GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

Serenity got a 3.5 rating for both hours. No drop off.

POSTED BY: OUTLANDER
UPDATED: Monday, December 23, 2002 19:14
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Saturday, December 21, 2002 4:37 PM

OUTLANDER


The over night rating for Serenity acording to http://tv.zap2it.com/news/dailynielsenrankings.html?29392 was 2.7

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Saturday, December 21, 2002 4:42 PM

YEAHITSME


"FOX ended "Firefly's" run with an airing of the original two-hour pilot, averaging a 2.7/5 from "

did you read that thing?

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Saturday, December 21, 2002 5:20 PM

OUTLANDER


All fixed now it says 2.7

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Sunday, December 22, 2002 4:25 PM

PTROPE


Still, even corrected to 2.7/5, there should be a huge message here for FOX: Firefly retains most of the viewers it gets. The trick is helping them find the show, something FOX was apparently unwilling to do. For example, composed before the show was canceled, the TV Guide for last week had no special promotion of the 2-hour special airing of the pilot; all it noted was the length of the show with the standard synopsis listing. The show has been amazingly level in the ratings, unlike Enterprise, which has lost 60% of its audience since its premiere; to advertisers, that should say, "You can count on at least this much audience," which surely has to make advertising on Firefly a better prospect than saying, "Well, next week, you may have 500,000 fewer potential customers watching your ads, but we won't know until it happens."

The level ratings from hour to hour also seem to indicate that Firefly and John Doe simply have different audiences, rather than any sort of qualitative analysis that viewers are, for some reason, avoiding Firefly only to come to FOX to watch Doe. I agree with Joss's comments that FOX was trying to promote the show, when they did, as if it were a typical sci-fi show, only with horses and six-shooters, when they should have been promoting the show as an adult drama that just happened to have a unique setting. I know from my expereince on a couple other boards that Firefly has lost a lot of sci-fi viewers who simply can't find a way to integrate "Western" with "Sci-Fi"; those are fairly typical responses from people who really weren't the target audience to begin with. "The Anti-Trek" is a simplistic and good-natured soundbite to describe the show, but it should also give an indication that maybe the Trek audience wasn't whom it was intended for in the first place.

Does anyone understand the functioning of the 'Hollywood' mind, or even have proof of its existence?

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Sunday, December 22, 2002 8:53 PM

MOJOECA


2.7/5 is the average for the entire 2-hour block. To analzye drop-off, one must look at each half-hour block. From the futoncritic.com:

friday's fast national ratings
fox: [2.8/5] [2.6/5] [2.6/5] [2.7/5]
AVG = 2.7/5

18-49 demo
fox: [2.0] [1.9] [1.8] [1.7]
AVG = 1.8

The 2.7 is 55% down from FIREFLY's premeire (4.9). The ratings for each successive week were lower than the last. It never beat DARK ANGEL's friday 8pm numbers from last year, IIRC. Networks don't like that.

Looking at the numbers above, the pilot's drop-off is rather minor (target demo is most important, so it's steady drop-off is perhaps significant). However, it could be argued that at this point, only the core aud is left. We'll never know if showing the pilot first would have curtailed the mainstream tune-out that occurred after "The Train Job." But it's undeniable that people wouldn't be as confused. Less confusion, less tune-out. FOX fucked up.

--- Joe
Waiting patiently for the FIREFLY dvd.

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Sunday, December 22, 2002 9:34 PM

LAGIMAS


To be honest I hope that FOX doesn't cancle Firefly. It is one of the best series they have. I think it is one of the best shows ever made and most definately one of best Sci-Fi shows ever made. FOX has dropped many interesting and facinating shows. I would call them great but they never had a chance to prove them selves. Shows like "Strange Luck" only recieved a few episodes. Even heavy hitters lik,e Chris Carter has had brilliant shows dropped. The one that comes to mind is "Milenium" staring Lance Hyndricson. I hope FOX learns from its mistakes and sees its self as it was thirteen years ago. A struggling network that took a chance with a poorly drawn cartoon from a skit comedy show.

With Respect
Joe Bob

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Monday, December 23, 2002 4:17 AM

PTROPE


Quote:

Originally posted by MOJOECA:
The 2.7 is 55% down from FIREFLY's premeire (4.9).



Just to know we're on the same page, where are you getting your figures from, and are they both overnights? From thefutoncritic.com, the premiere's overnights were 4.3/7, which translates to only a 38% drop to 2.7/5. Not beautiful, but certainly not 55% (BTW, the numbers you quoted show that 2.7 is 55% of 4.9, not down from it. )

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Monday, December 23, 2002 6:17 AM

OUTLANDER


According to the neilson rating The Train Job got 4.0 which is the highest and War Stories got 2.4 which is the lowest. http://home.insightbb.com/~wahoskem/firefly1.html

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Monday, December 23, 2002 7:38 AM

THEFUTONCRITIC


Quote:

Originally posted by Ptrope:
Quote:

Originally posted by MOJOECA:
The 2.7 is 55% down from FIREFLY's premeire (4.9).



Just to know we're on the same page, where are you getting your figures from, and are they both overnights? From thefutoncritic.com, the premiere's overnights were 4.3/7, which translates to only a 38% drop to 2.7/5. Not beautiful, but certainly not 55% (BTW, the numbers you quoted show that 2.7 is 55% of 4.9, not down from it. )



"Firefly's" premiere got a 4.0 rating and 8 share (4.9/8 in the overnights). Remember that the official 2002-2003 season didn't start until Monday, September 23. (Nielsen specifies when the season officially starts and ends.) Its first episode on September 20 fell before that date and is hence counted toward the 2001-2002 season. You can see the split here:

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/cgi/gofuton.cgi?action=tracker&id=firefl
y&season=20012002


http://www.thefutoncritic.com/cgi/gofuton.cgi?action=tracker&id=firefl
y&season=20022003


Hope that helps.

Brian Ford Sullivan
Editor-In-Chief
The Futon Critic
http://www.thefutoncritic.com

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Monday, December 23, 2002 7:56 AM

PTROPE


Thanks, Brian! Welcome to the board; it's always nice when the folks who have the skinny show up and clarify it ;). I didn't realize that the Firefly listing for 2002-2003 didn't include the premiere (it's hard to tell when FOX left out the real pilot, so it's 'just another' one hour episode).

Based upon that overnight of 4.9, the drop has been 45%, less encouraging, but still not the 54% drop experienced by ENT, which has better promotion, an arguably better time slot, and wasn't pre-empted in between for Happy Gilmore and The Brady Bunch in the White House (yeah, they saw some real ratings from that one: 2.5 overnight, lower than any episode of Firefly.

Sure, it's grasping at straws, a tad, but sometimes that's what you have to do :D.

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Monday, December 23, 2002 7:57 AM

THEFUTONCRITIC


Quote:

Originally posted by Ptrope:
Still, even corrected to 2.7/5, there should be a huge message here for FOX: Firefly retains most of the viewers it gets. The trick is helping them find the show, something FOX was apparently unwilling to do. For example, composed before the show was canceled, the TV Guide for last week had no special promotion of the 2-hour special airing of the pilot; all it noted was the length of the show with the standard synopsis listing. The show has been amazingly level in the ratings, unlike Enterprise, which has lost 60% of its audience since its premiere; to advertisers, that should say, "You can count on at least this much audience," which surely has to make advertising on Firefly a better prospect than saying, "Well, next week, you may have 500,000 fewer potential customers watching your ads, but we won't know until it happens."

The level ratings from hour to hour also seem to indicate that Firefly and John Doe simply have different audiences, rather than any sort of qualitative analysis that viewers are, for some reason, avoiding Firefly only to come to FOX to watch Doe. I agree with Joss's comments that FOX was trying to promote the show, when they did, as if it were a typical sci-fi show, only with horses and six-shooters, when they should have been promoting the show as an adult drama that just happened to have a unique setting. I know from my expereince on a couple other boards that Firefly has lost a lot of sci-fi viewers who simply can't find a way to integrate "Western" with "Sci-Fi"; those are fairly typical responses from people who really weren't the target audience to begin with. "The Anti-Trek" is a simplistic and good-natured soundbite to describe the show, but it should also give an indication that maybe the Trek audience wasn't whom it was intended for in the first place.

Does anyone understand the functioning of the 'Hollywood' mind, or even have proof of its existence?



Actually you're incorrect on a lot of points here.

1. "Firefly" dropped from 6.2 million viewers (4.0 rating/8 share) for its premiere on September 20 to 4.1 million viewers (2.6 rating/5 share) on December 13. That's an errosion of 34%. "Enterprise" premiered this season to 4.9 million viewers (3.2 rating/5 share) and its latest episode was seen by 4.7 million viewers (3.1 rating/5 share). That's only a drop of 4%.

Also remember that UPN and FOX have decidedly different standards as to what is a success and what is not. FOX is available to 102.5 million of the 106.6 million television households out there (approx. 96.18%). UPN meanwhile is available in 91.6 million households (approx. 85.98%). That means that for all intents and purposes shows on FOX "should" be watched by more people than UPN, after all more people have access to FOX than UPN. The fact that more people watch "Enterprise" than "Firefly" on average (4.78 vs. 4.51 million viewers) reflects poorly on "Firefly," not vice-versa.

2. Promotion is all relative. Sure no TV Guide ads for "Firefly" that week. Well, same with hundreds of other shows. And since when is TV Guide the end all be all? Keep in mind that "Firefly" had what many other series prayed for over the summer: enormous exposure from "American Idol." 22.8 million people watched that show's final episode and it was filled to the gills with ads for "Firefly." Not too long after "Firefly" premieres to 6.2 million viewers. Not great, but not terrible either. 10 or so weeks later 30% of that audience has erroded. How is this maintaining its audience?

3. Remember what came before. "Dark Angel," "Freakylinks" and "The Lone Gunmen" all were on Friday nights and were watched by far more viewers. In fact even at its worst "Dark Angel" was still above and beyond the great majority of "Firefly's" runs. In fact even in the December doldrums "Dark Angel" knocked out 6.2 million viewers, the same as "Firefly's" most watched episode. Think you have an axe to grind about FOX? After seeing how "Firefly" performed "Dark Angel" fans are Paul Bunyan my friend. :) (And this is from someone who couldn't stand "Dark Angel.")

I'm sure there's plenty of other things I could bring up, but these are pretty glaring strikes against "Firefly."

Brian Ford Sullivan
Editor-In-Chief
The Futon Critic
http://www.thefutoncritic.com

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Monday, December 23, 2002 9:12 AM

PTROPE


Thanks for the further clarifications, Brian. I'm sure you know more about the somewhat 'mystical' workings of the ratings systems, and the TV industry in general, than I do. I've still got a couple questions about the data you're presenting, though.

When I talk about viewer erosion, I'm talking about premiere-to-current, and I'm using overnights only because I have no final ratings for the most recent ENT handy. Sure, ENT has lost little this season, but that's after it plummeted in its first season; it's already shaken off much of its audience. Going by the first 9 episodes in comparison on both series (all that are available on your site for FF), ENT started out with 12.5 million viewers for "Broken Bow," and had 6.1 by its ninth ep, a drop of 52%; by comparison, as you said, Firefly has only dropped 34% in that same time. Going only by their performances this season is, I think, a bit misleading, since as I said, ENT has had time to level off after chasing out its audience and closing the barn door behind them.

I also disagree that FOX's greater coverage somehow means that Firefly's low ratings in comparison to ENT's somehow reflect poorly on FF, rather than the network. You're right that the two networks judge success by different standards, but you're eliminating the variable of time slot; how well does UPN's Friday 8:00 PM slot perform? And again, this totally unique show has maintained 66% of its audience, even under these circumstances, compared to a show which has the weight of an entire franchise behind it, and all those supposed built-in viewers, yet managed only to maintain 48% of the people it attracted; I will also argue that if it weren't for those built-in Trek die-hards (and I'm one; I watch the show hopefully, only because it's Trek, but I think it's far below FF in terms of quality and intelligence), ENT would have already been canceled, or at the very least would be looking up at Firefly in the series rankings. I still contend that Firefly is performing better, on percentages, than ENT has any hope to.

I do agree that many fans of other shows have larger axes to grind with FOX. The network simply doesn't seem to comprehend science fiction, and yet they insist on entering the genre every year, placing a new show into the death-slot, and then complaining that it doesn't get magical ratings and that it's expensive. Well ... yeah! It certainly doesn't reflect well on the network that they haven't been able to figure this simple fact out: sci-fi is a limited audience, straight out of the box, and the majority of sci-fi shows are more expensive, because they can't be shot on existing backlots or on very many locations. Audiences expect flashy visuals from sci-fi, whereas there's little CGI going into Law & Order or Friends, and these things cost; it's frankly a stupid excuse for any network to act as though this was a surprise, let alone one that continues to make the same mistakes, and the same excuses, year after year after year. FOX made a commitment to the show, without any blinders or subterfuge, so I really have little sympathy for their dismay. They have done little to promote the show (regardless of the ads in American Idol; I really don't think that millions of teeny-boppers were the target market for FF, any more than putting an ad for Emeril's series into the Superbowl would have gotten it many viewers, either). Promotion isn't just putting it into a popular show; it's picking your market, something FOX not only didn't know, but didn't apparently take the time to find out. They never do.

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Monday, December 23, 2002 9:58 AM

THEFUTONCRITIC


Quote:

Originally posted by Ptrope:
Thanks for the further clarifications, Brian. I'm sure you know more about the somewhat 'mystical' workings of the ratings systems, and the TV industry in general, than I do. I've still got a couple questions about the data you're presenting, though.

When I talk about viewer erosion, I'm talking about premiere-to-current, and I'm using overnights only because I have no final ratings for the most recent ENT handy. Sure, ENT has lost little this season, but that's after it plummeted in its first season; it's already shaken off much of its audience. Going by the first 9 episodes in comparison on both series (all that are available on your site for FF), ENT started out with 12.5 million viewers for "Broken Bow," and had 6.1 by its ninth ep, a drop of 52%; by comparison, as you said, Firefly has only dropped 34% in that same time. Going only by their performances this season is, I think, a bit misleading, since as I said, ENT has had time to level off after chasing out its audience and closing the barn door behind them.

I also disagree that FOX's greater coverage somehow means that Firefly's low ratings in comparison to ENT's somehow reflect poorly on FF, rather than the network. You're right that the two networks judge success by different standards, but you're eliminating the variable of time slot; how well does UPN's Friday 8:00 PM slot perform? And again, this totally unique show has maintained 66% of its audience, even under these circumstances, compared to a show which has the weight of an entire franchise behind it, and all those supposed built-in viewers, yet managed only to maintain 48% of the people it attracted; I will also argue that if it weren't for those built-in Trek die-hards (and I'm one; I watch the show hopefully, only because it's Trek, but I think it's far below FF in terms of quality and intelligence), ENT would have already been canceled, or at the very least would be looking up at Firefly in the series rankings. I still contend that Firefly is performing better, on percentages, than ENT has any hope to.

I do agree that many fans of other shows have larger axes to grind with FOX. The network simply doesn't seem to comprehend science fiction, and yet they insist on entering the genre every year, placing a new show into the death-slot, and then complaining that it doesn't get magical ratings and that it's expensive. Well ... yeah! It certainly doesn't reflect well on the network that they haven't been able to figure this simple fact out: sci-fi is a limited audience, straight out of the box, and the majority of sci-fi shows are more expensive, because they can't be shot on existing backlots or on very many locations. Audiences expect flashy visuals from sci-fi, whereas there's little CGI going into Law & Order or Friends, and these things cost; it's frankly a stupid excuse for any network to act as though this was a surprise, let alone one that continues to make the same mistakes, and the same excuses, year after year after year. FOX made a commitment to the show, without any blinders or subterfuge, so I really have little sympathy for their dismay. They have done little to promote the show (regardless of the ads in American Idol; I really don't think that millions of teeny-boppers were the target market for FF, any more than putting an ad for Emeril's series into the Superbowl would have gotten it many viewers, either). Promotion isn't just putting it into a popular show; it's picking your market, something FOX not only didn't know, but didn't apparently take the time to find out. They never do.



Indeed you have some valid points here. I misread your previous post as pertaining to this season of "Enterprise" not second vs. first season. You're absolutely right in that "Enterprise's" audience has deteriorited from a year-to-year standpoint (and creatively IMHO too, but that's an entirely different and larger response :)).

The one thing "Enterprise" has going for it that "Firefly" doesn't is that it's UPN's #1 drama and #2 series overall (behind "Smackdown"). So while "Enterprise" is certainly by no means a growing hit for UPN, it still manages to be a "heavy-hitter" so to speak for the network. And with the rest of its drama schedule on the fritz ("Haunted" out, "Twilight Zone" well on its way out, and "Buffy" still a wild card), "Enterprise's" future is all but assured (quality, sagging ratings or "Star Trek" brand non-withstanding).

As for science-fiction as a whole, I think the problem extends well beyond FOX. You're right that sci-fi is a niche and expensive product. More than that it very rarely yields great success, on Fridays or elsewhere. I know people moan about FOX putting "Firefly" (or other sci-fi shows) on Fridays but history has shown that hasn't worked entirely elsewhere either. ABC tried running "Strange World" on Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00c (it even took "N.Y.P.D. Blue" off the air) and ended up posting the worst numbers in the history of the network. CBS tried "Wolf Lake" on Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c only to see it crushed by "Law & Order." "Dinotopia" just finished an atrocious run on Thursday nights on ABC. I still wonder where this "magic" time slot people think is for launching shows. Anyway, I'm getting off track here.

My point is that despite all this I do think the networks realize this and change their expectations. I mean from the get-go at FOX's upfront presentation, FOX prez Gail Berman said she didn't expect "Firefly" to be an out of the gate success. In fact the idea that the show lasted 12 weeks as it is considering FOX's history is something of a shock. Especially when like I said shows like "Freakylinks" and "The Lone Gunmen" did better and were on for a shorter period of time. All the pundits out there like myself were quite stunned that "Firefly" got all the chances it got.

I know people point to lots of things though beyond that. Oh, it was pre-empted by baseball. Yeah, well so was every other FOX show ("Fastlane" was off for a whopping 4 weeks in a row) and the same thing happened last year, and the year before that (ah, the price of the post-season). Oh, they "made" them use a different premiere episode. Well, so do tons of shows out there. CBS' "The Agency" had its pilot chopped up so badly it's almost unrecognizable from its original form. Hell, they even took out scenes and placed them in later episodes with new dialogue. Despite that mess, the show managed to make it to a second season. The are tons of horror stories out there and trust me when I say there are far worse ones out there than "Firefly's." I mean even "John Doe's" first episode varied significantly from its original inception. Two characters were recast and several scences added/removed. So equal "messing with" for everyone. :)

My point is that every show exists on this same principal and expectation:

Ads are sold based on series meeting a pre-determined guarantee. Generally speaking this is the average audience the network received in its time slot for the previous season. In "Firefly's" case this was 6.11 million viewers which FOX averaged on Fridays at 8:00/7:00c during the 2001-02 season. Every episode that airs then must meet this guarantee or the network has to issue what's called "makegoods" or free ads to make up for the missed audience. So if "Firefly" gets a 4.1 million viewers for an episode, FOX has to give away free ads worth 2 million viewers to make up the difference. This principal applies to every show - comedy, drama, sci fi, whatever - in every time slot on its schedule. This means that most shows exist in their own vaccuum: they only have to meet one requirement to be deemed successful. "Firefly" could have came in last in its time slot but if it met its guarantee, FOX would be making money and have no real cause to ax that show.

(Edited to say: Just to add, repeats are sold at a different guarantee level than new episodes. Hence the reason why shows don't hemorage money when their repeats do significantly worse than the first-run episodes. However, shows that repeat better than most (the "C.S.I." and "Law & Order's" over the world) can sell their repeats at a better rate and hence be more valuable to the network.)

Looking over "Firefly's" history then it's easy to see it missed its mark a number of times (all but its 1st episode in fact) leading to FOX having to issue a host of makegoods. This is bad because obviously you're giving back not only some of the money you already collected, but you are also eating into the revenue of the show the makegoods end up airing on.

All of the above then shows how network's have different expectations for different series. "Quantum Leap" for instance was one of NBC's lowest rated series for most of its run and yet because of it meeting its guarantees (and being a huge 18-49 demo pull) the show remained for the five years it was on the air. (And before you ask, yes UPN will have to issue lots of makegoods for "Enterprise" this season, something it had to do during "Voyager's" run as well.)

Now certainly you can argue that maybe a 6.1 million viewer guarantee is high, but considering FOX's history is that too much to ask? "John Doe" met its guarantee by over 12% on average this season. So did "Dawson's Creek" and "The Parkers" and other shows that are watched by less viewers than "Firefly." It's all relative to the above formula.

So how about my novel length response here? Anyway hope this helps.

Brian Ford Sullivan
Editor-In-Chief
The Futon Critic
http://www.thefutoncritic.com

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Monday, December 23, 2002 1:47 PM

PTROPE


Nothing wrong with novel-length responses; I normally hang out on the TrekBBS, where my own responses are something of legend, and Cliff's Notes have been requested .

Very good points, as well, and I don't think I can argue with any of them. Certainly you have the knowledge of how these things work, and it's good to see how this really is a business; sometimes many of us tend to overlook that part of it.

The sad thing is that often TPTB seem to think about it too much in only business terms. Worst of all, their mythic belief that any successful product can be knocked off and be equally successful; your mention of Strange World brings that to mind, wherein yet another witless executive thought he could cash in on X-Files. Many of the successful sci-fi shows are that only because they brought something new to the table, and managed to find an audience, but many of the unsuccessful ones never managed to find an audience, period; FOX has had a slew of original shows, but unfortunately they keep sticking them in that same spot. I can't really defend Freakylinks, just because I thought it was too derivative of Blair Witch; I also don't know what its retention was (although I bet I could find it out on your site! ). I wasn't aware that Lone Gunmen scored higher than Firefly, which is too bad, because it actually was rather intelligent and witty, but I think FOX expected it to be exactly like X-Files in performance, and couldn't handle it when it didn't, as if any show could be expected to repeat that phenomenon. Again, not that any should; frankly, I'd rather watch a show based on its unique intelligence rather than its ability to ape another show I do like. Dinotopia, frankly, deserved to die, as I also would say of Wolf Lake, regardless of their time slots; they just didn't bring anything that valuable to the table. Firefly, on the other hand, regardless of anyone's love/hate of Joss Whedon, fired a good shot out of the box, I think, but no one was around to hear it; again, I think its relatively-stable retention numbers show that the series can keep most of the people who find it, but many of the viewers simply don't know it's out there, and for that, I most surely blame FOX.

Thanks for all the great background info, Brian!

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Monday, December 23, 2002 5:54 PM

CARDIE


This explains why FOX keeps putting genre shows in the death slot. Since they all do poorly, all one has to do is perform better than its predecessor to make the network money. The lucky show that goes in the death slot next season may become a "hit" just because "Firefly's" ratings were so dire. Television is sure a funny business.


Cardie

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Monday, December 23, 2002 7:14 PM

SAINTOFCHEESE


Quote:

Originally posted by outlander:
According to the neilson rating The Train Job got 4.0 which is the highest and War Stories got 2.4 which is the lowest.

http://home.insightbb.com/~wahoskem/firefly1.html




*shudder* I hate that fact so much, becaue War stories is my favorite episode. it could have gotten amazing ratings if it had been advertised. just look at the way we fans responded/reviewed it.

~*Saint of Cheese*~

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