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Ravenswood -- Cancelled!
Or how not to do a spin-off
The news came down this weekend that ABC Family had pulled the plug on the dismal failure that was Ravenswood. While I didn't exactly do a happy dance, I hoped that meant good news for Twisted which is far and wide a much better show. Then I read an interview TV Guide did with the executive producer of Ravenswood before the cancellation news came down and it made me very glad the show was cancelled. The executive producer's plans to keep Ravenswood afloat could have resulted in destroying the Pretty Little Liars in the process.
I actually saw red when I read his comments. He claimed that Ravenswood had separated too soon from Pretty Little Liars. What about the term spin-off doesn't this guy get. Generally you do a one episode spin-off and then the new show sinks or swims on its own merit. It doesn't go running back to the mothership when it fails to do the dog paddle correctly and its drowning. And this show had more than one PLL episode to sell itself. Try most of season 4a when PLL was used as a glorified commercial for Ravenswood, the PLL finale taking place in Ravenswood and the annual PLL Halloween episode being turned into nothing but a Ravenswood pilot. What more does this guy want? It was long past time for Ravenswood to separate and stand on its own two feet. The network even pushed back Twisted's return back so Ravenswood could try to leech off PLL's ratings and nothing worked.
Ravenswood got more benefits than any other new show has gotten. Most new shows have to build their audience from scratch. They don't get to use the network's most popular show to help them gain an audience. And the network promoted it much more than any new show gets promoted. If after all that it still couldn't make it, nothing was going to make it work.
So why didn't it work? Let's start with making Caleb the lead character. Caleb was great on Pretty Little Liars as Hanna's boyfriend, but the character wasn't strong enough or complex enough to be the lead character of a new show. If they had spun-off Caleb and Hanna as the lead couple it might have worked. Or have one of the more popular side characters like Mona, Melissa or Jenna who haven't been getting much airtime lately it also might have worked. Instead they busted up the popular Hanna and Caleb and had Caleb staying in Ravenswood to protect some girl he knew for two seconds cause Hanna wasn't in danger from A or anything, right? And then they tried putting Caleb and Miranda into some insta-romance where they were lovers in the past, making it seem like they belonged together and Hanna and Caleb didn't, which was only going to alienate Hanna and Caleb fans.
It still could have worked if they had come up with a different reason for Caleb being in Ravenswood. He initially came there to see what he could find out from the A Lair and that could have been the reason for him remaining in town, but they just completely dropped that story and had him staying in town to protect new chick he didn't know while current girlfriend Hanna was in just as much danger and needed him to protect her, as well. Had they stuck with the A Lair reason for Caleb being in Ravenswood, it might have lured PLL viewers to tune in to see if he found anything out. Giving Caleb a further reason to remain could be his Uncle Daddy Jamie came to Ravenswood because he knew something about the town and wanted to get Caleb to leave, but he mysteriously disappears and Caleb has to stay there to find out what happened to his newly discovered father.
As Caleb tried to find out what happened to his father, he could uncover more and more of the secrets of Ravenswood. Instead we had the silly Five Pact story where five teens have to die so won't war vet can make it home alive. Not to mention the doppelganger story of how Caleb and Miranda were exact doubles for two past lovers who lived in Ravenswood. There was also a murder mystery that happened before the show even debuted, and it was only treated as a side story. Basically the stories were one big mess.
Also not helping was the Caleb in Ravenswood was pretty unlikable and annoying. And the other lead characters weren't much better. None of them had the IT factor that Ali and the Pretty Little Liars had when the show debuted. The Remy character's most memorable feature was her Sideshow Bob hairstyle which was very distracting. And the other actors were just kind of blah. The most interesting character was Miranda's strange uncle but he wasn't only a side character.
Pounding another nail in Ravenswood coffin was the deal that ABC made with four cable companies so unless you were a subscriber of one of the four cable companies you couldn't watch the show online. They claimed if you had HuluPlus you could watch ABC shows online the next day, but that didn't apply to ABC Family shows. Unless you watched it live, you couldn't watch it at all. I am a cable subscriber, but not of one of the four cable companies ABC made their little deal with. If I could have watched the show online, I would have continued to watch it, but since ABC made that option impossible, I opted not to watch it at all, and I think a lot of others made the same choice, which also played a part in the show being unable to build a big enough core audience to stave off cancellation.
So the Ravenswood experiment is over. It will live in infamy as a spin-off that did everything wrong to prevent it from succeeding. The only question that remains if will Caleb be brought back to Pretty Little Liars or did the show ruin the Hanna and Caleb to such a point there's no point in even bringing him back? Only time will tell.