Audiences have always been vocal about their dislike of certain plot twists in TV and movies—the Sopranos series finale is still heavily debated to this day—but the degree of their outrage has significantly increased.
In just the past couple years, angry fans have demanded changes in everything from The Last Jedi to the character design of Sonic the Hedgehog in an upcoming movie. The latter backlash, which occurred after the film’s trailer was released, prompted Paramount to push its release date back to 2020 in order to rework Sonic’s look. More recently, some Game of Thrones fans, unhappy with the series finale, started a petition demanding that HBO reshoot the final season to make it something they would be happier with.
But at least one prominent creator who has had multiple run-ins with angry fans—Damon Lindelof, who as Lost showrunner co-wrote that series’ divisive series finale, as well as other heavily-debated films like Prometheus—said that trying to make all fans happy is a fool’s errand.
“You can only self-identify as a fan and write this stuff for yourself to some degree and hope that it connects with other people,” Lindelof said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Los Angeles. “If you’re doing this job and your intention is for everyone to love it, you’re not going to be able to do this job.”
During a panel for Watchmen, his upcoming HBO show adapted from Alan Moore’s the limited ’80s comic book series (and sure to be yet another hotly debated project), Lindelof was asked about the concept of fan service—material added specifically to please an audience—and the growing belief from a portion of a fanbase that they should be able to demand creative changes from networks and creators.
“One of the things that I learned from Lost is that the fans had demands. There were things that they wanted, but they also wanted to be surprised. And that felt a bit of a contradiction,” said Lindelof. “I don’t quite know how to thread that needle.”
Lindelof said the term “fan service” confuses him “as a storyteller.” “We all want Brienne and Tormund to hook up [on Game of Thrones], but then … we are denied that thing, or we’re given it and then we’re like, ‘Oh, that’s just fan service!’” he said.
He continued, “So, is fan service a good thing? Is it a bad thing? It all depends on the context and the execution. My job remains the same, which is to make something that pleases me and the people that I’m making it with. That’s all I can solve for. If I woke up every morning saying, ‘I need to make creative decisions based on something that’s going to make the fans happy,’ I don’t think that I could be successful in that endeavor.”
HBO programming president Casey Bloys echoed this sentiment earlier in the day during his executive session, when he addressed the backlash to May’s Game of Thrones series finale.
“There are very, very few downsides to having a hugely popular show. One is when you try to end it,” given that so many people have “big opinions” on finales, said Bloys. “I think that just comes with the territory.”
And no, Bloys added, a Season 8 reshoot “wasn’t something we seriously considered.”