‘Happy Endings’ marketing strategy insults fans

April 9, 2013

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When the critically adored but ratings-challenged comedy “Happy Endings” returned to ABC after a hiatus that began at the end of January, the show found itself not just in a new time slot but with a new slogan as well. Commercials promoting the return of the show implored viewers to “Save ‘Happy Endings.’”

This new promo is troubling for two reasons. The most obvious is that ABC is essentially admitting that “Endings” has garbage ratings, and any hope for its renewal is gone. However, the other reason is far more irritating. By telling viewers to “Save ‘Happy Endings,’” ABC is implying that it is the fault of the viewing public that “Endings” needs saving.

ABC could easily save “Endings,” and the network would be completely validated in its choice. “Endings” is a critically acclaimed show in an era where television criticism has never been more ingrained in our culture. ABC could also cancel “Endings,” and it would be well within reason. The show’s low ratings more than justify its cancellation.

Hence, the implication that the fate of “Endings” rests solely in the hands of the viewer is false. Moreover, it’s also incredibly insulting. One only needs to take a quick look at the show’s time slot on ABC to realize that the network bears much more blame for its low ratings than the viewer does.

Does ABC not remember when it repeatedly aired episodes of “Endings” out of order? The network aired a season 2 episode in the middle of season 3, despite having aired the series chronologically in the United Kingdom.

ABC has probably also conveniently forgotten how it played musical chairs with the show’s scheduling. During its third season alone, “Endings” has been moved from Tuesday, to Sunday and Tuesday, then back to just Tuesday and, finally, to Friday — aka television’s graveyard. The especially egregious Sunday and Tuesday experiment paired “Endings” with the now-canceled “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23,” which, unsurprisingly, failed to significantly help either show gain ratings traction.

ABC has seemingly done everything in its power to sabotage “Endings,” and yet, its newest marketing strategy is commanding viewers to save the show? Even NBC’s “Community,” the poster child of network mistreatment, wasn’t dealt with this poorly. A show’s continuity hasn’t been this blatantly disregarded since Fox aired the intended pilot of “Firefly” as the show’s season finale.

After all of the scheduling and airing mishaps, ABC should be thankful that “Endings” has any semblance of an audience. At this point, it seems preferable to let the show die gracefully or move onto another network instead of giving ABC the impression that its inane marketing plan may have worked.

The “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter project proved that fans are willing to financially support the shows they love. But the “Mars” Kickstarter gave fans a clear, tangible objective. Fans of “Happy Endings” have no idea how many viewers it will take to save the show, and, when it inevitably is canceled, ABC will only have itself to blame.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 10 print edition. Josh Johnson is arts editor. Email him at jjohnson@nyunews.com.

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