this website today.
     
  19. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Cripes, even Phyllis Diller's The Pruitts of Southampton was getting better numbers.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Gene Coon's voice was crucial to the success of Star Trek, perhaps more important than Roddenberry's. This isn't really a new argument, though. Shatner's Star Trek Memories made the case for Coon in 1993. To a lesser extent, so did Joel Engel's Roddenberry biography ('94) and the Solow/Justman book ('96).

    As for Cushman, I must point out that correspondence with one particularly astute reader has led me to believe that his chronology of Coon's departure is really mixed up. Additionally, as mentioned, in the case of at least one episode ("The Doomsday Machine"), Cushman gives Coon the credit when it belongs to someone else (in this case, Norman Spinrad).

    To be fair, the numbers shown are from early in the season. Averaging the National Nielsens from October, November, and December, Television Magazine (March 1967 issue) found Star Trek in 52nd place with a 17.4 rating and The Pruitts of Southampton was in 77th place with a 13.8 rating.

    (Which further paints Cushman's approach as absurd; he looks at the early numbers and calls Star Trek a top 40 show -- if he were writing about The Pruitts of Southampton, would he call it a top 30 show, and argue that ABC's decision to cancel it due to low ratings at the end of the season was also a conspiracy?)
     

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