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Why B5 Had Such a Tough Time Attracting Viewers

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  • Jds532218
    replied
    My wife and I began watching B5 with the original broadcast of The Gathering. For some reason, I managed to tape that broadcast...and I decided that I would do the same when the series debuted.

    We only had to wait a year, but in the meantime, we watched The Gathering at least once a month.

    We were hooked since day one, especially since we could see some of the arc unfold during S1. We used to speculate on what someone had said, what was behind that remark, etc. Sometimes, we'd even be correct!

    Once "Sky Full Of Stars" was broadcast...we were floored!

    Needless to say, we taped all of the shows in every Season first. Then I bought the Columbia House tapes, then the DVDs! Oh, how much of my pension went into B5 Merchandise, LOL!

    Yes, S1 appears weak compared to subsequent seasons...but it was the set up for what was to come. My recommended S1 eps for the B5 newcomer:

    -The Gathering
    -Midnight On The Firing Line
    -And The Sky Full Of Stars
    -Signs and Portents
    -A Voice In The Wilderness (Parts 1 & 2)
    -Babylon Squared
    -Chrysalis

    If they're not hooked after these, then forget about it. If they are hooked, then, it's on to the complete S2-S5.

    Regards,

    Jds

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  • wolfranger
    replied
    Well I knew that Babylon was going to be on so, advertising for the show was good. I did not however see the pilot and was only able to catch small bits and pieces of the first season.

    I caught the first show of the second season when Sheridan took over but it did not seem to make sense, missed a couple more shows and was always wondering what was going on, I picked up on the remarks relating to previous episodes but did not know what they were talking about.

    I finally got to watch the show weekly toward the end of the second season. Watching a couple of episodes in a row proved that the series had more to it then other series. From then on I was hooked. Problem was toward the end of the fourth season the station I was watching it on, dropped the last four episodes. So when TNT started the Fifth season I had no idea what had happened Sheridan was now president of the Non-Aligned League

    I made up my mind to watch the series from the beginning as TNT was running it at the same time. I'm glad to say I never missed a single episode and the more I watched the deeper my appreciation of the show and JMS as a writer got. The beauty of the series is that for me, no matter how many times I have watched it I always notice things I did not pick up on before,

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  • Heinlein
    replied
    I had caught B5 in little bits and pieces when it first aired. I didn't think much of it.

    Then, in my college class (a philosophy of science fiction class with an emphasis on time-travel, I kid you not), our professor-a lovely lady from Durham, England-was discussing different TV shows, and said "Have you ever seen Babylon 5?"

    Well, most of us hadn't, so she invited us to stay after class for a crash course in the B5 universe (we were the last class in the room for the night), and she proceeded to run through the ENTIRE arc from seasons 1 through the first half of season 4. Then she started taping episodes and bringing them in for us to watch after class.

    I was hooked. Never before had I encountered a brilliant synthesis of plot, character development, and powerful science fiction. And the space battles are EXCELLENT. It was like somebody had taken the best of Lucas, Roddenberry, Larson, and Tolkien, and wrapped it all up into one fantastic epic in space.

    Since then, I hold B5 up as a high standard for quality science fiction. And I've been impressed ever since.

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  • Von Bruno
    replied
    Originally posted by LightStorm
    Now why should that sound snobbish in any way? It really does not!
    Well, to be honest, I've been raked over the coals for making such an observation in the past.

    I do agree with you that it is a maddening paradox wherein people scream for something out of the ordinary then turn around and condemn it for not being more-of-the-same.

    ...yet when it comes along (in the form of B5) they suddenly realised that it was the watered down 'baby-food' style of drama (typically ST-TNG and all other off-shoots) that they prefered all along.
    Lol! Now being a big "Star Trek" fan myself I don't know if I would take it that far (though Voyager and Enterprise certainly make it hard not to). ST: TNG and ST: DS9, in my view, had some real sustained high points over the course of their runs. I would, however, say "Babylon 5" was probably more cohesive and consistant. It had, for the most part, focus.

    Of course nothing beats "Star Trek: The Original Series."

    In truth, season 1 of B5 didn't really do this either, to begin with. At least not until about ep 10ish. then it really picked up speed. Now, of course, I can see why. It was laying down threads for later use. By ep 10 or so I began to realise the signficance of what I was seeing.
    For me, season one of B5 was my second favorite (season four being the best). I thought Joe did an excellent job in setting up and introducing us to his universe. Then again, as I've said before, I was a fan since the pilot tele-film ("The Gathering").

    It was only when B5 began banging on Trek's door (ratings wise) that the suits at Paramount realised and started incorperating longer story arcs in the shows. Year on year B5 gained viewers while ST lost them.
    Nothing would have made me happier than to see "Babylon 5" get ratings on par with those of "Star Trek." Sadley that was never the case. It did, however, knock Trek out its complacency. Unfortunately once B5 went its preordained five seasons "Star Trek" went right back to taking things for granted. It all goes to reaffirm my belief that competition is good.

    When it comes to B5 and Trek, it is very simple. B5 was ruled by characters and story. Trek was ruled by money ...
    While I disagree with the above quote I will say this, "Babylon 5" has to-date been overseen by someone who truly believes and has faith in his creation and what it represents. Disappointingly, "Star Trek" has not always been so fortunate.

    Despite the various estimations of what was better or worse than what we must acknowledge the underlying truth that both creations have been about making money for their respective companies and that is why they are called "franchises."

    ST's recent slide, in my opinion, has to do with the showrunners for VOY and ENT just looking to collect a paycheck and some royalties. Now, from what I've read, Manny Coto has done wonders in terms of turning Enterprise around but for me it is too late ... maybe next series'.

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  • Towelmaster
    replied
    In the 90-ies B-5 was the leader, StarTrek was the mass-market follower... With a hell of a lot of cash, indeed.

    I wonder why Paramount was so narrowminded. I wonder what would have happened if they had agreed to produce B5 (as it is!!).

    I don't think it would have hurt Paramount and they would have had several alternatives to Enterprise. Because boy oh boy; the person who ever decided it would be a good idea to go back in time should be sacked at the speed of light...

    Leave a comment:


  • DGTWoodward
    replied
    Originally posted by Von Bruno
    As to the question of why "Babylon 5" had a tough time of attracting viewers, well, I think to some extent that casual TV viewers felt that it would somehow be too much work. That it wasn't something you could sit back and gel out to. I don't mean that to sound snobbish but I think this was a show that clearly and definitely demanded a more engaged audience.
    Now why should that sound snobbish in any way? It really does not! You are quite correct and the simple truth of it is that there are far too many shows out there that were (and still are) nothing more that eye candy, designed to be light, non-threatening and ultra easy to get into. In other words POINTLESS CRAP! This, to me is the most confusing paradox, why do people shout out for something different in sf drama, something engaging...yet when it comes along (in the form of B5) they suddenly realised that it was the watered down 'baby-food' style of drama (typically ST-TNG and all other off-shoots) that they prefered all along. Oh heaven forbid that people should actually have to think about what they would watch! Don't get me wrong, I don't hate TREK. I gew up on the classic show, it was just from TNG that I totally lost interest - the reasons being totally personal and subjective - sufice to say that as a TV sf drama it just did not grab me.

    In truth, season 1 of B5 didn't really do this either, to begin with. At least not until about ep 10ish. then it really picked up speed. Now, of course, I can see why. It was laying down threads for later use. By ep 10 or so I began to realise the signficance of what I was seeing. But even with the eps that didn't grab me right away - they were still of higher quality in terms of story telling and imagination than anything in the ST-TNG puni-verse. It was only when B5 began banging on Trek's door (ratings wise) that the suits at Paramount realised and started incorperating longer story arcs in the shows. Year on year B5 gained viewers while ST lost them.

    When it comes to B5 and Trek, it is very simple. B5 was ruled by characters and story.
    Trek was ruled by money, with every ep being nothing more than a 42 minute advert for forthcoming products.

    Phew...unplanned rant over!

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  • Towelmaster
    replied
    Well, what I meant was that you could pick one of those episodes, show it to a newbie and get him/her hooked.
    I know ChaosDancer, it was a joke... (Reference: Peter Cook)

    And...there's always an episode that will satisfy a new viewer, I think that is because of the quality of the writing. Some things are universal, such as a good story...

    I know several people who started to like StarTrek after I organized a BeerTrek and showed them 'The trouble with Tribbles' and 'Trials and tribulations' in sequence... Of course the beer may have helped there somewhat too... <angel>

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  • chaostaenzer
    replied
    Originally posted by Towelmaster
    Yo people! That's ten episodes to watch as a newbie. That's 400 minutes for an introduction.
    Give the newbs a break will ya?
    Well, what I meant was that you could pick one of those episodes, show it to a newbie and get him/her hooked.

    I think I have a new "convert". A friend of mine finally agreed to watch the first season. While he was very skeptical (even after episodes like "And the sky full of stars") I believe that I got him hooked after "Babylon Sqared" and "Chrysalis".

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  • Towelmaster
    replied
    Originally posted by chaostaenzer
    nice suggestions. I would like to add:

    Coming of Shadows

    Babylon Squared

    Geometry of Shadows (this might be the best one: great actors, simply hilarious, some arc elements and references, nice FX, some really cool quotes and not to forget Elrics warning to Londo)

    And the Sky full of Stars

    Confessions and Lamentations
    Yo people! That's ten episodes to watch as a newbie. That's 400 minutes for an introduction.
    Give the newbs a break will ya?

    Never liked B5 much when it was initially aired over here because I could only see the odd episode so I completely missed out on the story-arcs, which where not very obvious in season 1 anyway.

    I started watching when I was staying with my then new girlfriend in England(now my fiancee in Holland ). She was out teaching music in the daytime and she had taped over 4 seasons of B5. So for me it was either the pub or the video so... the rest is history. Most definitely history.

    I would agree that "Passing through Gethsemane" is an awesome singular episode that contains all that is good about B5 except for the main story-arc. It should therefor make a good first episode. And it also has Brad Douriff who did a fantastic job.
    Last edited by Towelmaster; 12-21-2004, 12:39 AM.

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  • Von Bruno
    replied
    Originally posted by Michael Malloy
    When B5 was new I thought TV Guide did a fair job of promoting the series.... [snip] ... I must admit, I took one look at Londo and decided the show would be dumb. I am so very, very grateful to a friend who told me good aspects of the show. I've been hooked ever since!
    I remember reading about the production of "Babylon 5: The gathering" in Amiga computer magazines and greatly enthused about a quality show which could be produced on a system that common folk could afford. I truly thought it was going to be the vanguard of a new wave in high quality syndicated programming that would rival the big 3 networks. I was quite the rebel back then.

    When the two hour pilot finally aired I was thrilled and eagerly waited for the series. I seem to recall there was a substantial gap between the two. In any event, I was "hooked" from the start. I'm still not a fan of B5's fifth season but the first 4 were really good and I loved "B5: Crusade."
    Last edited by Von Bruno; 12-18-2004, 01:30 PM.

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  • circularREASON
    replied
    The first time for me was kinda funny . Myself and me Wife had just brought home our first child from hospital and a couple of days later while flicking through the channels on the TV I came across Channel 4 ( in the uk ).

    There really was nothing to watch and so I thought 'What the Hell , I'll watch this BABYLON 5'.

    I think the episode was 'Midnight on the firing line'.

    Anyways after that I was hooked, even getting my family in on the act ( My mother still asks me when the feature film is coming out! ).

    As for a first episode for non-viewers to watch I suppose it would have to be 'and the sky full of stars'.

    I still watch it now and find it amazing.

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  • Jan
    replied
    Originally posted by Von Bruno
    I don't mean that to sound snobbish but I think this was a show that clearly and definitely demanded a more engaged audience.
    As my first 'convert' said to me, "I really have to think about this show! Why do I like it so much?!"

    Jan

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  • Von Bruno
    replied
    Originally posted by Jan
    I almost completely skipped even trying B5 because I'd gotten tired of starting to get engaged in series only to have them disappear without a trace ...

    Jan
    And TPTB seem to give a show even less of chance every year. They'll dump a new series now after just one or two airings. It's all quite maddening.

    As to the question of why "Babylon 5" had a tough time of attracting viewers, well, I think to some extent that casual TV viewers felt that it would somehow be too much work. That it wasn't something you could sit back and gel out to. I don't mean that to sound snobbish but I think this was a show that clearly and definitely demanded a more engaged audience.

    Leave a comment:


  • FuryPilot
    replied
    I saw the pilot and was *somewhat* impressed. I could tell that the story was for a more cerebral audience than what little other sci-fi was out at the time. I wasn't really impressed with it, though.

    I traveled extensively during the first few seasonds. During the first, I saw only a few episodes, and I saw them out of order. "TKO" was first, then "The Quality of Mercy". "Soul Hunter" was the next one I saw, the "Born to the Purple".

    At this point I'd still never seen a shadow ship, and I'd missed most of the season.

    Season two was even worse. The first ep I saw was "The Long Dark", and then "Gropos". The only other ep I saw that year was "Comes the Inquisitor".

    But after that ep, I was hooked.

    Fury Pilot

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  • tlsmith1963
    replied
    I started watching B5 when it went to TNT in '98. I hadn't caught it from the beginning, & I had heard that it had an arc, so I waited until I got a chance to watch it from the beginning. So I am one of the viewers it had trouble catching at first. But I have loved it ever since I first saw it.

    Tammy

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