When David Chase’s hit show “The Sopranos” debuted on HBO in 1999, I was instantly hooked. It was chock full of complex characters, drama, allegiances, and lots and lots of symbolism. Online, through message boards (and eventually social media), and with friends and strangers alike, I discussed why Paulie let that Russian guy go in the woods, what’s going to happen with Meadow, and most importantly how the show writers were going to tie it all together in the end? As a group we liberally shared theories that ranged from the plausible to the absurd, we generated our own content, and we enjoyed every episode as a community.
When the show ended with a strangely unsatisfying conclusion, I wondered whether or not all that chatter we generated was partially to blame. Surely Chase knew huge fan communities were sharing ideas. Maybe he even read a few. And maybe, just maybe, he and the show’s writers realized they needed to adjust course based on what they read. It’s plausible that show creators had a conclusion in mind, but in an effort to surprise viewers, Chase and his team had to create a yet-unconsidered ending for the sake of surprising hard-core fans.
We may never know the truth, but the question remains: did online discussion and fan generated content influence the narrative?
As we near the end of one of the greatest (and most talked about) shows in television history, Breaking Bad, I’m again wondering about the role of online generated content. Over the last six seasons, have the thousands of online discussions over Facebook, Twitter, and blogs across the world influenced show creators and writers.
In an effort to answer this question, NCTA is supporting a SXSW panel titled “Are my Tweets Making TV Better?” By bringing together show creators, network executives, and journalists, we hope to better define the role fans play in TV creation. We aim to discover whether a social community has ever changed a show. Could it? Should it?
Already confirmed for the panel are Lisa Hsia, Executive Vice President of Bravo Digital Media and Whitney Friedlander, TV Journalist for Variety, LA Times and LA Weekly. We hope to confirm a creative contributor from one of cable’s biggest shows soon.
But we can’t host our panel without your help!
We need you to tweet, share, and most importantly VOTE for our panel. If you, like us, want to know more about the role of the fan in this “Golden Age” of television, then distribute our panel as far and as wide as you can! Without your vote, we won’t be picked and these burning questions will remain unanswered.
Again, the panel can be found HERE. Don’t be afraid to comment on this blog or on the panel page with questions, comments, or ideas.
Thanks and we’ll see you in Austin next March!