Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Opinion: The Dangers of Disney XD

By: Zac Arnold

There is no doubt that the name Star Wars resonates with people across the world, its fame transcends language barriers and brings people together like almost nothing else in movie history. Despite its success and fame, the popularity of the series hangs in the balance for the next couple of years. Obviously, the sequel episodes (VII, VIII, IX) are likely to be the primary deciding factors on how it’s remembered by the next generation, but it can be argued that the Clone Wars and Rebels have as much importance as the movies do. Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, and the franchise as a whole will not live or die by these shows, and the recent news of The Clone Wars concluding on Netflix is a relief, but the importance – and dangers – of airing Star Wars-related shows on the Disney XD station cannot be stressed enough. Here’s why:

The first reason being that with weekly airings from either series, the name keeps reappearing on stations and leads people to assume that whatever happens on the small screen can hint to what will appear on the big screen. Let me begin by stating that is an absurd thought, because with a series as large as Star Wars, it can seemingly run dozens of different plots and it wouldn’t necessarily alter the universe as we currently know it. Despite the absurdity, the responsibility of concluding the Clone Wars series and starting the Rebels series is not to be taken lightly. Once something is aired, it’s hard to un-blow that whistle if you will. Whether it’s a movie or an animated series, people will evaluate and critique it on the same scale as a feature length film. It’s just how they work. Therefore, it must be strong enough to appeal to the people willing to find Disney XD on their cable provider and watch it. Which brings us to one of the bigger problems or dangers Star Wars faces…

As most of us know already, Rebels will be a series revolving around events between Episodes III and IV, as we see how the Rebellion itself gets started. Also reported is the fact that many (if not all) characters from the original series won’t be used or even referenced, which is both good and bad depending on how you look at it. Does this premise sound familiar, though? Think of it: A series carrying a well-known brand name, centered around a certain people group that we know exists but don’t see function, and doesn’t involve the “main characters” in the least. Its design sounds a lot like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to me. That show has had extremely mixed reviews in just a few short episodes, and its Marvel title carries a lot of expectations that it sometimes doesn’t meet. No pressure, Rebels II (sarcasm). In a world where dollar signs control the success of movies, Nielsen ratings equally control the fate of television shows. Many sci-fi shows have had troubles with Nielsen; just ask Fox’s Firefly and Terra Nova along with the adventures of Agent Coulson. Those trends could continue to be problematic with this transition to a new station. 

My primary concern with the transition is that I fear it will run into a complete sense of obsolescence on Disney XD. Why? If a series in a very similar nature is not living up to expectations on a national station like ABC, what will happen on Disney’s offspring cable network? As a comparison, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has only topped out at 2.6% of its targeted audience ( on a national station, and while it’s ranked second in its time slot on Tuesday evenings, it is still MILLIONS fewer than the #1 NCIS. In other words, if you’re not into NCIS, there’s nothing else to watch right now, so just turn on ABC. That is not likely to happen on a smaller station like Disney XD, which according to its reports, the highest number of viewers it’s ever had in the history of the station is 1.1 million (TV game-show Just Kidding, November 2013). Shifting back to Star Wars, The Clone Wars succeeded and even flourished on Turner’s Cartoon Network. Its one-hour release in 2008 was the highest-viewed premiere in CN’s 16-year history, and finished its run #1 in its time period across all age boards. With its success, the Star Wars name with Rebels is likely to either pick Disney XD up out of the gutter, lest it runs the risk of becoming obsolete because of its lack of viewers. 

As much as I hate to show such a stark contrast, the way people determine a legacy now and the way ratings work, people will either love the move and flock to the station to see more Star Wars until the cinema release, or they will gradually leave it alone until it becomes a middle-of-the-pack, forgotten show with a hardcore following (I.E. Star Wars: Clone Wars of 2002). It’s very rare for a franchise as big as Star Wars to lose a following, but recent results like what we see on ABC combined with the small audience Disney XD currently appeals to, Rebels has got its work cut out for itself. One thing the Marvel series proves is that you can’t depend on a big-name station to guarantee big results. Only time will tell if it has the quality to be successful on any station. I would like to hope that’s the case. 

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization


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