In January, Warner Bros. Television gathered journalists in Pasadena for an event built around their comedy slate. Although there were screenings for both long-standing hit The Big Bang Theory and freshman success story Mom, the centerpiece of the evening was NBC’s Undateable, which debuts tonight at 9/8c with its first two episodes.
When the event took place, Undateable didn’t even have a release date. In talking to executive producer Bill Lawrence, though, this wasn’t necessarily a sign the show had no support. Even moving beyond the fact that Warner Bros. was using the evening as a platform for the series, NBC was also in then process of greenlighting what would become the Undateable Comedy Tour, a preview of which was offered to journalists to close out an evening that began with the screening of an episode of the series. It’s more support than you’re expect for a show airing at the end of May, a sign of the new state of summer programming and also the basic logic that pervades Undateable as a series and as an experience.
Exactly a year ago today, I wrote a piece about the experience of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter where I explored the meanings of “following” a Kickstarter campaign as it reaches its goal, arguing for that twelve-hour period as a key space of meaning for fans of the franchise. I framed that experience as the queue for an amusement park ride, but the metaphor had one problem: in this context, what constitutes the ride?
“As with some theme park rides, the line between the queue and the ride will be blurry in this case: does the ride begin when the Kickstarter reaches its goal? Or when the film is released next year? Or when the film goes into production this summer (since viewers were supporting not the project being released but rather the project existing at all)?”
Around the same time, I was invited by Bertha Chin and Bethan Jones to participate in a dialogue regarding the Veronica Mars Kickstarter, crowdfunding, and fan labor for Transformative Works and Cultures. Within that conversation, which took place in the weeks following the campaign’s success, fellow panelist Luke Pebler rightfully highlights the way uncertainty framed any and all conversation surrounding the Kickstarter around that time.
“A recurrent theme in these discussions seems to be, how will it all look once it’s over and the thing kickstarted is complete and released? Will backers ultimately be happy? Will producers be happy? Will it all have been worth it? It’s going to be an excruciatingly long wait to find out, in many cases.”
Ignoring for a moment the subtle irony that we had to wait almost as long for our conversation to be published as Veronica Mars fans had to wait for an entire movie to be funded, produced, and distributed (and Transformative Works and Cultures is fast by academic standards, and should be lauded for its belief in open access publication so I can link non-scholars reading this post to the conversation in question), the uncertainty evident in both my and Luke’s commentary has been the greatest takeaway from the Veronica Mars Kickstarter experience. Until the film was released yesterday, the Kickstarter existed in this state of receptive limbo, and even after the film’s release the questions of value and fan agency discussed in our conversation remain fluid as Warner Bros. struggles to manage digital distribution controversy.