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DAVID KEMPER ON INTERSTELLAR TRANSMISSIONS

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2002

Transcript of David Kemper on Interstellar Radio’s Interstellar Transmissions September 20, 2002

DK03.jpg (14063 bytes)IT: What makes America great? Is it the fact that we have the freedom of choice? Is it the fact that we could just go ahead and tell our elected officials what we want to do because, hell, we voted them in in the first place. It could be the same thing with science fiction television programs. And of course, this goes as far back as 1968 when Trimble lead that grass roots effort to save “Star Trek” and have NBC realize that there were viewers of the show on a Friday night and in the end we saw the third season and added to the fact that if it weren’t for [him] and that grass roots effort, well, we probably wouldn’t have a “Star Trek,” but then again, that could be wishful thinking.

Two weeks ago “Farscape” was cancelled by the SciFi Channel and in the end result, all hell broke loose in a grass roots effort that has just about rivaled the save “Star Trek” campaign of about 34 years ago. It’s unbelievable what’s happened. Joining us right now in a broadcast of interstellar transmission, we have David Kemper for the balance of the hour. He is executive producer as well as head writer for “Farscape.” David, live from Australia, welcome to the broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions.

DK: Thank you very much. How’re ya doin?

IT: We’re doin great, thanks. We’d feel a lot better if the SciFi Channel didn’t um...how can we say this…didn’t take advantage of that little escape clause. Your show was, I think, the only SciFi Channel original program that was renewed at the end of two seasons, and I can only name maybe about five television programs overall that have for two or more seasons and they go ahead and pull the plug for no reason whatsoever?  Without so much as a by-your-leave and then everything just goes crazy from there.

DK: Well, you gotta remember, in all fairness, they do have their reasons. Um, they’re not reasons that we all like but they do have their reasons. Their rationale is in a way sound from a network perspective. I worked at a network for 10 years so I can understand it. I don’t agree with it. In this case, I think it’s wrong. But their rationale, they have reasons. They can list them. I think they have also (evil chuckle) [Read the SciFi Channel’s Cancellation F.A.Q. here]

IT: They had put together a huge ad campaign that put back-to-back “Stargate SG-1” which was coming off of the Showtime network in its original run and comparing the adventures of Richard Anderson, who was playing the colonel on “Stargate” to the adventures of Ben [Browder’s] character. So what was the expectation from the ad campaign when the series premiered that generated, I guess, a sense of disappointment?

DK: Well, first of all, we weren’t wild about the campaign. The shows are different. Normally in television, when you’re dealing with a lot of shows, we have seven nights and three hours, on a bigger network, of programming. You can mix and match audiences that would watch “Cheers” and then watch “Frasier.” You put “Frasier” behind “Cheers” and maybe you’ve got something. But it’s a smaller channel, they don’t have as much product to pair us up with. We kept waiting over the years for something that would be perfect to go before or after “Farscape” and a lot of things got put in… “Lexx” and “Black Scorpion” and “Invisible Man.” We never gelled, the audiences aren’t the same. And so the audience…“Stargate” brings a huge audience to the SciFi Channel by virtue of where it used to play. But they may not be the same people that are watching “Farscape.” So try to say they’re one and the same show, if you like one, you’re gonna like the other, I think an expectation was built up in their minds. “This is a sure thing, this is a fit! Look, hero and hero! What could be better?” When, in fact, the shows, both good, are completely different. So the audience for one may not stick around to watch the other. That doesn’t indicate a failing, it simply means they’re not the same audience. I think that internally they were hoping, “Goodness! Huge numbers! Every single person from one show is gonna watch the other and we’ll be rich RICH RICH!” 

IT: In looking forward to the future, ADV, the people who are distributing the “Farscape” videos in America at least, have announced for mid 2002, they’re gonna be hyping “Farscape: the Animated Series,” a 26 episode long anime. Do you know anything about this?

Writers005M.jpg (40393 bytes)DK: Personally, no. I’m doing the live-action (laugh) I’m doing the live action, actor one. I know that there are things that go on between the Henson Company, which is my parent organization, but I’m not up yet on all the deals. I suppose I’ll know everything shortly, but I’ve been busy doing the work…we’re still post-producing the episodes here. We’ve got a lot of work to do to on nine of the last eleven, what’s going to be the last eleven episodes of “Farscape” at the moment.

IT: This is David Kemper, he is executive producer of “Farscape” and also the series head writer and, by the way, one of the things [thank you to] the Henson Company for pushing us up, if you will. And, uh, we do have a number of people who do have some questions for you, David, so let’s go ahead and go to the first on. We have Andy from Cape Coral, Florida.

You’re on a broadcast of Interstellar Transmission. What’s your question for David Kemper tonight?  

Andy: I’d like to tell David I’m a huge, huge fan of the series, been a fan since day one. I personally turned 23 people on to the show, we love the show. We’re flying out to the convention in Burbank and wondering if you’ll be attending.

DK: Uh, look, I’ve got an answer, and then a question for you. I don’t know if I’ll be attending this year. It’s real close to Thanksgiving and for four or five years I haven’t been able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. And I have lots of family in Detroit and I never get back there because I’ve been in Australia so I’m still debating which part of the country I’ll be sitting in when the turkey gets rolled out.

I’ve got a quick question for you. If you’ve turned this many people on to the show, which I think is fabulous. My question is, when you watch the show, do you watch it alone or do you watch it with people?

Andy: I was in the chat room last night when you were talking about this and, um, I watch it alone.

DK: A lot of our fans are watching in groups and we’re all aware that that will hurt our demographics in the Nielsons. It looks like a party show. People get together on Friday night. That’s one of the things that ends up hurting a show. Sometimes, y’know, we’re not “Cheers,” we’re not on NBC, we don’t have the audience access that “West Wing” has. We’re on a cable channel and if you lose 10% of your audience, not really lose them but they’re watching with someone else, it makes a huge impact on the rating. I was just curious, so I thought I’d ask you.

IT: We have a huge number of callers on the show tonight. We do have David Kemper who’s executive producer of “Farscape” and he is our guest tonight on this broadcast of Interstellar Transmissions. Let’s go to Princeton, NJ, where Kevin is on the line. Kevin, you’re on the air now with David Kemper.

Kevin: Hey, David, how’re you doing tonight?

DK: I’m good, how are you?

Kevin: Is it morning, dinner time where you are?  

DK: It’s morning, about 9:45 here on Saturday morning. Later on I’ll tell you guys what’s gonna happen later tonight for you guys. You might want to stay inside. That’s all I’ll say. We had all the “Farscape” people here at a barbecue at Rowan Woods’s house last night and I can tell you how the night turns out, okay?

Kevin: Dave, on of the things a lot of people are asking is what do we do now? A lot of people didn’t really   the last couple of weeks. To make it known, the show is popular, to make it known that that people want to see the show. But at this point, people are like okay uh, what do we do now? And the other question is: What about alternative networks? There’s a lot of rumors going around about one specific network, but…

DK: Which network are you hearing?

Kevin: UPN

DK: Yeah, that’s a pretty good network. Personally, I’ve written for Star Trek, in various incarnations. I know all those guys. I’m in touch with Brannon Braga all the time. And Star Trek, he’s not at the network, of course, he just does the show. If I were a fan, I’d start calling UPN and say, “Gee, wouldn’t ‘Farscape’ go  great after ‘Enterprise?’ Okay, my question is, “Hey, what can we do? at the barbecue last night. We were all sitting around a table, a lot of the actors, a lot of the producers, directors, the creative people, and we were joking, and Claudia goes, “Okay, so what TV show am I gonna be on next?” We all played the game about which bad TV show we were all gonna end up on, calling each other and saying, “I hate this job. I hate this job.” So, hell with you, what do we do?!

DK02.jpg (16257 bytes)What do the fans do? There is something that was suggested, that I put in the chat yesterday, which I think is great. SciFi Channel says that we were under-performing. That’s part of the reason that they got rid of us. To me, I gotta be honest, it makes no sense. In comparison to a show that gets a higher audience,  There are certain factions within SciFi – it’s not a uniform decision, I will say that – there are people that love the show and are disappointed with the decision. Then there’s other people – they got into a battle. Some people want to free up the money that it cost to make “Farscape” so that they can make their own show so they can put their stamp on things. That happens at every network whenever there’s a transition. This network only has two original shows. They have one homegrown “Farscape” and one that they got from somewhere else. So there’s not a lot of places to cut to get money back. And the ratings are a bit higher for Stargate so you cut the other one. They don’t have an understanding of how the fans love the show. They’re not looking at the fans.

What can you do? You know, the last fellow [talked about the 23 people] You get so many people watching the next 11 episodes that we bring the ratings through the roof. Now, that’s in January, guys, that’s three months from today, so lots can happen. If we come back in January with sky high ratings, and the critics love us. I’ve talked to a lot of the critics, and they’re shocked. If the ratings go through the roof, what’s gonna happen? Because that’s what it’s about. And so, that would be my goal, is just to sit back. We do have a lot of fans and maybe the Neilson ratings are not in their houses. You never know. There might be more people, that we’re undercounted. That always happens on a small cable channel. Get people to watch the show. Use your energy and thoughts and resources to get people to watch the show. And if they watch the show, I would guess that there’ll be more show. Because it’s giving people what they want, and when the people speak, even the most recalcitrant ears sometimes get the wax pulled out.

IT: Indeed on that. Kevin, thank you for your call, by the way. And with that, obviously if ratings is the bottom line, a question we got on e-mail from Lauren in Pompano Beach, Florida, which is not too far down the road. She asks, “Would lose momentum for the campaign if we wait too long for that? Considering the fact that if the ratings are high enough the whole Save Farscape campaign might just be a moot point.” 

DK: Well, this is real interesting. I had a discussion with the SciFi people and I said, “Take a look at what’s happening.” This is flattering, by the way. All the core people from “Farscape” were together last night, and we’re a bit, well, we’re humbled. I mean that. We just go, “Can you believe it?” Because the show isn’t even on the air here. We don’t watch it. Ben Browder and Claudia and Anthony and Gigi, they don’t get to walk down the street and have people say, “Hey! You’re Chiana!” It’s not on the air here so you don’t get the feedback. Now, we’re getting feedback and we’re going, “Wow! Who are these people? I mean, they really love the show!” We were just making the show like a little community theater. We’d gather and we’d paint a set and someone makes a costume and a couple of people write some lines and other people say them. And we’re kind of stunned with people going, “Wow! It’s our favorite show.” We’re not stupid, we just didn’t know it was this big.

Now, can people sustain this momentum? We’ve got an outlet for it. I said to SciFi, put us back on reruns at 8 o’clock. There’s gonna be so much buzz that new people are going to tune in and get hooked on the show. They’re gonna tune in and go, “What’s the fuss about?”

They said, “Well, the repeats of “Stargate” are getting higher ratings than the repeats that you would get.”

And I said, “You don’t want to be the All Stargate Network. Here’s an opportunity to have new people care for our show. Even if for the next four weeks, our ratings in reruns are down a bit compared to what Stargate will get you, you might be getting new fans who stay with your whole network, which aggregated over time is a benefit.”

And there was a bit of deafness there and I thought, “My goodness, if I’m at a network (and I was for a decade, at CBS) and this kind of [event] was happening, I’m treating these fans like they’re my best friends. I’m saying to the advertisers, ‘See these loyal people out there, these Farscapers, I love these people. I want these people in my camp. I want to do anything I can to get these people’”    

Look, if they call us and say, “Look, we’re gonna run some specials of Farscape. Would you people come on and do commentaries before and after?”

DK01.jpg (16343 bytes)We could think of a million ways to make reruns an event. We could do live DVD commentary from Australia, over the broadcast. We could turn the sound of the broadcast down and watch the actors and the producers and directors talk over the images that our fans know. We could turn this, with creative thinking, into such momentum. But I’m now getting the creative thinking. And the creative thinking is on hold in Sydney at the moment. And I think there was an underestimation of the ground swell and that’s what the fans can do. They can say, “Well, why the hell isn’t it even on in reruns right now?” It’s almost like the fans voice…well look, it’s a business, so sometimes when they get rid of a product, if Coca Cola drops a product, it’s just not economical for coke to make the product. We all have to be aware of that. Just because it’s our favorite show, doesn’t mean it’s been a good [I missed a couple of words here] but boy oh boy, those reruns. They have ‘em and we’d be willing to do things and it’s kind of like, “Go! Let’s go! Let’s do something!” And I think that’s were the energy should be focused. 

IT: Exactly. Dave Kemper is with us. He is executive producer of “Farscape,” also the series head writer and he’s live with us on Interstellar Transmission from Australia, and fans are waiting on the line. Let’s go to Kyle out of Boston, MA. Kyle, you’re on a broadcast with Interstellar Transmissions. What’s your question tonight for David Kemper?

Kyle: Hello, Mr. Kemper. I just wanted to say that your show has made a big difference on people. I have never written or called a company before but I guess I should get to the question.

DK Thank you very much.

Kyle: It seems from all the stuff I’m reading – in the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten into researching [to see if we could] make a difference. It seems like the network is gearing more towards just getting rid of their science fiction programming and getting with what they think would be “going to a broader audience.”

IT: Exactly, exactly. In fact, I understand that the SciFi Channel is looking right now for – I got this information from SciFi – Apparently, there were some meetings about an upcoming “reality” series called “The Dream Team.”  Apparently, it’s not so much the SciFi Channel as it is the New Age Channel. Hey, I got a dream. How about they put “Farscape” back on SciFi. (laughter from everyone).

Kyle: Exactly, exactly.

DK: Let me jump in. This is one of our arguments. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and I’m been up weird hours. You guys in Florida are in the same time zone. I’d be up at 3 or 4 in the morning when it would be 2 in the afternoon there. Our audience has, to my knowledge (and I’m easily, easily corrected by anyone, including SciFi – I don’t have a problem with that) Our audience has the best demographics they’re gonna get, in terms of women, in terms of the prime groups that they would want that advertisers would want to sell to.

IT: Definitely, it’s off the board, yeah.

DK: Yeah, so to say, “I want to broaden my audience? It goes back to the…I won’t get into specifics because it’s not fair at this point. But the marketing campaign that was proposed to me in January of this year I rejected. And Ben Browder rejected. It basically equated Stargate with Farscape. Not to be specific, but to say, “It’s the same thing! If you like one, you’re gonna love the other.” No. Farscape is a love story. It’s not even science fiction. The reason people are so passionate…it’s not your father’s science fiction. It’s weird. We’re totally, we are completely different. We’re like on a boat in the middle of the ocean where no one can be contaminated by us. But fortunately, we’ve been able to make a television show together. And it’s different, and it’s…if we were airing at FOX, people might say, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s science fiction but you gotta watch it. It’s got character and love and romance.” But because we’re at a place, and SciFi is aware of this, with the name SciFi Channel, a lot of non-scifi fans who will watch Buffy and say oh Buffy’s not scifi. They won’t watch us because of where it is. And that’s not a slam against SciFi, that’s the [way it is]. So they’re trying to broaden, they want to reach more people. My attitude is, “You’ve got…we’re not a bunch of 14-year-old boys. We have middle-aged people who are mothers and housewives and grandmothers and women with six kids and two grandkids and we have this group of people that I think SciFi should be building upon. And instead, at the moment, they’re shunning them and [loud music in the background] That’s the Farscape song, I’ll turn it off.

IT: We’re running out of time. I feel bad about this, but I do want to ask you this…

DK: I will come back if there are questions on another day.

IT: I’ll tell you what…I’m thinking about that for next week if that’s ok because obviously, we want to make sure that we’ve got people on top of this situation until there’s a rightful conclusion. David Kemper, thank you so much for being on Interstellar Transmissions tonight and talking to the most important group of people that matter to Farscape, the fans. 

Crackers Do Matter!  

 

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