Friday, October 17, 2008

By Request: The Cancellation of The Inside

  • I'm going to start by saying this post is all for me. I've only seen the search term come up a couple times, but that was enough to pique my interest in the topic. The Inside was a show that I was looking forward to ever since I heard Tim Minear was working on it. I first discovered Tim from his work with Joss Whedon on Angel and the amazing Firefly. When Firefly was unjustly canceled, I followed him the wonderfully quirky Wonderfalls. And when that was canceled, I was going follow him to whatever happened next. Next was The Inside.
  • The Inside started life as a Wiseguy clone of a girl working undercover in high school. When the network demanded that the show be changed to an episodic format (more like 21 Jump Street), the original creators were stuck. The undercover agent angle works well as an initial premise to a season long arc, but how do you find new ways and new reasons to put someone undercover for each of 22 episodes a season? To help fix this network imposed problem, Fox brought in Tim Minear, much as they had for Wonderfalls.
  • The first thing Minear did (well, maybe not chronologically, but by importance) was to chuck out everything except the star and the cop show premise. The Inside became a show about an FBI agent with a unique perspective that allows her to identify with various predators in society and use that knowledge to bring them to justice. She is inducted into a select FBI unit run by a special agent who will do anything or use anyone to solve a case. With this new set up, we get a new monster-of-the-week format, with the difference that the monsters are all human psychopaths. He also, based on prior experiences, created a character arc for the show that would cover the initial 13 episode run if things went down the drain. And down the drain they went, rather quickly.
  • So what happened? For one, the nature of the show was a limiting factor. The lead character starts off in a very dark place and is very stoic. Over the course of the series, she slowly opened up and became more trusting of her fellow agents and, thus, more likeable to the audience. While this storytelling style is very rewarding for the long run (for reference, see just about any show on HBO and newer shows being released on cable networks), network television audiences are very unforgiving if you don't grab them immediately. As well, the subject matter was very dark and morally complex, something you can't expect the average viewer to enjoy.
  • But there is an even easier answer, as to why the show failed: Dancing With The Stars. Fox put The Inside on during the summer because it had taken so long to get on track and they could not hold it until the fall season. While off season launches have become more accepted lately, this was before the practice had caught on. No one really understood that DWTS was poised to grab the same crowd the followed shows like American Idol. In the face of that oncoming juggernaut, The Inside never stood a chance and was cancelled with only six episode airing. To date, no DVD set has been released for anyone to see the unaired episodes, though they have been easy enough to find online if you are willing to look.
  • Although The Inside may not have been the best show on the air, I think its cancellation was unfortunate. Over time, the complexity being built into the narrative would have been quite compelling. Tim Minear once referred to the show as a struggle for the soul of the main character, whether she could be brought into the light and redeemed or dragged into the darkness and devastated. The episodes we got certainly gave us that and we are poorer for not getting to experience more.
  • If you're interested in reading more, Tim Minear gave an interview to iF Magazine (in three parts posted here, here, and here) that was my primary source for this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment