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Bloodlines and why it failed. 
10th-May-2014 10:25 am
Sam with Heron
It's been announced that Bloodlines is not being picked up. I was only going to write a few lines about it and then I got thinking and it turned into an essay (of sorts).


Supernatural: Bloodlines. How to misread your audience.

A spin off to Supernatural was announced at the beginning of Season 9. We were told it was going to be episode 20 and be called "Tribes". We were told a few of the basics - set in Chicago, rival monster families and some of the characters were mentioned. I didn't particularly have any strong feelings either way about the idea, only that it could be interesting and it showed that the producers thought there would be a strong enough audience to get it off the ground. It was Supernatural after all.

As the cast was announced and more information came I was actually looking forward to it. Supernatural can't go on forever (I know, it's hard to believe, but there it is). I thought a spin off might be a good way to ease into another show. I was interested to see what could be done in the same universe - and a bit excited that another show would be set in a universe that I've loved for so long.

It wasn't until it aired that it became clear what the producers were trying to do.

Supernatural fans are known for being passionate, loud and pretty powerful. We've kept the show running for 10 years and have voted the show, characters, actors and ships into first place in many polls and winning a few awards. If you get us onside we can be a force to be reckoned with. On the flip side, get us offside and we can be a pretty vocal and (unfortunately) nasty bunch.

It seems that Bloodlines got many of us offside.

My reaction to Bloodlines not being picked up is one of annoyance. Not because I particularly wanted to watch the show, but because the failure of this lands squarely on the shoulders of those who made the decision to launch the show the way they did. I'm annoyed because, with a little bit of thought and consideration to its audience, this could have been a success story for the CW. Instead, fans were expected to come to the party, sing its praises, flood the interwebs with passionate pleas and support the show simply because it was associated with Supernatural.

I am also annoyed because I didn't want to be put in that position. I didn't want to be a person who made a decision about this show. I didn't want to have to support a show JUST because I love Supernatural. Because now, with the lack of support from Supernatural fans, we can be considered part of the reason why it's not being picked up. Due to fans not being all those things the producers obviously hoped we'd be, the show has failed. I feel like WE have failed them rather than them failing us.

The question is...is it our fault? I for one, went into the episode well aware that it would be Sam and Dean light and despite that I had my cheerleading frame of mind on. I was READY to get excited. I wanted to support the people who have brought me a show I have loved for years. And I gave it a good chance.

The problem was, I wasn't the show's target audience. I don't watch Supernatural because it has monsters in it. I don't watch it for all the family drama. I don't watch it because enjoy seeing all the struggles and arguments between Sam and Dean. I LIKE those aspects of it sure (well, not the arguing so much) - I enjoy genre TV as a rule, but it's the two central characters of Sam and Dean that captured my heart and basically sold me on the rest of the show. And even though the show does have occasional romantic story lines and family dramas, it still remains a (mostly) monster of the week formula with massive myth arcs driving each season. I would also say that for many the show is also enhanced with Castiel and many of the other "regular" characters. Though, initially, the show was been built around two incredibly strong and charismatic characters. Without them it just wouldn't be the show it is - or the show I fell in love with.

That's not to say Bloodlines was all that bad. As a pilot we might forgive its clunky start - introducing new characters isn't easy and it takes a while to warm up to them (unless you are Sam and Dean of course). We might even forgive the cliched characters and similar story lines because as the show progressed they might have started to get more interesting. In fact, I think it had potential. But as they didn't give the show a chance with a NON-Supernatural audience we'll never know. Just because much of the Supernatural audience decided it wasn't for them, it doesn't mean that other audiences wouldn't have loved it. Supernatural only draws in about 2 million viewers each week. What about all those viewers who don't like Supernatural? Or the ones who watch The Vampire Diaries? Maybe younger audience members who have never watched SPN? Maybe fans of the actors?

By launching this as a Supernatural spin off I believe they shot themselves in the foot. Not only did they not try it on non SPN fans but they asked SPN fans to like something that was nothing like their show. They expected us to support it (maybe even love it) because it was loosely connected to Supernatural. It had a similar story line after all - a character who wanted to be "normal", a character seeking revenge, a missing father, a dead girlfriend, two male leads - but it didn't have the same essence, the same look, or even seemed to occupy the same universe (even though it actually did). (As this isn't a review of the actual episode I won't go into that any more, but I'm sure there were things people loved and didn't love about it. I'm also sure there are many SPN fans that did like it. Just not enough to get it off the ground it would seem).

The thing is, I think Bloodlines would have had an audience. I absolutely believe that SPN fans would have supported the hell out of it if we hadn't been used as an insta!audience. I think if we have been treated honestly and they made some effort to get us onside then the power we have as fans could have been used to great effect. If we were told there was a show coming out written by Andrew Dabb and many of the SPN crew were involved in it and "it's very different to SPN, but we'd love it if you checked it out" I have no doubt we would have cheered them on. Even if it wasn't something we'd watch, I know that the interwebs wouldn't have been full of the abject dislike it received (more as protest rather than actually hating the show I feel). The young actors in the show seem amicable and many may have thrown their support behind them.

Rather strangely, I feel cheated because we weren't given the chance to show our support.

I know they saved money and labor by doing it this way, but in the end they lost a lot more. By understanding their audience, working with their loyal following I think they could be celebrating a new show, rather than commiserating its demise.

End note: I think there is still huge potential for a Supernatural spin off. There are certainly enough beloved characters who could probably carry a show on their own. Castiel comes to mind. "Supernatural: Angels and Demons" has a nice ring to it. There's already an epic ton of canon and all sorts of potential for further story and character development. It might even be a good way to separate Sam and Dean from the Heaven and Hell battles so they can get back to their routes of hunting urban legends. Even Bloodlines could have another shot if they took they time to develop the characters within the show we already have. The premise has potential.

The thing is - I want to be given the chance to support the endeavours of the hard working writers and crew of the show. Just please do it in a way that doesn't leave me feeling used.
10th-May-2014 02:34 am (UTC)
EXACTLY. I found myself feeling aggravated when I heard the news that it wasn't picked up too, even tho that's exactly what I suspected. But it feels like an opportunity wasted :/ I only hope that they try again, and that they do it right this time. For godsakes, pay some attention to why people are watching this show and that might help!

10th-May-2014 04:16 am (UTC)
That's how I was feeling. I really wanted to throw my support behind their endeavours, but after watching it I felt like they threw something at us in the hope that we'd cheer it on - regardless. A show needs to earn its audience - I think they wanted to skip that part. I think they assumed we'd either love it or support it because it was linked to SPN. The fact that it was nothing like it didn't help its cause either.

It's disappointing. Maybe they'll try again with a different approach.
10th-May-2014 02:40 am (UTC)
I agree I think it would have done better as a stand alone pilot. I just don't see Sam and Dean leaving an entire city of monsters unattended, I don't care how Romeo and Juliet they are.

An after show spinoff would be much better.
10th-May-2014 07:33 am (UTC)
It did inject some new mythology with Chicago being run by monster families. It's an interesting premise and I would love it to at least me mentioned in a future episode. I think we are probably supposed to forget that it exists. Or maybe that Sam and Dean are just far too busy to be worried about something that they've just discovered (and something that hasn't seemingly caused any problems in the past).
10th-May-2014 03:01 am (UTC)
TBQH, it could have been handled worse. Probably the textbook case of bad network decision-making regarding spinoffs in recent years has been the saga of Stargate Universe, which was announced in the same press release as the cancellation of Stargate Atlantis--a move that to this day has never been fully explained and that none of the PTB will claim responsibility for. Rightly or wrongly, therefore, fandom perception was that SGA was being cancelled in favor of SGU, and the fans screamed bloody murder. (We were promised a movie, but then the bottom fell out of the DVD market, and then MGM went bankrupt, so the script is still sitting on the shelf unused.) It didn't help that, as with Bloodlines, SGU was completely different from the other series in the franchise. SGA was itself a spinoff of SG-1, but despite its differences from SG-1, it still kept the same spirit and a lot of the same elements that had made SG-1 popular. SGU was far more like Battlestar Galactica, and most long-term franchise fans didn't feel that it fit in the same universe. SyFy did give SGU a separate pilot and two years to find its legs, but there was still a clear expectation that fans would support it because it was Stargate, and the vitriol got kind of out of hand a few times.
And then SyFy announced the cancellation on Twitter just after the second season finale had been filmed, before any of the writers or actors had been notified.

So it could have been worse. By declining the Bloodlines pickup, the CW has avoided a lot of the mistakes SyFy made with SGU. But all of that said, your points are still extremely valid and well expressed, and I agree.

Edit because I accidentally a few words. :P

Edited at 2014-05-10 04:51 am (UTC)
10th-May-2014 11:23 am (UTC)
Wow, this is an eye opener. I had no idea. In light of this, I agree that it could have been a lot (LOT) worse. I can't even imagine what would happen is TPTB took this approach with SPN. Thank you very much for this insight. I feel very much for the SGA fans.

Perhaps this spin off what a way of testing the waters. No major damage has been done, but maybe they've learned something in the process.
10th-May-2014 03:57 am (UTC)
As loath as I am to go easy on fandom, I actually think that the death blow to Bloodlines was that it failed to distinguish itself from and paled in the shadow of The Originals. Like, that was the idea, "we've had success with spinning The Originals off from TVD, so let's try spinning something off the other flagship show." Except TVD viewers had almost two years to get invested in the Originals before the idea for the backdoor pilot came out, and TVD has such a deep bench of beloved characters that siphoning off a few was pretty clearly going to be to the benefit of TVD (and it has been, S5 has been great). Like, it wasn't spinning off from one or two beloved characters, it was a handful of well-known characters who already had complicated relationships with each other, a strong nucleus to build a show around.

IMO Bloodlines starting off from something of a disadvantage needn't have doomed the show, except "families of different supernatural creatures duke it out in a beloved American city" is also the premise of The Originals, and TO is already doing it as well as it's going to be done. I mean, *I* would have watched Bloodlines, because AFAIC there's no such thing as too many werewolf mafiosi, but that's me.

So...yeah, I don't actually think fans were the problem, except insofar as the network was predicting outcome based on the outlier of TVD fans, who are into TVD because it moves fast and does a lot of new stuff and might be more likely than the average viewer to give something new a try. I do think SPN fans are about as stodgy as TVD/TO fans are freewheeling - lbr, SPN fans are determined to find fault with SPN for not being SPN-y enough - but I think the real deficit was in potential new viewers, who already have a similar-but-stronger choice on the same network. (Fans of the actors, ahahaha, Buzolic already is an Original vampire.)

(I'm actually....maybe not surprised, but a little jarred by how few Supernatural fans have cottoned onto The Originals. Dysfunctional siblings! Horror! Paradise Lost! With special guest star Sebastien Roche as Vampire John Winchester!)
10th-May-2014 08:10 am (UTC)
I don't even think that "there is already a show with that premise" would've been a problem. It's that they just shoved these new characters at us. Not giving us the chance to get to know them/like/hate them over some regular show episodes/seasons as they did with TO and all other successful spin-offs. I know it's harder to do that with a road movie like SPN, but it could've been done.
As for TVD/TO - they paired it with SPN to add "us" to the audience. And I liked it better than TVD (haven't seen either in a while to be honest though -too little time). I mean Joseph Morgan having SebRoche shaped daddy issues wins over Elena drama every time in my book.
10th-May-2014 04:01 am (UTC)
As always, Ash, you have very thoughtful thoughts on SPN and its 'verse. I'm not super dialed in to the production (I follow a couple of the writers and actors on Twitter, but that's about it). I had a glimmering a few days before the episode aired that it was in support of a spinoff. Like probably everyone else around here, I tuned in with an open mind.

I agree that that was no way to introduce a spinoff, but more than that, it wasn't a spinoff, darn it. Earlier this season on Arrow, the Flash spinoff was brilliantly introduced in an episode that intertwined smoothly with the parent show. The strangely charismatic and highly-featured guest actor, in a role related to the canon of the main show, took part of the episode and peeled off into what was clearly going to be a new show--and yet I'm proof that a casual viewer with no comics background could be roped in: I'm looking forward to the new show immensely.

And here's why that worked: because the Flash spinoff episode was integrated into the Arrow series' mythos and style. Yes, the new main character is younger; yes, he's clearly designed to bring in an even younger audience than the one that Arrow has garnered; yes, it has a lighter, more humorous tone--clearly not just "more Arrow on a different night." But related--enough so to garner a good portion of the existing audience's interest while reaching out for whatever other audience the sponsors covet.

"Bloodlines" felt to me like a duck in a hen's nest. Quite apart from its many intrinsic flaws, it was just from another species. Network execs may casually think that all monster/horror/fantasy/genre shows are the same, but my God, they should know better.
11th-May-2014 12:54 am (UTC)
Hi. Thank you. :)

I think Arrow is an excellent example. I remember watching the Flash introduction episode - having no idea that they were introducing a spin off. At the end of it I was itching to know more about the character. I think SPN would have had a much better chance of say, introducing one of the Chicago characters (or monsters) in a normal SPN episode and then followed it up later in a separate show (or it might have even worked as a back door pilot like they did, if the character was interesting enough). I'm looking forward to Flash. I enjoy Arrow a lot so I'm already on board for this spin-off. :)

It makes me wonder just how serious they were about actually creating this so called spin-off (because yes, it wasn't a spin at all. In fact, I'm not sure exactly what you'd call it. It was an entirely different show). If they really wanted SPN viewers on side there are so many better ways of going about it.

Network execs may casually think that all monster/horror/fantasy/genre shows are the same, but my God, they should know better.

This. It makes me wonder. It also makes me wonder/worry what our own show makers think about us as an audience.

10th-May-2014 04:32 am (UTC)
I can accept that some people who watch Supernatural didnt like Bloodlines. Hell a lot of the time the poeple who watch Supernatural don't seem to like Supernatural!

But i don't understand where this feeling of being deceived or used comes from. From the moment that Bloodlines (aka Tribes) was announced at Comic Con in July 2013, it was made abundantly clear it was going to be a very different show to Supernatural. In fact nearly all of the publicity focussed on these differences - its was a serialised show, an ensemble cast, ubran, no characters from Supernatural, a totally separate storyline.

So it seems pretty disingenuous to act as if episode 20 arrived 9 months later and we all sat down expecting one thing and getting something else entirely. The same as if the pilot had aired as a one off, people could choose to watch or not, and know what they were getting.

I just don't understand fans anger towards the people who have given them nine seasons they ostensibly love to try something new. If the people who make SPN never tried anything new, we'd never have Changing Channels or The French Mistake. Angels would never have entered the story and we wouldn't have the Men of Letters Bunker. Creativity needs a space to take risks and try things. And I'm on board for that.
10th-May-2014 05:15 am (UTC)
"Creativity needs a space to take risks and try things. And I'm on board for that." AMEN!
10th-May-2014 07:47 am (UTC)
11th-May-2014 12:56 am (UTC)
Ha! Good to know I'm not the only one feeling that. :DD
10th-May-2014 07:47 am (UTC)
I totally agree with everything you said. Wished TPTB would read this. Because as you said, we can be a very supportive group. If they would have just asked to give this new side-project of some writers/crew a chance we would've been all over it just on principle. Not all of us would stay with it, because it might have turned into too much of a typical CW show more fitting for a TVD similar audience, but we would have checked it out for a few episodes at least giving it a chance to get of the ground. And probably would have loved a cross over episode with SPN at some point. But by selling it as a spin-off although it's very different from our show and writing the introduction episode as if it would be a pilot for independent show, they failed.
Even given the fact that we are not the real audience for the show and I would think that your suggestion (with the possible crossover options - because they could have still set it in the same mythology world, leaving options for side characters like the Alpha Vamp to appear as we know them), if they wanted to sell it as a spin-off they should have just included one or two characters like David or Ennis as normal guest characters in recurring roles so we get to know them. Nothing more. Like all the successful spin-offs do it. Just bring them in once in a while and do all the intro for the new show in the pilot for that one, not like this.
Also - can someone explain the "saving money"part to me. They filmed in Chicago, without their usual set, props, crew. How did that help?
11th-May-2014 09:45 am (UTC)
I have to admit that some of my motivation for writing this was as if TPTB could see it. Not that I want them to, or that they would even be interested, but it was my way of saying - you did it wrong! I am learning now (after reading comments here) that what we thought, or how we responded was not important to them at all. It comes down to what the CW execs thought. They may have liked it, but as they wasn't room for too many new shows it didn't make it (personally, I'd say because it wasn't very good but that's in the eye of the beholder).

I can think of lots of ways they could have gone about this to make it more successful, but we don't know what goes on behind the scenes so maybe making it a "true" spinoff wasn't an option. Thinking about it now, I think that Dabb & Co pitched an idea for a new show and this is the way they thought it would work best. Maybe?

Also - can someone explain the "saving money"part to me. They filmed in Chicago, without their usual set, props, crew. How did that help?

I'm not really sure either, but I suspect it saves all the set up costs. Getting new crews, setting up new systems, new line producers, new costume departments etc etc. They had a ready made...well, everything, so the money they saved on all of that meant they could spend it on filming it in Chicago maybe. Plus the Js were already paid for. I suspect it also meant that there was less to lose if it didn't get picked up. Just speculating.
10th-May-2014 07:48 am (UTC)
Well said! I was disappointed to hear the show had been axed without giving it a go. I did think that, had Bloodlines just started as a completely new show it would have stood a chance, it's a shame it won't now get that :(
11th-May-2014 09:46 am (UTC)
Thank you. :) I am disappointed it didn't have a chance also. And the more I learn the more I feel that it was never going to really have a chance. Perhaps they'll try again.
10th-May-2014 07:55 am (UTC)
Beautifully said!♥...
11th-May-2014 09:47 am (UTC)
Thanks darlin'! <3
10th-May-2014 08:50 am (UTC)
You speak true.

My whole irritation with that pilot was the shoehorning into SPN which served no purpose for the furthering of the SPN storyline, and left me feeling like I'd been used - like you say - as a ready made audience. It wasn't something I'd have felt much like watching had they been honest and aired it outside of SPN, but that would have been my choice, and like you say, I'm sure there would have been VD, Originals fans etc who would have given it a go who would never watch an SPN episode.

It was extraordinarily badly handled, and I feel sorry for the actors and other creative folk involved that they never got the chance to grow (or fail) on their own merits.
11th-May-2014 09:52 am (UTC)
*nods* I've also been thinking about how protective I've become of the actual SPN universe. I know it's not mine to be protective about but when they throw in things that are very significant to that world (like monster families in Chicago) it gets my hackles up just a bit it seems. I wonder if we are to forget that added canon now? I'd actually love it if they referred to it in another episode - just for continuity. Though I suspect they won't.
10th-May-2014 09:26 am (UTC)
I agree with most of your points, but not with the (IINM) apologetic vibe...
We are not responsible for the network trying to use us (like idiots), failing, cutting their losses and possibly blaming us. No. I don't know what mean things people have been saying about the pilot, but I suspect it earned most of them.

As for blaming fandom - it annoys me like Kripke blaming fans for being misogynists and therefore not liking his badly written, stereotypical female characters. Sure, there are people in fandom who hate women for being women. But once other writers managed to give us better female characters (not nearly as good as Sam and Dean, as characters) , lo and behold, we all apparently became feminists.

I don't watch it for all the family drama. I don't watch it because enjoy seeing all the struggles and arguments between Sam and Dean

I do, partially, and it didn't deliver any of that either. I also watch the show for Sam and Dean, but I *was* willing to go along with something crappy with enough similarities. And I am very much interested in falling in love with more fantastic characters. They didn't deliver any of that.

As for pilots - yes, they are hard. There are some shining examples (Veronica Mars!!!), but I just tried watching the Vampire Diaries pilot, and it's better than that one was.

Anyway - yes, I feel used and cheated as well. I so incredibly want a good spinoff I'm on the verge of tears. But that was not it. It wasn't even an OK spinoff, or the crappy spinoff with hints and characters of the show which I'd expected.

I so hope they try again, more respectfully... though they probably won't...?

Edited at 2014-05-10 09:29 am (UTC)
11th-May-2014 04:50 am (UTC)
This needs a +1 <3 thing. And I hadn't even seen that Kripke had tried to blame this blatant failure on anything but shitty writing. Urgh. Thanks for seeing us as tools, and little more.

And I agree. If they had tried to be respectful, in the sense that fandom is an incredible resource of knowledge, criticism, meta and dedication, they would never have been in this situation in the first place (and please apply to most of S9 eps, too. Hai thar, Jenny Klein).

As for women and spin-offs, they'd been better off with the Charlie/&Dorothy show. I'd have loved that.
10th-May-2014 10:21 am (UTC)
introducing new characters isn't easy and it takes a while to warm up to them (unless you are Sam and Dean of course)

I disagree with this. I loved the characters in Orphan Black, Sleepy Hollow and Game of Thrones right from the get go. That's kind of my bar for whether I'll keep watching something or not-- do I like the characters and want to know more about what's going on? Then there's shows like Musketeers that I personally have to warm up to, but I know lots of people that loved them from the get-go. It you don't have compelling characters that you care what happens to them, then why bother watching?
10th-May-2014 11:11 am (UTC)
Yeah - I was actually trying to be little, um...polite. Maybe even giving them the benefit of the doubt, as I figure that these characters might have instantly appealed to some (and with a few more episodes we might have come to care about them). I think with some TV shows it does take some warming up, but I think that the best ones get it right by making their characters instantly appealing. (Can I add Hannibal that list? *g* amazing characters).

And The Musketeers is a good example. It took me a couple of eps to warm up to them but once I did? wow! Love it!
10th-May-2014 11:17 am (UTC)
I don't feel used as such and I certainly feel no guilt or sympathy for Bloodlines not getting picked up.

Fandom is huge and it's worldwide and it's a fandom of the show Supernatural. Either write a spin off that's familiar in the SPN universe and can carry itself as an episode of SPN, or a new show with engaging characters. This was neither. Shot themselves in the foot as far as I can see.

They've had plenty of 'odd' episodes of SPN they could have tapped into, sure you don't need me to list them, they've had characters introduced in episodes that could have had another show based around them. As you say, they don't really want the long term SPN viewer, they want a new and different age group, but still with all our fandom power and support. Fandom power has come into it's own lately as being a force to be reckoned with, but you still have to earn that loyalty and you still have to get studio backing and approval, it's not just down to how fandom reacted on the day after, there are far more decisions at stake - I don't blame the SPN fandom and I hope I never hear otherwise from any of TPTB. At the end of the day they didn't produce anything that the network thought deserved a new show, or characters that engaged our fandom's support and them's the breaks.

Better luck next time?
11th-May-2014 01:07 am (UTC)
but you still have to earn that loyalty and you still have to get studio backing and approval, it's not just down to how fandom reacted on the day after, there are far more decisions at stake

Yes indeed. But I think that the fandom reaction would have played a fairly significant part. If we had been singing its praises then the studio might have been persuaded to give it a shot (of course, it would have helped if they gave us something to sing about). I think because of the way they introduced this "new" show - as an episode of SPN - they were expecting (must have been expecting I can only imagine) that we'd like it. I can't see any other reason why they'd do it like this.

I don't blame the SPN fandom and I hope I never hear otherwise from any of TPTB.

I doubt we'd see that. I haven't seen anything along those lines. Jerry Wanek tweeted something about it (he hardly ever tweets), but mostly that he was sad to see it not picked up but happy SPN is still around (or something like that). I mostly hope that they take this opportunity to reflect on their audience and their approach. hee...so maybe they won't have to rely on luck next time. ;)
10th-May-2014 12:37 pm (UTC)
I wanted to like it because it was set in Chicago, and because of the possibility of having something slightly different on the screen, but to be frank, it was terrible. Even considering it was a pilot, the exposition was painfully blatant, the characters were all stock roles, the ever-looming threat of War That Could Tear This City Apart was so unoriginal, and there were enough lazy Chicago cliches to start a drinking game.

I don't really object to the backdoor pilot routine; they know we're a seriously-invested fandom and it makes sense to tap into that if possible. For me, it's not so much that the show wasn't what we were used to, it was that it was executed poorly.
11th-May-2014 12:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, I didn't talk much about the actual episode here, but I think the quality of it ended up being the main reason why a) fans didn't like it and b) the studio didn't pick it up. If it been something different AND interesting (engaging new characters, tightly written, edgy etc), the SPN audience might even have liked it.
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