Notes from jms

 Posted on 4/15/1995 by to

Just some quick random thoughts....

For those who've been nudging other folks to try out B5, you may want
to tell them that this coming batch of eps is probably the best time to
dive in. In particular, our second new show (airing the first week of
May) is designed in part to help new viewers coming to the show to catch
up on background. (No, not a clip show, or anything like that...I think
you'll like it.) I also *strongly* recommend that you videotape this
episode, entitled "And Now For a Word." There's something in there just
(or primarily) for the videotapers. Consider this a heads-up from the
inside. You'll know what it is when you sorta see it.)

For those who've asked...yes, I'll be doing another cycle of the B5
comic, a 4-issue arc that'll probably hit the newsstands about the time
our second season (PTEN willing) goes on the air. I've decided that tat
(at) this stage it'll follow a Ranger, bringing us into contact with lots
of different parts of the B5 universe, and may also use it as a kind of
bridge between seasons 2 and 3.

We should know officially about the fate of our third season by the
end of this month. We continue to be cautiously optimistic.

For all the bitching I've done about Creation, I have to say that
I'm very pleased by something that just came through my office for
approval: a B5 jacket with the silhouette of the station embroidered on
the back, and the B5 symbol in front. It's *very* nicely done.

The B5 trading cards, originally to come from Cardz, will now be
coming out from Fleer, and I'm actually quite pleased by that, since I
really like a lot of the work Fleer has done on their comics-related

Unrelated to B5: I just picked up the laserdisk for the letterboxed
version of "The Haunting (of Hill House)" and it's amazing. I've never
seen it in that format, only the version altered for conventional TV
aspect ratio. There's stuff going on in the edges of this film that are
brilliant. Just seeing ALL of Hill House, vast against the night, rather
than the one dark clump in the center of the frame, is worth the price of
admission. (An example: just as the lead character stands in the hallway,
thinking aloud that the house seems to be reaching for her, you see in the
letterbox a spider-plant just past her shoulder that does indeed, from the
way its' shot, seem to be grasping at her, something you can't see in the
regular version.) The film is *full* of stuff like this, and I feel as
though I've seen the movie for the first time, even though I've watched
the prior version literally dozens of times. (Yes, along with "Seconds,"
it's one of my favorite films.)

If you have a laserdisk player, pick this one up. It's nifty.

On Monday we begin our last week of filming. We're going for an
eight-day shoot this one time, rather than our usual seven-day shoot,
because of the extraordinary EFX requirements to pull off the finale. It
should be a doozy.


Notes from jms

 Posted on 5/19/1995 by to

Some quickies....

1) Claudia Christian, Bill Mumy and I will be appearing (on various
days/times) at the Creation MegaShow to be held at the Anaheim Convention
Center, in California, May 27-28. I don't know when they'll be up, but
I'm slated for Sunday. (Plus Mark Hammil, Stan Lee and some Voyager

2) Parents with small kids who watch B5 may want to consider
screening the next episode, "Confessions and Lamentations," first, in
order to determine how to talk to your kids about it. It's a *very*
intense episode and uncompromising.

3) Yes, as discussed elsewhere here, Warners has scheduled the last
four episodes of this season to run in October, to build momentum toward
what (we hope) will be the season three debut, though no official word
has yet been given on year three.


Notes from jms

 Posted on 11/11/1995 by to

Several items:

1) For those in the LA area, I'm going to be at LosCon at the Burbank
Airport Hilton on Thanksgiving Sunday, I think it's around 1:00 for a 2
hour B5 presentation. Don't know yet if any cast will attend, but there
should be some interesting stuff.

2) Normally I don't flog the merchandise, but I gotta tell you, today
I saw the pennultimate version of the B5 screensaver from Sound Sources,
and it's *gorgeous*. There are 150 still images, each with .wav sounds,
including music in many places, PLUS technical files, PLU
video/sound/music sections where you can see a Vorlon ship dock, see the
Cortez come out of the gate, see the Streib attack, see Starfuries dropping
and jumping...I was just knocked out by it. They've done a *great* job
on it. (These are the same folks who did the recent Terminator screen
saver.) Apparently it'll be out in time for Christmas, but it's going to
be a *limited edition*, so you may have to act quickly when it hits the
stands if you want one. (I'm definitely going to be using it.)

3) If you've been abused by Ford A. Thaxton, I suggest you drop a
line to and let them know about it; do it soonish, btw.
(I *think* that's the correct address for the AOL administration folks;
if not, somebody can correct it.) Given that this abuse has been going on
now for nearly a year, and shows no sign of relenting, and some have asked
privately and publicly what can be done, I see no reason why this should
not be pointed out here.

4) There's a B5 magazine out now, which (although I still don't have
a finished copy in hand yet) (he said pointedly) (or a copy of the issue
of Foundation that printed my article, hello, editor Edward James, can
you hear me?)...anyway, it's a pretty nifty little magazine. When I met
with the editor working on it, I specifically noted that they should not
turn the magazine into a puff piece...let there be some rough edges, and
hard questions. (So I kind of dropped my face into my hands when I read
some of the stuff about how Claudia spends her off-time...and a few other
choice items...but still, it's best to have it absolutely straight.)

5) To the questions about ratings that have arisen of late...the key
to any discussion of ratings is real simple: Is the show getting the
ratings it needs to stay on the air? If it is, then it does; if it
doesn''s gone. Where Time Trax and Pointman and Space Rangers are
gone...we're still here. Because the numbers crunch. It sure as hell
ain't because of my sterling personality and good looks. Studios and
networks aren't in the charity business; they're here to make successful

The problem with B5 is the unusual situation that we're in, in terms
of stations, times, and number-crunching. So I thought I'd take a moment
to explain some of this. There are three elements to the ratings: the
ratings numbers (where you are in the rankings overall), of which one
component is the hourly rating; the shares; and the demographics. The
latter two are the more important figures. The share is the actual
percentage of people watching television who are watching your show; so
a 10 share means 10% of everyone watching TV at that moment is watching
your program. The demographics tells the studio/network what kind of
people are watching...WHO, as opposed to how many.

For are two hypothetical shows. One gets a high
rating, the other a medium or low rating? Which is more profitable for
the studio/network? It can very easily be the *lower rated* show, IF
that program delivers the choice demographics that advertisers want to
reach. Which is why many lower-rated Fox shows are more profitable to
that network than many CBS shows, which skew toward an older audience
with less disposable income. (Ick, TeeVee numbers talk....) The relative
costs of the show are also a factor.

The final thing to factor in is that B5 is in the positino of being
on a number of stations that are primarily either Fox or UPN stations.
Meaning we get bumped a lot, or we get the 3 a.m. slot. This is primarily
true in the smaller markets; in the big markets, the show generally gets a
better berth. You live or die by the ratings in the big markets, because
those are the areas the advertisers want.

(And if you've stayed with me this far, you're far more patient than
I would be...this stuff gives me a headache on the best of days.)

Now that we've established the language, we proceed....

The demographics for B5 are among the best around in syndication,
which is why we have generally attracted leading national sponsors to the
show. So virtually all of the commercial spots are now sold out for the
third season, at a rate that PTEN is *very* happy about. (Some of the Big
Guns from WB/PTEN have come out to the stage over the last week, simply
to congratulate us on how the show is doing.)

On the national numbers, we get hit a little because of the problem
with the smaller markets/Fox and UPN stations noted above. I'll walk you
through an example.

Take "Comes the Inquisitor." Here are some of the individual market
ratings. (And by way of comparison, anything above a 3 rating and a 6
share is golden for advertisers on this show.) St. Louis, a 3.5 rating
and an *11* share; Portland OR, a 6.7 rating and a 10 share; Kansas City,
a 7.0 rating and an 11 share; Orlando a 2.5 and a *13* share (you now see
how the ratings/share issue can get confusing; you can be in a small
market, so your rating is small, but the *share*, the percentage of actual
people watching your show, can be extremely high). For the next couple
of episodes, you find Kansas City with *another* 7 rating/13 share;
Portland OR with an 8.4/13; Minneapolis with a 4.7/8; Baltimore with a
5.0/7...on and on and on.

Then you factor in the smaller stations, over three periods. First
you get the Combined Overnight Average, which for Inquisitor was 3.6 and
a 5 share (very good). The second figure is the Monday-Wednesday average
of the stations playing it during that period, which jumps to a 4.4 and a
7 share (*extremely* good). The rest of the days, Thurs-Sun, are mainly
in the smaller markets, where we're on weird hours, or get pre-empted a
lot. Now you finally factor in *those* numbers, and you come out to a
national average figure of 3.4 (no shares are given in national averages,
btw). Which is fine, and in any event, the main numbers that matter are
the major markets in any event. But even if the majors were far less than
they are, the national average is still enough to give advertisers what
they want.

All that matters to these folks is cold, hard math...and the math
supports Babylon 5. So we stay on the air. It's really about that
simple. That's the ultimate response to anyone casting doubts on what
we're getting. If we weren't getting good numbers, we wouldn't be here.
Period. (And our ratings are increasing, btw....taking the last batch
in order, the Monday-Wednesday average for B5 went from a 4.1 rating and
a 6 share, to a 4.3 rating and a 6 share, to a 4.4 rating and a 7 share,
to a 4.6 rating and a 7 share. We're adding viewers in a slow, but very
steady fashion. Those are the kinds of numbers studios and networks LOVE
to see...a nice, straight, upward incline.

(Here in LA, this week we again beat DS9 in the local ratings,
with B5 getting a 5.8 rating and a 9 share, and DS9 getting a 5.9 rating
and an 8 share; again, the share being the critical number.)

This is, overall, more than I have ever wanted to write or even think
about the ratings. But a lot of folks have asked lately, so I thought I'd
take a moment, since the numbers have started coming in, to go over the
facts and figures, and try -- as best I can -- to explain them. The
formulae used to compute profitability and ratings and shares and rankings
is somewhere just short of alchemy and a bit further than necromancy; I
barely follow them (mathematics not Zathras' skill)...all I know is that
WB is happy, and if WB is happy, and PTEN is happy, we're happy, because
that means we get to stay on the air and continue telling our story.

6) I may not have mentioned it here, but Michael York will be guest
starring in "A Late Delivery from Avalon," episode #12. And Walter Koenig
is slated to be in #14, "Ship of Tears," as well as in "Dust to Dust"
(whose number I've just forgotten...I think it's

7) If you haven't done so yet, check out the Wallace and Grommitt
tapes and/or laserdisks. I'm going to keep after you until you do; they
are just terrific. Best and funnkiest stop motion I've ever seen.

8) We're nearly finished shooting episode #10, "Severed Dreams,"
which forms the final part of a kind of three-pronged arc right in the
middle of the season, inclusive of episodes 8 and 9, "Messages From
Earth" and "Point of No Return."

"Messages," for my money, is so far the best we've ever done, though
I'll be more able to lock that down once I've seen the final CGI. It and
"Dreams" are real CGI blowouts; in the latter, there are literally 100
shots -- CGI, live action, and compositing -- in *four pages* of action.
This is an all time record for us (and that doesn't count the stuff earlier
in the episode).

I don't usually go this far, but folks, let me give you my personal
guarantee: you're in for one hell of a ride come mid-season, with these
three episodes.


Re: Notes from jms

 Posted on 11/16/1995 by to

Theron, quite frankly, fuck off. This is none of your concern. I
have received multiple notes from people asking what can they do about
harrassment and insults and abuse from Ford. I responded and gave them
the option, and let others similarly bothered know how to respond. IF
no one has been abused, no one will notify AOL. If they have, then they
will. I didn't ask people to go out and just write complaining mail,
the letter was *specifically* directed toward those who genuinely feel
they've been abused.

And I'd like to know where the hell you get off sticking your nose
in here. You sit there saying I should be held accountable for every
word I write why shouldn't others be held equally accountable?
Double standard. But that's what I've come to expect from you.

It's real simple, Theron. It's called democracy. If people feel
they've been abused, they have the right to say so.