Let’s state the bleedingly obvious: having a hit show makes life a lot easier for a network publicist than one that’s underperforming.
Media are keen to cover the show because it will sell mags and newspapers, pleasing more of the people more of the time. Stories, photo shoots, interviews, covers, cross-promotions, radio and event invites are easier to come by.
Having a hit also affords publicists more unique options when it comes to keeping plots hush hush. Witness the case of Packed to the Rafters’ finale.
Seven broke from routine and decided not to send out previews of the final two episodes for fear of revealing a surprise pregnancy for Julie Rafter (Rebecca Gibney). That big reveal came on Tuesday. Most of the time a network is doing all it can to promote a show, rather than conceal it. Just weeks ago Seven even sent out four City Homicide eps at once, instead of the usual one a week.
Seven acknowledged it strategically withheld the final two episodes of Rafters to media.
“We take it case by case, show by show, storyline by storyline,” a Seven spokesperson told TV Tonight. “But we are always careful not to give too much away in pre-publicity for our local series, in particular. The overseas shows are harder to control, naturally.
“Yes, we made a decision to keep the pregnancy storyline under wraps. That included not previewing (last night’s) episode. It was hopefully a nice surprise for viewers (last night).”
Most journos are sensible about not spoiling storylines. So would the pregnancy have remained a surprise if Seven had revealed its hand?
In 2008 TEN had an episode of Rush that killed off a major character. While the show was still trying to build its audience, magazines (including this site) ran a “who will die?” story. None leaked the reveal.
If Rafters wasn’t hitting over 1.8m each week, Seven might not have had the ‘luxury’ of withholding the storyline.
Not sending out previews for local drama is rare but it does happen in the case of shows in quick turnaround, or as in the case of Underbelly (2008) there are legal cases pending. By contrast last week Seven attracted all manner of publicity for a ‘racy’ storyline for Home and Away it disclosed, without needing to send any previews at all.
Seven says for its 2008 finale of Home and Away it also didn’t send out any previews for an episode that included the death of Jack (Paul O’Brien).
“We didn’t pre-publicise the fact that Paul O’Brien was leaving the show, and his death was quite a shock to the Home and Away viewers,” said the spokesperson.
“We are always trying to bring back the element of surprise to TV!”
The finale of Packed to the Rafters airs 8:30pm next Tuesday night. The second season is expected mid-year.