We’re officially on hiatus right now, and we don’t know if the network will order more episodes. I know that they liked us in a creative sense, but the ratings weren’t very good (ratings are generally not very good in summer, and while I don’t believe that ratings are as important as they once were, my opinion on the matter isn’t particularly important to the decision makers), but the people who did watch us really liked us. So I won’t know for a few more weeks, but until then, I’m on hiatus, which means I get to write more, play more games, and prep for season three of Tabletop, which goes into production in October.
Part of that preparation includes finding 20 games to play on the show, and as of today, I have eight (maybe nine) that are strong contenders.
What do you want us to play on the show next year? Would you tell me the game, the publisher, and why you like it?
Keep in mind the criteria for Tabletop game selection:
Plays well with 4 people.
Plays in under 90 minutes.
Can be generally explained in about 5 minutes.
Has a high ration of luck to strategy, so everyone has a chance to win the game.
Looks great, has clear graphical design and photographs well.
We made a thing for last night’s Wil Wheaton Project, and I think it’s pretty great.
As of today, we have one episode left. We won’t know if Syfy is going to order more episodes for about 5 or 6 weeks. We all need the break (it’s a lot of work to make this show, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re all feeling a little worn out), but I’m sad that we’re going to take the break now, when I finally feel like our show is firing on all cylinders.
I’ve been getting up earlier than my body wants to on Monday mornings for almost two months, now, and I’m still not used to it. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m upside down in a pool filled with goo, but I’m still a little slow and easily confused until I get my CON and DEX bonuses from my morning coffee.
I don’t know if I’ve talked about this, but the way we put The Wil Wheaton Project together goes something like this:
We have a great staff of associate producers, researchers, and staff writers who are responsible for certain shows. We do our best to assign shows to each other that we wouldn’t normally be watching, so that we all bring different perspectives to the shows that we cover. All of us are constantly on the lookout for stories, videos, cats, and things that would probably be interesting and/or amusing to our audience, and we have a private mailing list for that.
We take all that research, and have a couple of creative meetings during the week that helps us narrow down what we’re going to do on the next episode (tonight, we air S01E08, which we call 108, so we’re working on 109 this week).
On Thursday, there’s a thing called a clip meeting, where everyone gets together to look at clips that have been gathered, along with some jokes or insights or other commentary that may go with those clips.
On Friday, I come into the office for a table read of the script with a the senior producers, and we all work on figuring out what sorts of jokes we’re going to do, and how the show is going to come together. We usually leave the office very, very late on Fridays.
Over the weekend, we watch all of our weekend shows, and keep looking for box office news for movies that are in our world. Then, at are-you-fucking-serious o’clock on Monday morning, the producers and editors put together material from those weekend shows. Around 8am, I head into the office and look at everything they’ve been working on, and we make a final decision on what’s going to fill out act one of the show.
Usually, we have three bits in act one that are more or less locked in, and we add up to three more based on that early Monday work.
After a bit of work on Monday morning, we all head to our studio and tape the show. It’s usually done in the very early afternoon, at which point the network executives and our executives get to work on putting together the final cut of the show, which is sent into space and then down to New York for broadcast about 30 hours after I walk out of the studio.
It’s not as harrowing as I imagine @Midnight must be, but we all work very hard without ever feeling like we have as much time as we want, and I’m super proud of the work we’ve been delivering since episode 104, which is when I think we finally found ourselves and started making the show that I hope we’ll get to make for at least another year.
So, I want you to know this about tonight’s episode: yesterday, we built act one from the ground up. We didn’t keep anything that we had planned to put there, and a few people — including our amazing editors — worked their asses off to build the longest act of the show, the most important act of the show, in just a few hours, when all of us are at our most exhausted. And get this: we ended up having to cut some things that we really liked from the first act, because it was too long! I’m intensely proud of the team I get to work with, and so grateful for the privilege of working with them, and what we did as a single unit yesterday is a very big reason why.
The last three episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project (105, 106, 107) are pretty much what I wanted this show to be all along. I feel like it’s a good blend of irreverence, silliness, cleverness, and actual information that’s entertaining and interesting. We’ve had some great guests drop in, and our original creations (our silly TV theme songs, games like How Will They Bite It?) are landing on the audience exactly the way we hoped that they would.
As far as I can tell, the people who watch the show are having a good time with it, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been overwhelmingly positive. This makes me happy, because I’m making the show that I want to make, and the people who are watching it seem to enjoy that.
So, creatively, I’m very happy.
Our ratings are okay, but not great. We are building on our lead in, which is good, and people are watching the whole show, which is also good, but it’s discouraging that more people aren’t watching something that I’m really proud of.
I’ve done just about everything I can to convince the network to make it easier to watch online, but I’m just getting a runaround that ends with a whole lot of audience that probably would add to our ratings just going to YouTube or Pirate Bay to watch us. I’m happy that people are finding and enjoying the show, but I’m disappointed that our network isn’t making it easier for those people to be counted in a way that would help us get renewed for more episodes.
I made a decision two weeks ago, after 106 didn’t do as well as I hoped it would, to not care about the ratings any more. They matter only because it’s part of some inscrutable formula some people in a building in New York use to determine if we get to make more than 12 episodes, and those numbers are a distraction from the creative process for me.
As it stands right now, we’ll get to do at least five more episodes. After that, my long range sensors can’t get a signal. I could spend a lot of time worrying about our ratings, but the fact is that people tune in or they don’t. The network has to promote the show in a smart way that gets people interested in us, and we have to make a show that those people enjoy enough to stick around and watch.
So I’m going to stay focused on the creative side of things, and work with an incredibly talented, smart, and funny team of writers and producers to make a show that we are proud of, that we can stand by.
Whether that’s for five more or thirty more is currently in Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box.
On last week’s Wil Wheaton Project, we invited viewers to have some fun with a picture of Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor “Hodor” Hodor on Game of Thrones.
I wanted to feature a bunch of them on the show tonight, but we couldn’t because of reasons. Here are some honorable mentions that I thought were awesome, and because we live in the future, I can show feature them for the whole damn world. Depending on your browser settings, you may have to click on the links to see the ‘shops:
Let’s get the important news out of the way first: The Wil Wheaton Project is moving from 10pm to 9pm, starting next week. I don’t know why, but I am told that it’s a good thing, because of reasons. Our ratings have been good, growing with each new episode, which I am also told is what the network expected. I am also trying very hard to just ignore the ratings, because the thing I need to be focused on is being as funny and creative and awesome as I can be. The only reason I care about ratings at all is because I genuinely love the people I work with, and I want to work with them for a very long time.
I was hoping my beloved LA Kings would sweep the Rangers last night, but the hockey gods (and a little snow fort) had different plans. The upshot of this is that I get to go to another hockey game this season.
Here’s what The Pirate Bay has to say about our show as of about noon pacific today:
I have been advised by people who don’t understand me that I should be “more careful with [my] online image” because I’m hosting a show with my name in the title. One person even said to me, “Listen, instead of [list of pretty much everything I do], here’s what your Twitter followers want to hear about from you …” and it took everything I had to not say, “I’m sorry, are you talking about the 2.5 million people who I keep telling not to follow me because I’m lame, but they do anyway because they seem to enjoy exactly what you told me not to do?” So instead, I said, “Thank you. I’ll think about that.” Which is true, because I did think about it, for about one second. Then, I decided that this is pretty much how I will respond to people who tell me to change who I am because of reasons:
More than one person on Twitter observed that that picture is pretty much my online image already. I have to agree. #Butts.
I sent the link to my writers, and said that we should try to find a place in the show this week for it, and one of my producers told me that the script was already long, but we’d try, because it is such an awesome video.
I was then faced with a bit of a dilemma, because I wanted to share it with the world right away, but I also thought it would be a cool thing to reveal on the show. My dilemma didn’t last long, and I decided to post it right away, because I know not everyone can or does watch the show, and something this awesome shouldn’t be kept to the (at the time) roughly 3000 people who had seen it.
When I posted it to my G+, I said that there wasn’t time in the show, but I had to share it, anyway. A guy said, “Yeah it is amazing and it’s equally amazing how you didn’t find any time to post it in this weeks WWP. lol”
So I wasn’t sure if he was being snarky or whatever, but I saw an opportunity to share a little bit of the process that goes into making the show, and how that process affected the ability to include this clip in the show:
We have to lock down most of our script on Friday afternoon, so it can go to the legal department. On Monday morning, we write stuff for the shows and movies that made news over the weekend, and we only have a few hours to do that before we send it to the lawyers.
We only have 21.5 minutes in each show, and this week’s Friday script was already something like 5 minutes long. We know that will happen, and we plan to cut some bits that we shoot in front of the audience, but we do our best to get as close to the 21.5 when we tape, so it makes editing faster and easier to finish (we only have 12 hours or so before we have to deliver to the network, and that’s not as long as you may think).
So knowing all that, consider: I didn’t see this until Saturday afternoon. I sent it to the writers and producers, so we could do our best to find a place for it, but it’s probably not going to make this week’s show for the reasons I’ve already stated. Because it’s sort of an “evergreen” thing, it’s very likely that we’ll find a place for it next week or the week after. Now, I could have just sat on it for two weeks, but I thought it was so awesome, I wanted the world to know about it right away.
I hope this is interesting, and gives a little insight into how the WWP comes together.
One of my favorite bits from this week’s show is a silly game show we created called How Will They Bite It? It wasn’t until after we’d played the game that I realized it has the potential to actually be a legitimate game, that anyone can play at home while watching some of the magnificently craptacular Syfy Original Movies (and let’s be honest: magnificently craptacular original movies is probably the one area where the network formerly-known as sci-fi truly excels, and may actually set the standard by which all other magnificently craptacular movies should be measured.)
Take a look:
Although we’re only two episodes in, I think we have a possible recurring bit in How Will They Bite It?, one that I can play with just about anyone who we can trick into coming onto our show extend the tremendous privilege of appearing on The Wil Wheaton Project.
I got our ratings numbers yesterday afternoon. Surprisingly, they were slightly lower than our first episode, but I understand that the ratings across the entire network for the whole night were down, so that’s not necessarily a reflection of us, as much as it is something that just sort of seems to have happened. I wonder if there was a big sports thing, or maybe a finale in some other show? I heard that we kept more of our lead in than last week, which is actually really good, according to the people who care about that sort of thing. I also heard that a very important person at the network loved our second episode, which is also very good. Most importantly for me, though, is that I was completely happy with the show. I thought the jokes worked the way we wanted them to, and all the other stuff I mentioned yesterday.
Felicia and I talked last week when I was feeling pretty down about the ratings, and she pointed out to me that the only thing I can truly control is the creative side of things, so if I put out something that I’m happy with, I can let all the other stuff go. This week, I can let all the other stuff go.
Now, here’s something interesting that I’m probably going to get yelled at by the network goons for sharing, but it’s important and relevant. A lot of people have told me that I haven’t been able to watch our second episode online. I understand that if they try to watch it at Syfy.com, and they don’t have a cable or satellite provider, they can’t see it. I understand that it isn’t even on Hulu like our first episode was, and the show isn’t on Hulu+ at all.
With that in mind, look at this, from about an hour ago, from The Pirate Bay:
Last week, our first episode had a total of about 800 seeders and about half as many leechers. Math is hard, but I’m going to estimate over 2300 seeders and almost as many leechers, for our second episode alone. That’s pretty huge growth and interest from people who probably want to watch our show, but can’t, because they’re cord cutters, or they’re in a country that doesn’t carry the show. Yes, I know there are people who want everything for free and won’t pay for anything, but I don’t count them as “lost” viewers, because they were never going to be scored by advertisers or the network, anyway.
I think I mentioned that our ratings improved with every repeat last week, and our 11pm repeat on Friday even beat our premiere on Tuesday. This tells me that people clearly want to watch our show, and as more people hear about it, the more they tune in. I understand that this is the way it typically goes with shows like ours (I heard it took The Daily Show a year and a half to find its audience), so we’re expecting a slow but steady building of audience as the summer goes on. That will be awesome, but it can be even more awesome, if we can make it easier for people who want to watch us to find a legal way to do it.
I’ve heard from countless people who legally watched our first episode that they wanted to watch our second one, but discovered that they couldn’t watch it in a legal way. It’s out of my control, so I can’t do anything except point out over and over and over again that the show is losing potential viewers, and that’s really frustrating to me.
Our show costs a lot of money to make. It’s possible to make our show because Syfy licenses it from us, and then sells advertising on the show to cover their investment. If everything goes according to plan, it’s profitable. If it’s profitable, we get to keep making more episodes. The best way to help us be profitable, then, is to watch the show on Syfy when it airs during the week. I don’t fully understand the realities and nuances of licensing and all that, but I do know that the world is rapidly changing, and a lot of people don’t want to watch TV live. I know that lots of people don’t want cable because they can’t afford it, or because they hate cable companies. I know that a lot of those people would gladly pay for Amazon on demand, an iTunes subscription, whatever Google Play does, or watch some ads on Hulu or Hulu+. I’m doing everything I can to let the people who make those deals know this, but I’m a very small voice in a very loud room. If you want to help make that voice louder, you can write a polite email to Syfy and let them know that you want to watch the show in a way that supports us.
Maybe this is all a lot of hand-wringing for nothing, because we are only two episodes in, and because this is an entirely new type of show for Syfy, they’re just getting their legs under them the same way we are. Maybe this will all work itself out over the next couple of weeks, and everyone will be happy. That’s what I hope for, because I am having an insanely good time making this show.
Before I go, I just want to reiterate that I want you to watch our show, and I want you to like our show so much that you keep watching it. I’m trying my best to make it easy for you to watch our show in a way that helps us pay for it, so we can keep making more of it. I know for some of you it’s easier to just fire up a torrent client and go to down, and I’m sympathetic to that. But I’ll ask all of you, please, if you can watch the show in a way that counts for our network and our advertisers, please do.
After a lifetime of watching myself on TV and movies, I’ve developed the ability to disconnect myself from the person I’m looking at on the screen. It hasn’t been easy, and I know that I’m more critical of myself than anyone else in the world, but it’s ended up being a particularly useful skill so I can grow as an actor, and be objectively critical of my work.
When I watched The Wil Wheaton Project Episode 2: Electric Boogaloo last night, I objectively liked what I saw. I thought my energy was right where I wanted it to be all along, I thought the editing made the entire show feel less frenetic, and I thought the dumb little asides I improvised when we taped the show mostly worked. I could tell that I wasn’t afraid to have fun, to take my time, to let the audience come to me, and to trust the material we had worked out. In short, I think it worked. I don’t know what the ratings are (but I do know that, once DVR numbers were counted for our first episode, we improved dramatically over our premiere last week. I also know that each repeat had more viewers than the last, and we had the fastest and most significant audience growth in the history of unscripted programming on the network. That’s pretty awesome.)
I haven’t seen any reviews, but going by my admittedly skewed Twitter sampling, the audience feels the same way that I did, and that’s reassuring because it tells me that my instincts were right.
A few notes on this particular episode:
I thought it would be funny to try the funky 70s porn music under Oberyn Martell dancing around The Mountain, but the thing we went with was much funnier to all of us.
As a fan of Orphan Black, I had a joke about it not being a good week for characters I like keeping their heads intact, with a tag about Donnie having to call the Wolf. One other person in the room got that joke, and we decided that it was a “Wil% joke”, which is a play on the “5% joke”, meaning that only 5% of the audience gets it.
John Malkovich is the gift that keeps on giving.
Hannibal is so fucking weird, I just don’t even know what to say about it anymore.
Penny Dreadful is getting so good, it’s going to be hard to keep finding ways to do jokes for it.
I was concerned that our dumb game show with Felicia Day may not work, but I think I was wrong. The writers did a great job picking clips, and the editors did a great job putting that whole thing together. The Wilhelm Scream was my idea.
I loved the Knockbusters idea from the moment it was pitched, and the hardest part of it for us was figuring out which joke we were going to do for each clip. That Empire of the Apes thing was so outrageously bad, and the … acting? … in the not-Batman thing was so painful, we had to work really hard to find a joke that wasn’t just mean. At one point, we considered a commentary on everything that was ridiculous in it, and it just got so long, we pulled out that one thing about the scope.
In general, I was very happy with the pace and the energy. I expect that we’ll improve in some way from week to week as we get more comfortable and settle into the right rhythm for what we’re doing.
We are aware that DVRs think every episode is a new episode. We’ve informed the network, and I hope that they’ll fix that problem as soon as possible. I know the show is on Hulu, but not Hulu Plus. That’s out of my hands, and I hate it. The best I think you can do is email Syfy and Hulu so they know that you want it on Plus. I know that a lot of you want to see it on iTunes or Amazon VOD, and I have no idea how that licensing works, or if the people who make those decisions will put it there.
What I do know is that the thing that helps us the most, the thing that makes it most likely that we’ll get picked up after 12, is to watch it on cable when it airs. I know that a huge part of the audience doesn’t watch TV that way, but until networks and advertisers stop thinking that’s the way that matters the most, it’s what we have.
But, as I’ve said before, the most important thing to me is that you watch and enjoy the show, so … there.
50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong