Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Borgias Cancellation – Can a Fan Petition Really Work?

          On a variety of forums and social media sites a group of fans of the Showtime drama based on the infamous Borgia family are gathering “signatures” to try to convince Showtime to produce a forth season of the show that just ended it’s (truly excellent) third season.  Showtime has cancelled the show and to this viewer’s mind that was not a surprise.  THE BORGIAS was very expensive to produce – just look at the costumes, I mean seriously, they are gorgeous and cost a fortune – there were reportedly labor disputes with the crews in Hungary and the creator/main writer of the show, Neil Jordan, may have wanted to cut the forth season down to a two hour movie.  I say “may have” cause I haven’t actually seen Mr. Jordan interviewed and there are a lot of conflicting reports about him and his intentions for the show he originally planned on presenting for four years.
          Some of the fans are very upset; some cause they wanted a forth season and many cause the end of season three just did not feel like the end of a series.  “The Prince” was very good, but I have to agree that, at the least, one more scene to sort of put an end to things might have worked better than a scene that suggested some very interesting drama had the series continued.
          That said, I have to admit that I am not one of the fans who wants to see this series continue.  I like THE BORGIAS very much – the acting is superb, the sets and, as mentioned, the costumes are stunning, the writing was very good.  The history was off quite a bit but that is not unusual in “historical fiction” which is fiction based on historical people and events but fiction just the same.  And because it is fiction some of the characters portrayed in the show were not quite as despicable and the real people and some of the events were not as horrible as the actual events.  For one example, when Cesare Borgia took Caterina Sforza prisoner on the show he was positively gallant towards her – and the fact that they had had (fictional) sex in season two just added to the scene, imho.  But in reality Borgia treated the real Tigress of Forli abominably – he raped her repeatedly for weeks.  I am very glad the show deviated on that point, among others.
          Cesare as portrayed on the show is far more sympathetic than the real person could ever have been.  Yes he did some bad things – though killing his horrible brother was more a blessing than a sin, imho – but he was such a wonderful character, and actor Francois Arnaud gave such a brilliant performance, that I really don’t want to see him die as the real Cesare did.  Pope Alexander dying would have been ok.  Better actually since Jeremy Irons is one of the best actors on any size screen today and would have given us a superb death scene.  But to see Cesare – young, energetic, gorgeous – die in battle and to watch his beloved sister, Lucrezia – also very well portrayed by Holliday Grainger – lose the true love of her life, well.  I really didn’t want to see that.
          But this post is about the other fans, the ones who have an on-line petition and plan a blitz of some kind via Twitter and who have some very ridiculous plans to send sardines to Showtime execs.  Really?
          Do petitions to big entertainment corporations mean anything?  Especially on-line?  Do the big wigs at Showtime care how many people tweet?  I doubt it.  For one thing, one can “sign” an on-line petition more than once, using different email addresses or just making up names.  Even if it is set up with a lot of security – which costs money so I doubt it –  why would Showtime care if say ten thousand on-line people put their names on an on-line petition?  This show was very expensive to produce, there are obviously issues with the creator of the show and to my way of thinking there would have to be at least one million people emailing or sending snail for Showtime to even pay attention.  Serious attention, I’m sure they have looked at the Facebook page.
             According to the Telegraph web site - from the UK - the cost for each episode of THE BORGIAS was million British pounds or approximately 3.85 million US dollars.  That is a lot of money for any tv show, especially a show that has no advertisements on a network that is run on subscriptions.  According to sources on line the average viewing figures for the third season were 2.4 million per episode.  Match that to the average for GAME OF THRONES on HBO which averaged 5.4 million per episode.  The difference of 3 million viewers, thus subscribers, is significant.  IMHO no petition of even 500 thousand signatures will convince Showtime to dish out the millions of dollars to make a third season; they did not want to pay for a two hour movie to tie things up and that would have been much cheaper than even an abbreviated season.  Sorry to say that money is driving this decision, and this is not the first time a series on a pay cable network has been axed due to cost.
           At this point the actors and other artists have been informed that the show is over and they are thus free to accept new roles, jobs, assignments.  How difficult will it be to get everyone back?  In order to do justice to the main story, and the series as written, they would have to get Irons, Grainger, Arnaud, Whalley for sure, and Colm Feore - Cardinal della Rovere would become Pope Julius II and he was instrumental in the downfall of Cesare Borgia.  To get all of this set up would take quite a while, and the fans probably wouldn't see it until 2015 - maybe even later.
           But, about petitions - back in 1968 when NBC announced that they would cancel the original STAR TREK after two season the network and everyone else were very surprised to receive thousands of letters – snail mail folks – asking them to reconsider, which they did.  But that show didn’t cost a fraction of what THE BORGIAS costs Showtime, and those were simpler times.  And, I have to say this, a real letter, mailed is far more impressive than a petition on a social network site.
          I do wish the fans of the show well, but I hope they are realistic enough to realize that these actions probably won’t work.
          For me, I am waiting for the full series DVD set, with extras.  And though I know the history of the real Borgias very well – I am an historian by education – I will enjoy seeing these wonderful actors bring their fictional characters to life again and again.   

edited June 23, 2013 

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