Screening Prompt: FlashForward

It has been very surprising to me how in class we have somewhat decided that Flashforward as the ultimate example of failed audience invitational programming considering, on paper at least, what potential the show seemed to have.  In the realm of the fictional world the show has not one but two online networks where people can join and share and get information, and yet ABC and the show runners seemed to completely miss the potential that these two outlets could provide for their program and their audience.  The “mosaic” website that they offered for fans to share their own fan-created flashforwards was uninteresting and ultimately provided no real enjoyment for anyone involved, and the site was non-existent.  In thinking about how these two opportunities were underutilized it makes me think about what could have happened had they been utilized.  What is the effect of invitational programming, on both the program and the audience?

I begin by thinking about what mosaic could have been.  I think that the ideal use of the website (in the real world) could have been a give-and-take forum where fans could both get extra content about the show while also submitting their own.  Instead of having only fan-made flashforwards the show runners could have posted flashforwards from fictional characters in the show so that fans could read them and get the extra content, as well as relate their own fan-made flashforwards to the story world.  This would be an interesting approach in that it would provide a semi-read/write environment where fans could take content from the show and work in their own creativity to it, while giving the creators of the show some control over the way fans were participating with their programming.

In thinking about how this invitational programming affects the content of the show itself I think it is a tough balance.  In trying to make a show that encourages fan participation, you are essentially gearing your show to a smaller demographic of audiences.  By creating a show that encourages people to go online and participate it is very easy to alienate the more passive audience that do not wish to participate in the same manner.  My guess is that this was one of the causes for the eventual cancelation of Flashforward.  I also think back to a reading we did earlier in the semester about Lost writers and how while they appreciate the fan involvement and discussions about the show, that it is impossible to please everyone and that taking their insight too seriously inevitably ends badly.  This might be a inherent flaw in invitational programming.