Tag Archives: Development

Cultural Interview: Quick Draw’s John Lehr on Being Renewed at Hulu

quickdraw-season-2-key-art-huluDuring Hulu’s presentations during this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, there was something new for the streaming service: shows going into their second seasons. After their first original scripted series Battleground came and went without even an official cancellation, the Hulu development process was something of a mystery, with most of their multi-season exclusive content coming through international licensing deals. And so 2013 was a big year for the company, as they debuted and renewed their first three series: animated series The Awesomes, Latino-focused teen soap opera East Los High, and improv comedy western Quick Draw, created by John Lehr and Nancy Hower, which debuts its second season on Hulu today.

The rise in streaming services has complicated the traditional way we measure television success, requiring new logics for why a show earns a second season given that we’re dealing with new data sets and lack the traditional data set—Nielsen ratings—that we consider more heavily in such analysis. As a result, I spoke with Lehr regarding the experience of “getting renewed” at Hulu, and the way the experience both does and does not reflect the traditional process with a broadcast network or cable channel, in addition to his experience as the creator of a show that lives in this still-emergent televisual space online.

Cultural Learnings: So when did you know you were getting a second season?

John Lehr: It was crazy. It was unlike any pickup I’ve ever experienced. We literally turned in the final hard drive for the first season, and the next day got the pickup for season two, which was just like—psychologically—“Yay! We’re employed!” Because usually it’s nailbiting, and that’s just horrible when you’re waiting. But on the creative side too, we dove right in that day and started thinking about season two. So I think it really helps in terms of the quality as well, because it gives us more time, and more time is always a good thing—well, not always, but in our case it is.

Given that you aren’t seeing traditional ratings, and Hulu had never renewed a series until after you premiered, did you have any idea going into the process what it would take to get a season two?

[Laughs] You know, that is an intriguing question. We didn’t know. I mean, we knew that no matter what, it’s about viewers—whether you’re on network, cable, or broadband, it’s all the same. It’s just “Do people want to watch this show, and how many of them are watching, and who are they, and what is their age, and what kind of things do they buy?” That doesn’t change. You don’t have the Nielsens, but somewhere there’s a counter going on, or some sort of understanding of how many people are watching this thing. And from the get-go, we were shocked at the response we were getting from Hulu and from people online about how many people liked the show, so almost out of the gate our Facebook blew up, there were tumblr pages. The response from fans was really, really good.

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Off-Site Learnings: Glee’s Impact on Television Development

I was in transit when last week’s episode of the (excellent) Firewall and Iceberg podcast was posted, and during that trip I wrote a piece for Jive TV which discussed what Glee’s impact will be on television development; little did I know that Alan and Dan had discussed the same issue during that episode, which makes my piece a response of sorts to their comments.

It’s ultimately in agreement: Glee’s legacy will not be the renaissance of the high school comedy nor the arrival of the television musical. However, I would argue that there are more essential, rather than definitional, elements of the series which could inspire future development, allowing networks to tap into what makes Glee so successful without necessarily selling iTunes downloads or breaking out into song.

For more on the subject, check out “Has U.S. TV been Forever Changed by Glee?” at Australia’s Jive TV:

However, what remains to be determined is how much Glee has changed the television industry: while the success of a show like Modern Family can be billed the renaissance of the family sitcom, it’s not quite so easy to identify what other networks will attempt to emulate within Glee’s central premise. There isn’t going to be a sudden influx of musicals on television, as Glee’s most definitive quality is too unique on the current television landscape to be copied in such a blatant fashion; that being said, networks will still want to try to capture the elusive “Glee audience” that FOX has built over the past year, and they’re going to try to find a way to do it as soon as possible.

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