Thursday, March 09, 2006

Australia's Channel 9 Sells "West Wing" to ABC

Ratings for second week:
" The West Wing opened two weeks ago with 501,000 viewers for the ABC, but sank to 393,000 last Thursday. Did 108,000 fans suddenly realise they already owned this series on DVD? Or was WW hurt by the arrival of Commander-in-Chief, because there's only so much presidential politics Australians can stand? Some viewers hoped a success with WW would encourage the ABC to pick up other intelligent shows badly treated by Nine, such as Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. This now seems unlikely."

Ratings for first week:
"On Thursday the ABC launched The West Wing, the US series it bought from Nine. The program averaged 501,000 viewers, which would be a poor result for a commercial network but it is not bad for the ABC, given that many fans have these episodes on DVD. It is also hard to get the ABC's usual audience to stay tuned after 10pm."

From the Courier Mail:
" ELECTION campaigns and entertaining television are mutually exclusive unless the candidate is Josiah Bartlet, President of the United States.

Tonight, the campaign to re-elect Bartlet gains momentum as The West Wing returns for its fourth series and the first to be broadcast from its new base at the ABC.

The Nine network waged what appeared to be a deliberate campaign to alienate the audience of this first-rate drama by constantly changing its timeslot or deleting it from the schedule, one of the more effective campaigns it has conducted.

The ABC has promised a more considerate and consistent approach to this program's legion of fans, an assurance on which we can but hope it will deliver.

This new series begins as Bartlet is in re-election mode, barnstorming across the country, his entourage becoming fragmented when staff members Josh, Toby and Donna become stranded in rural Indiana.

The stock market continues to slide and the rogue state of Qumar reactivates an investigation into the death of one of its officials, a political assassination ordered by Bartlet and carried out by US operatives.

Confounded by the contrariness of the planes, trains and automobile on which they attempt to find their way back to Washington, the stranded staffers are confronted with politics at the grassroots in conservative, Republican Indiana and when bombs explode at a university, it is Sam who must stand by the President's side.

In so doing, he writes the political speech of his life and while the President astounds with his rhetoric, the redoubtable First Lady comes under fire for a casual remark she makes about motherhood, that most treasured of American icons.

The writing is as tight as ever it was, the pace doesn't falter and the acting quality which has earned this program a string of awards continues to shine.

Will Bartlet be re-elected? We must hope so but if he fails, then perhaps he could be persuaded to take out Australian citizenship and run for Prime Minister. He'd walk it in."

From 9MSN in Australia:
"ABC fought hard for more than four years to obtain rights for award-winning US television hit West Wing.

Now, the highly anticipated return is here and will be aired on the ABC on Thursday night after being released by the Nine Network.

"We had been talking to Nine about it since 2002," Marena Manzoufas, ABC's head of programming admits.

"They just weren't prepared to release it, even though they didn't show it in a consistent timeslot, they wouldn't let it go.
"Finally, last year, they released it and all that persistence paid off."

Because of licence agreements the drama - that centres around the lives of staffers working in the west wing of the White House - can only be shown from series four on the ABC.

Manzoufas, who wasn't a fan until she watched the first episode of the new series, says the sophistication of the writing made it a perfect fit for the ABC.

She also says the storylines are easy to follow.

"When I went to watch the first episode I was interested to see if I could follow it, given that I hadn't watched much of it," she said.

"After watching, I was there, I didn't miss a beat and I am a huge fan."

The programmer says there is no need for a recap of past series because there is only one reference to an old storyline.

"Apart from that reference you can come in as cold as I did and quickly know who the characters are in the story," she said.

"And coming in cold I didn't feel like I was being excluded in the way you can with other series if you miss a week."

Asked if obtaining the West Wing is just the start of more American drama coming to ABC, Manzoufas says it isn't.

Output deals between American distributors and commercial networks Seven, Nine and Ten give those stations first choice of programs."

From The Age:
"The ABC has picked up The West Wing, back-tracking to the point where Channel Nine was already displaying disgraceful inconsistency in screening times. Aaron Sorkin's fine series lands a sensible 9.30pm perch and will remain there until the end of the seventh and final series, now concluding in the US.

The start of the fourth series is an ideal pick-up point, for the president's re-election campaign is in full swing. The White House entourage is returning to Washington from Indiana when communications director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) and deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) miss the motorcade to the airport and must find their own way home. It becomes a 20-hour slog, causing Bartlet to muse that two of the brightest members of his staff, with a combined IQ of 300, couldn't even organise a simple cross-country journey. But Toby and Josh have not being wasting their time.

Washington wags may dub this show The Left Wing, but political wisdom and blatant chicanery go hand in hand in a beautifully crafted drama. Sure, it's a studio set, but it feels like the White House and it's the illusion that counts."

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
""We have been quietly pursuing the acquisition of The West Wing for two to three years and we are delighted to have finally secured it," said ABC head of programming Marena Manzoufas.

"We're really excited that we can give it an accessible timeslot. It is well-written, well-crafted American drama at its best."

When The West Wing premieres on the ABC this week, they will pick up the action from the start of season four with a movie-length episode.

It has screened in Australia, when Channel Nine had the rights, but the ABC decided that because of its various timeslot changes in the past, it would be better to allow for an overlap and to appease the very vocal fans who had long complained about never being able to find the series from week to week."

The Age and The Australian review Season 4 before its broadcast in Australia.

Posted by Francie at Television Without Pity:
"Australian Fan: The Daily Telegraph yesterday had a small part about West Wing in the entertainment section. Season 4 will start on ABC commercial free on Thursday the 23rd of February at 9:30pm. And ABC is also hoping to get one of the stars out to Australia - maybe in time for the Logies in May. But being May - i doubt it will happen."

Update from an article on John Spencer in - Australia :
"The ABC will begin airing The West Wing early next year, showing episodes from the fourth season onwards."

From the Australian Mercury News:
"The ABC has also purchased The West Wing from Nine. "We will ... air it in the same spot every week, guaranteed," he said.

The news that the ABC and Nine negotiated a sale of The West Wing to the national broadcaster no doubt heartened fans of the show.

The ABC and The West Wing, with its cast led by Martin Sheen and Allison Janney are a natural fit.

Even at a discounted price, it must have been a big buy for the cash-strapped ABC.

But has the ABC bought it from series one? If so, it will be years before we see the seventh series currently on air in the US. Can we wait that long?"

Crikey reports:
" In a move that will delight its fans, the Nine Network has sold The West Wing, the left-wing fantasy series about a Democract American President, to the ABC.

Nine has been criticised by fans of the program for not showing it, but the network's reply has always been that it has been an under performer, even in late evening time slots where hardcore fans would be expected to watch.

Nine has not done the right thing by fans, dropping it without warning earlier this year when ten episodes of series five were still to be screened. The decision to terminate it after 12 episodes had been shown sparked an outcry from loyal fans, which Nine ignored.

News of the sale to the ABC, which plans to show the series from the start, follows the news earlier this week that Nine had done a deal with the Ten Network on four series – Smallville, Supernatural, Reunion and Veronica Mars.
Nine has sub-licensed two other shows to Ten a year ago: The OC and One Tree Hill.

Nine offered The West Wing to the Ten Network which declined because it didn't fit its audience profile. The West Wing appeals to an older demographic compared to shows like The OC, Supernatural and Veronica Mars."

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