Fact checking These Are The Voyages....

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Warped9, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Does Cushman actually say this? I know he reprints the list from Broadcasting Magazine, but that is only based upon the ratings for the second and third episodes broadcast, not a reflection of the program's performance over the course of the season. (The list is also, at least in the first edition, inaccurately reproduced).

    The archival sources I've found have placed Star Trek around 50th place in the 1966-67 season. It certainly doesn't show up in any top (20, 30, or 40) series lists in Broadcasting Magazine after the first few episodes.

    The ratings weren't disappointing, per say, at least in the first season -- but the show definitely wasn't a "hit" in any meaningful sense of the term.
     
  2. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    He cites Star Trek being in the Top 40 (around 30-33). In one list he has in the book it does show Mission: Impossible at 68 although he doesn't actually mention the show in his text. The book the Mission: Impossible Dossier which chronicles the development and production of the series (although not nearly to the same extent as TATV) cites Mission: Impossible as being about 51 during its first season.

    Star Trek did have more than the usual post-production costs on average as well the costs of costuming, props and sets beyond what already existed. Of course we know they also canabalized what they could from things they had already made and could be used again. Mind you this was expected going in when the series sold given the series' concept. But Mission: Impossible also spent a lot of money in similar fashion and perhaps more so in production. M:I had to have new gadgets designed and built for most every episode as well as have f/x of their own. In production a lot of time and money was spent for far more than average number of camera setups, certainly more than even Star Trek.

    It basically came down to this: Star Trek's expenses were in how many new things it showed on camera in sets, costumes, makeup, miniatures and special effects. Mission: Impossible's expenses were extensive camera setups, new gadgets and special f/x. Star Trek could be expensive because of what it shot while Mission: Impossible was expensive because of how the show was shot.


    In comparing the two and the studio and network reactions to the respective shows it seems to come down to a familiar bias we still see today. Science Fiction can be somewhat ghetto-ized and is seen as something that usually appeals to a more niche like audience. In contrast a show like Mission: Impossible, even with its innovative format, is still basically a cops-and-robbers type idea that's seen as far more accessible to the average person or viewer. It's easier for more people to identify with a show like Mission: Impossible than a show like Star Trek, and that would certainly include old guard studio executives. M:I could even be costing the studio more than Star Trek, but it was a show studio execs could understand more easily.

    There's also the additional factor that CBS would periodically kick a little extra money to Desilu to help offset some of the M:I budget overruns while NBC never offered any such thing to help out Star Trek.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  3. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Right, that's the list from Broadcasting Magazine that I mentioned. (You can actually view the whole magazine online, including pages 68-69, where the list is printed; notice that after item #81 Cushman's list is totally off from his source -- at least in the first edition -- and also that he labels it "Trendex Ratings" when it is in fact "the Nielsen nighttime list" according to the magazine).

    The list only takes data from September 12-25, 1966; therefore it only accounts for the broadcast of "Charlie X" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before."

    My point is this: Star Trek was in the top 40 for a few weeks, but it's ratings (as I showed above) did not stay at that level -- they began falling immediately.

    EDIT: The first edition of the book doesn't list any ratings for the initial broadcast of "Where No Man Has Gone Before." The Roddenberry files do not have Nielsen ratings for this episode, but they do have the "Arbitron Overnight Ratings" for it (a competing service to Nielsen and Trendex). They were:

    8:30

    ABC – Tammy Grimes – 21.0
    CBS – My Three Sons – 34.0
    NBC – Star Trek – 32.0

    9:00

    ABC – Bewitched – 30.0
    CBS – Good Neighbor Sam – 33.0
    NBC – Star Trek – 28.0

    EDIT #2: To be fair, these are the same ratings the series got from Arbitron in the previous week (for "Charlie X"):

    8:30

    ABC – Tammy Grimes – 21.0
    CBS – My Three Sons – 34.0
    NBC – Star Trek – 32.0

    9:00

    ABC – Bewitched – 29.0
    CBS – Music Man, Part I – 36.0
    NBC – Star Trek – 28.0
     
  4. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    He looks to be giving snapshots of the ratings in terms of the samples he gives and that does include each episode. It's possible he might have thought that including a lengthy list of competing shows for each episode would have added substantially to the page count without adding much more to the point he's trying to make.

    So if you want to do an episode-by-episode tracking you would need a list of all shows for every week Star Trek aired a new episode and then ran a rerun during the summer hiatus. And, mind you, presently we only have the information for the first season. I'm interested to see what's in the second and third volumes. I do know that in an online interview Cushman does assert that even on Friday nights during its third season TOS was NBC's Number 1 show.

    I suppose what Cushman could have done was simply reprint all the lists with the top shows for every episode when it first aired and when it was rerun in an appendix at the end of the book.
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Again, a lot will depend on which ratings he's citing: national or regional. They aren't always in line.
     
  6. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Do you mean it was NBC's number one show on Friday nights in the third season? There's no way it was the top rated NBC show while it was in the so-called "Friday night death slot."

    And, if it was NBC's top-rated show on Friday night's...that actually tells us very little about how the show was doing in the ratings.

    It's nice (and useful) to have the ratings for each broadcast (and re-run) -- and, could you check, did he include the ratings for "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (first run) in the second edition, or explain their absence? Nonetheless, it actually doesn't give us the information you, I, or Cushman would need to determine if the show was a "hit" or even a success.
     
  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    He says it was their Number One show on Friday nights, but until we see some hard number we can't assess what that really means.

    Here you go, Harvey,

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    "Number One show on Friday nights" could mean the whole night was a ratings wasteland for NBC and Trek just peaked above the other badly performing shows. You can make statistics prove anything you want if you cite them selectively.

    EDIT: The Tammy Grimes Show was a bomb which was quickly pulled after a few weeks, which could explain why Trek got a larger share than it would when the schedule got re-arranged.

    Again, the only way to make a case for Trek being a success is to see the overall ratings for the season, and especially "sweeps" periods. Data from a few nights isn't useful for discussing overall trends. For instance, if My Three Sons was also a repeat against the repeat of WNMHGB, people who previously saw that Sons episode might switch over to another show that one night, which doesn't necessary provide a trendline.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  9. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    I'm working on a spreadsheet compiling the individual ratings for each episode, but these numbers will need to be put into the context that Maurice specifies.
     
  10. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Do you have all the info you need to do that? Doesn't that basically mean taking the ratings for each night a new episode was aired and then averaging that over the season?

    In fairness he does give ratings for each night NBC aired a new episode.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    To an extent, perhaps, but the show wasn't in a strong position for renewal even aside from that. It was expensive to produce and struggled in the ratings, and it had its budget cut more and more each season. The network execs wanted to keep it, for the reasons I mentioned above, but they were losing money by doing so, and eventually it reached the point where they just couldn't afford not to cancel it.

    Maybe if Roddenberry had stuck with the show and had a better relationship with the network, some kind of a deal could've been struck for a fourth season, but it probably would've had even fewer episodes and less budget per episode, even fewer guest stars and effects, and I have to wonder if they could've even managed to tell effective science fiction stories under those constraints.


    On the other hand, M:I did reuse sets extensively. They had a standardized prison set that kept showing up over and over, as well as a standard hospital/office hallway set, a standard mansion set, etc. They would redress them to represent different locations, but they got pretty familiar after a while. Plus they used the Paramount lot's office building exteriors as locations dozens of times. Not to mention, of course, the extensive use of the Culver City backlot which Star Trek also used.

    As far as f/x go, I figure you mean special effects in the sense of practical effects done live on set, since I don't remember M:I having anywhere near the number of optical effects (animation, mattes, camera tricks, etc.) that ST used.


    Not just for NBC, but for everyone. If there was a "Friday night wasteland," that means it was a bad time for any network to schedule a show. The "wasteland" existed because people were going out and doing stuff on Friday nights, since they didn't have school or work the next day and could stay up late. TV viewing in general wasn't big on Friday nights. So it's where networks dumped low-value shows while the hits were scheduled on more popular nights. Thus, ST could've been ahead of the other Friday-night shows but still done poorly in absolute terms, because all the Friday-night shows did poorly.

    It's interesting how things have changed in subsequent decade, since for a while not that many years ago, Friday night was one of the biggest nights for SFTV. It was where the Sci-Fi Channel put its biggest shows, and the only reason they abandoned "Sci-Fi Friday" was because they got the wrestling contract and that was very popular on Fridays, so they didn't want to move it.
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Not disagreeing, but just to be clear I was replying to Warped9 writing that "[Cushman] says it was [NBC's] Number One show on Friday nights."
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    ^Sure, but I'm just putting it into broader context.
     
  14. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Solow does say that when Paramount took over he soon lost any stomach for working for them, and so he soon walked away.

    Of course what we are trying to do is confirm the veracity of Cushman's assertions in regard to the ratings. It would be foolish for him to fabricate numbers, but perhaps they weren't interpreted correctly.

    The information can be cut two ways. Either Cushman has misinterpreted the numbers or NBC misrepresented them as an excuse to cancel the show. Just because we've accepted NBC's version of the situation for so long doesn't automatically make it true. It isn't the first or only time long held "truths" have been challenged and sometimes proven false.

    For decades many if not most people accepted the notion NBC didn't like "The Cage" and particularly didn't like Number One. But even before Cushman's book that accepted notion was revealed to be false. They quite liked "The Cage" and liked the character of Number One. But that said they didn't think "The Cage" was suitable to launch the kind of series they wanted and they objected to Majel Barrett.
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    See, this is where the argument falls down: NBC is a business. They can/did cancel shows for all kinds of reasons, from ratings to cost to bad relationships with the production company to schedule rearrangements which leave no good slot for the show. After all CBS cancelled Gilligan's Island after verbally committing to a 4th season because William Paley forced them to put Gunsmoke back on the schedule after it had been cancelled, and to make room they junked a show they didn't have faith in AND a successful series (Gilligan). They killed the Smothers' Brothers show over creative differences. NBC could have killed Star Trek for any number of reasons had they wanted to, so some elaborate scheme to pretend it wasn't successful isn't necessary.
     
  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    But they asserted the show was a ratings failure as the reasoning for cancellation. And just because it's a business doesn't preclude people from making decisions that run counter to good sense. If Star Trek was simply too expensive to keep on the air then they could simply say that and be justified in acting on it.

    But the show wasn't costing them more than what they paid for it (the studio was eating the overruns) and it was apparently winning its time slots and they were happy with the series. And, as Christopher has said, it was a classy and prestigious show for them. So from their standpoint all appeared to be well except for GR's behaviour pissing them off.

    If anyone was unhappy with the show it looks to be Desilu suits.
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Wait wait wait. As established above, we not established that it was apparently winning its time slots. We thus far have a handful of statistics cited by an author who's made a number of demonstrably factually dubious assertions. Let's see what Harvey comes up with. Also, do we have a statement from NBC that says the show was cancelled due to low ratings? Everyone says that's the reason, but did they ever actually say that?
     
  18. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    The word "apparently" is meant to say it's still an open question.

    There is also the added citings that Daily Variety reported in its February 1967 issue that ABC Sales International, representing Desilu, sold Star Trek to 28 foreign countries and the series had been dubbed into four languages...so far. So that, along with numerous merchandising tie-in revenues, were already paying into the studio. And the series was only one year old. That kind of incoming revenue could more than offset the episode budget overruns.

    The toy tie-in merchandise was already getting into the stores for Christmas 1966. Early in 1967 AMT released the crowning tie-in, their model kit of the Enterprise, and that kit would be the most successful sci-fi model kit of all time considering its longevity. In mid 1967 Bantam started releasing its tie-in books, the James Blish adaptations of the episodes. It's also at this time that Gold Key started its Star Trek comic book line.

    While Star Trek debuted (with "The Man Trap") to less than stellar reviews by the end of the season the show was getting good press. People were talking about the show and most of it in a positive light. This undoubtedly emphasized the sense that NBC had a classy and prestigious production in its stable.
     
  19. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Okay, while we're waiting on Harvey I've gone ahead and done some averaging of my own. I've used the 29 Nielsen National reports Cushman cites in the book. Note that this is only for the first run of the 29 episodes and doesn't include the summer reruns.

    From Sept. 8th, 1966 through to April 4th, 1967 Star Trek averaged 18.45 in ratings and averaged a 29.39 share. Although we still need a detailed comparison with the other shows it was running against on each night a new TOS episode aired at first glance it looks like Star Trek was a solid close second place overall. Sometimes it scored first and sometimes third, but overall (and more often) it placed a close second. By those metrics on the nights the show aired it certainly doesn't look like a disappointment. And while the show doesn't look to have cracked the Top 10 or 20 or 30 it does appear to have ranked comfortably in the Top 40 out of 90 shows. Again I don't see how that can be taken as a disappointment.

    In comparison Mission: Impossible was bleeding money, frequently running over in production days and running late in delivery dates and apparently ranking distinctly lower than Star Trek in ratings, and yet not one peep of discontent or considering cancellation of the show after one season.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    My averages for the first run shows, by the way, are the same for the first-run:

    18.46 average rating; 29.39 average share.

    For the second run, which doesn't have a complete data set in the book:

    17.25 average rating; 29.63 average share.

    --

    Are you assuming Mission: Impossible was lower in the ratings than Star Trek based on the two-week chart Cushman draws up, or do you have more solid numbers? Consulting The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier it indicates that the series finished 51st in the ratings (very close to the numbers Star Trek averaged in its first season according to a few trade reports I've drudged up so far -- in fact, maybe slightly better).

    The book says that many felt the show (M:I) was going to be cancelled, but it had the support of William Paley, President of CBS. Plus, it was nominated for (and then won) the Best Dramatic Emmy in March of '67. Also, as the book points out, the ratings for Mission: Impossible were higher than expected when episodes 1 & 4 were re-run around Christmas, and then the show's ratings began to climb after that.
     

Share This Page