crypto (cryptoxin) wrote,

Transmedia trainwreck?

Is anybody still watching Heroes?

*listens to the sound of crickets chirping*

I'm still watching, partly for Hiro and Ando, partly out of habit, and partly out of morbid curiousity to see how much worse it can get. More precisely, I'm still downloading the episodes and playing them on my computer -- "watching" implies that the show still commands more of my attention than is actually the case.

It was widely reported that NBC fired co-executive producers/writers Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander last week. Aside from the sense of "too little, too late," the most interesting part of this NYT account of the firings was the speculation on why they kept creator/showrunner Tim Kring:

"Even after the shake-up it appears that Mr. Kring’s job is safe, and perhaps it is the sprawling nature of Heroes that saved him. The show is a big hit overseas, and the Web is bursting with sites devoted to characters’ back stories, plot decoding and fan discussions. Mr. Kring is deeply involved in many of those pieces, and there is genuine fear at NBC that no other person could fill all those roles."

This must be something of a first: job security through entangling your TV show in the convoluted web of transmedia storytelling.

Heroes has been something of a poster child for the heavily-hyped convergence culture meme of transmedia storytelling (e.g. Henry Jenkins, Fast Company, Wonderland, etc. etc.), also known as "It's more than just a TV show -- it's a comic! And an online ARG! And a video game! And a juicer!" If transmedia storytelling has an "old wine, new bottle" ring to it, the main difference from yesteryear's multimedia adaptations, spin-offs and tie-ins seems to be continuity -- that ideally, the pieces all weave together to make a coherent narrative whole. Collect them all!

What's most interesting about the rhetoric around transmedia storytelling is the pervasive sense of cheerleading from its proponents, both in academia and industry. While everyone can cite good and bad examples of transmedia storytelling, nobody questions whether it's a good or bad thing in general. The whole discourse has a feel of (professional) fan(boy)-driven enthusiasm, where it's cast as win-win (TPTB promote their franchise/IP/content across multiple platforms and media -- some with their own revenue streams! -- while fannish audiences get a supposedly richer, more complex & immersive experience -- with the bonus of coming to them pre-authenticated as canonical by the copyright holders!).

While Heroes may not be a bellwether for the fate of the transmedia storytelling medicine show meme, the combination of its exemplary status (as preached by the now-unemployed Jesse Alexander) along with its sub-prime ratings suggest something more than just another cautionary tale of poor execution.
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