Watching re-runs of first season episodes of Heroes, I was reminded of how much more engaging these earlier episodes are in comparison to the last two seasons.
As a kid who grew up immersed in comic book mythology, the arrival of Heroes was like a wet dream. Although by no means perfect, season one was an adrenaline rush that gave viewers a huge pay off with every episode and won the show a fiercely devoted fan base. Everyone I knew either loved it or knew someone who did and were itching to watch it for themselves – it had that sort of buzz.
Then it all started to go wrong.
The last two seasons has seen the show fall apart spectacularly as it made ill-fated attempts to reinvent what was an already winning formula by introducing poorly developed characters and arcs, ill-advised love stories and nonsensical twists. Even when they realised their mistake, every effort to revive the flagging interest of hardcore supporters only served to disillusion them further.
In contrast, other shows I am devoted to (such as Supernatural, Dexter, Battlestar Galactica and Entourage) have only got better and better partly because they have always remained true to the spirit of the show (or at least done a swift about face when they’ve got it wrong). Rather than get caught up trying to appease their critics, they have focused on engaging and inspiring their true fans. With each passing episode, their number of fans continues to grow as existing ones recruit more and more to the cause.
(On the flipside, former Heroes fanatics, me included, are probably more likely to discourage people from watching any episode from season two or three)
While this strategy has not necessarily translated to massive weekly audiences, what it has led to is a passionately engaged following that enthusiastically laps up each episode and any associated content.
Only listening to your critics and trying to please them does not necessarily mean that they will come around and love you. Even worse, you might end up losing those who do.
Instead, listen to your biggest fans. Understand why it is they love you and make sure you keep getting that right.