Sleepy Hollow
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Sleepy Hollow
Come with me down the rabbit hole and into the land of Sleepy Hollow where we dissect what makes the show so interesting!
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Sleepy Hollow: Changing the Game, Headless Horsemen Style

Whether consciously or unconsciously the unconventionally born new fall drama Sleepy Hollow is changing the television landscape. 

Marissa 's insight:

From Once Upon a Time to Dracula, a sudden resurgence of fantasy and sci-fi has occurred in network television. The occult and the fantastical have taken over; mermaids, werewolves, witches, superheroes, and vampires light up television screens; and FOX has now jumped on the bandwagon. Essentially a new show (it only has five episodes; it premiered September 16th), Sleepy Hollow is a breakout hit, created by the virtually unknown Toronto-born Phillip Iscove, a once assistant at a Hollywood agency who just happened to have an idea. Recently named by a TVguide.com fan poll as the fan favorite of the new television season, Sleepy Hollow stars relative newcomers Tom Mison as the time traveling Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills, the 5’1 tougher-than-you’ll-ever-be police Lieutenant. Past winners of this poll have included Revenge, an ABC hit, and Arrow, a member of the CW; two shows that continue to go strong in a rapidly shifting TV landscape. So what is it about Sleepy Hollow that managed to push the show past an almost inevitable death? Casting and fan interaction. Sleepy Hollow has one of the most diverse – if not the most – diverse casts on television at the moment. And in a “post-racial” society where race is anything but on the backburner of everyone’s mind, diversity matters. So Sci-fi, fantasy, and diversity: Count me in. Also, in a shifting TV landscape that focuses more so on interactivity, this shows garners quite possible some of the most enthusiastic interactions between fan and actor; writer and actor.

Airing at nine p.m. on Monday nights, following Fox’s long running Bones, like its headless horsemen, Sleepy Hollow literally came out of nowhere. According to Vulture.com, all of the proverbial chips were actually stacked against Sleepy Hollow, in the success department. The show has no easily recognizable faces, sans perhaps Orlando Jones and John Cho, it airs after a show whose ratings have seen a considerable slump in recent years, and it’s based off of “a not particularly hip short story from 1820.” (Josef Adalian, Anatomy of a Hit: Why Sleepy Hollow Became Fall TV’s Breakout Success, Vulture.com). So if a site as big as Vulture – Vulture reportedly receives 14 million hits monthly – is reporting on Sleepy Hollow, you know the show has made it big.

Although Vulture is blunt in its assessment, its right. Scandal, another breakout hit most often noted for its diversity, arguably made it to the top not only because Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes pens it, but also because its leading lady Kerry Washington is a “a-list” celebrity, and critically acclaimed actress. But as previously noted, Sleepy Hollow’s cast is not well known. Nicole Beharie’s (the show’s African American female lead) official IMDB resumé consists of two critically acclaimed films, Alexander McQueen’s Shame and the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, and twelve substantial acting jobs in total. Her name does not garner the attention of Kerry Washington’s; she essentially is a new actress, active only sine 2008. But, as previously stated, Miss Beharie is an African American, and until Kerry Washington’s inception into Shondaland in 2012, it’d been 43 years since a black actress lead a network television show. The show also boosts Asian actor John Cho; Hispanic actor Nicholas Gonzales; African-American actress and Hunger Games alumni Amandla Stenberg; Jill Marie-Jones and Orlando Jones – both African American. In a 2011-2012 study, UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies found that television shows where 40-50% of the cast consisted of persons of color, performed best in median households. The implication of this study then is that viewers want diversity. So how has Sleepy Hollow performed in the ratings world? According to Futoncritic.com, very well. Only five episodes in, the show has already been renewed for a second season; and has seen increasing gains in the 18-49 key-demographic. The show has also helped to propel Fox network, as a whole into the #2, #3, and #4 spots amongst teens, adults 18-34, and adults 18-49 for two consecutive weeks. It’s safe to say then that Sleepy Hollow’s audience is young adult oriented.

So in a show that implicitly advertises diversity, what other messages can be found in it? A remake of the Washington Irving 1820 tale, Sleepy Hollow’s overall theme is the never-ending battle between good and evil, right and wrong; it is up to Abbie and Ichabod to stop the horseman; to stop evil from taking over Sleepy Hollow. The individual episodes of Sleepy Hollow, however, seem to focus on more nuanced themes. For example, in the episode that aired November 4th, entitled “The Sin Eater”, the theme is that of self-forgiveness, and atonement of one’s sins. The episode entitled the “Sandman” showed Abbie seeking out her sister Jenny to atone for childhood sins. With themes such as these, the overall message the show seems to be aiming at is that of a very moral nature: Good vs. Evil, self-forgiveness and atonement. Although these are the focal points of the show, Sleepy Hollow is not overtly didactic in the way its message is put forth. In last week’s episode, not only did Ichabod find himself atoning for centuries old sins, but also learned how what baseball was, and how to yell at an umpire. Essentially, the show relies on a good balance between the occult, and humor.

As previously mentioned, according to both TVguide.com and Vulture.com, Sleepy Hollow is a hit; and advertisers are taking note. The adverts around the TV show are garnered towards Christmas shopping with high-tech new gadgets, such as the cheaper new affordable iPhone 5C. Advertisers are taking aim at the young adult audience that the show pulls in, but sending out quite conflicting messages. Mass consumerism is sitting side by side with themes such as self-forgiveness, good vs. evil, and atonement. Adding to the irony, too, of the mass consumerism behind the ads displayed during the show is the fact that Ichabod Crane, the male lead, often finds himself appalled at the price of things in current America, even noting once that the American Revolution had been fought on a 4% tax increase, and here he was paying five dollars for a cup of coffee.

But clashing ads aside, Sleepy Hollow has one more feather to add to its hat when it comes to being a model of success for new TV shows: its staff, actors, and their interactions with their fans. In an age of tweets and blogs, tumblr posts and facebook pages, fan interaction is a must for any television show (new or old) to stay alive. But it isn’t just how these writers and actors interact with the fans, but with the fandom. Huffington post recently ran an online article entitled “The Fandom Menace.” A short satirical piece on Sleepy Hollow’s Orlando Jones (written by Orlando Jones), Huffington describes fandom as a subculture that often gets lost within the world they view – whether through film, reading, or television. Fandoms often take a step outside just viewing the show; members of fandom write fan fiction, draw fan art, and spend countless hours dedicated to keep the story alive outside the TV/film/book realm. Shortly after Sleepy Hollow’s premiere in September, Mr. Jones aka Frank Irving, Sleepy Hollow’s police chief, sent out a tweet demanding to know where his fan-art and fan-fiction posts where. Ask and thou shalt receive – and he did. In regards to his interaction with fans, Jones writes:

"The Sleepy Hollow Fandom immediately embraced the plots, characters and relationships, creating and sharing their own original art and stories (fan fiction, or fanfic, for short). . . the epicenter of their interaction is on Tumblr, the most exciting social platform on these streets that celebrates diversity, demands accountability (or at the very least authenticity) and promotes a level of interaction that is unlike anything I've experienced . . . it [Tumblr] has completely transformed how I interact with fans and I ain't ever going back."

And Orlando isn’t the only member of the Sleepy Hollow family involved with the fandom. The Sleepy Hollow writers, or SleepyWriters, as they call themselves on twitter, have taken to reposting and tweet fan art that comes under the hashtag #sleepyfanart.

            With the introduction of Netflix, hulu, DVR’s, etc, TV has changed irrevocably in the last ten years. Shows come and go faster than a speeding ambulance on the way to the hospital; and revenue is forever a deciding factor in what stays and what goes. But in such a time, other things such as racial representation and interactivity – connection between fan and actors – has proven to be a reckoning force. Sleepy Hollow has made it this far because the writers and actors have proven that they really care; they’ve done this through inclusion and through interaction, twitter and tumblr. Sleepy Hollow’s cast continues to grow, and the faces aren’t all white. Maybe, just maybe representation is really starting to matter in Hollyweird. 

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Hollywood Diversity Brief Spotlight 2013

Hollywood Diversity Brief Spotlight 2013
Marissa 's insight:

This UCLA study shows that when shows, such as Sleepy Hollow, embrace diversity and a cast truly reflects America's fruitful diversity, audiences take notice. Sleepy Hollow has a black female lead and does so without bringing identity politics into constant play. Abbie Mills is black, and race is not sidestepped, but alas it is not the integral focus. She is a woman and a police officer, who just happens to be black. The show also features Tom Mison, Orlando Jones, Jill Marie-Jones, Amandla Stenberg, John Cho, and Nicholas Gonzales. By casting a large net racially, Sleepy Hollow's ratings (25 million hits on the pilot alone) have garnered the show a very wide, and fierce fanbase. 

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Ratings - FOX Has 2 of the Top 20 Programs Among Adults 18-49: "The Simpsons" and "Sleepy Hollow" | TheFutonCritic.com

Ratings - FOX Has 2 of the Top 20 Programs Among Adults 18-49: "The Simpsons" and "Sleepy Hollow" | TheFutonCritic.com | Sleepy Hollow | Scoop.it
TheFutonCritic.com is the web's best resource for primetime television ratings.
Marissa 's insight:

TheFutonCritic lists Sleepy Hollow as appealing to a key demographic, 18-34 and 18-49. The show according to the sight has seen increasing gains in the above listed demographic making it a proverbial hub-bub for advertising since its demographic is often more than not the most catered to by advertisers. The show has even helped propel Fox into the #2 spot of the top twenty programs amongst young adults where surprisingly Fox's teen hit show Glee is missing from.

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The Fandom Menace

The Fandom Menace | Sleepy Hollow | Scoop.it
Fandom, for the uninitiated, is an audience subculture, often dismissed as the nerds/geeks who get lost in the fantasy of a book, game, tv series or movie.
Marissa 's insight:

A satirical bit written by Sleepy Hollow's own Orlando Jones, Orlando proves just why people love Sleepy Hollow: the interaction between fan, actor, and writer. Not only does he possession himself within the fandom for his own show, but he shamelessly admits to "shipping" and "fanning" all on his own. In an increasingly interactive world, Orlando Jones is taking down barriers and becoming one with the fans, and in turn fans are loving it. As a fan of the show myself, I must say, Orlando Jones is definitely a highlight. 

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Anatomy of a Hit: Why Sleepy Hollow Became Fall TV’s Breakout Success

Anatomy of a Hit: Why Sleepy Hollow Became Fall TV’s Breakout Success | Sleepy Hollow | Scoop.it
For one thing, it's not afraid to embrace the crazy.
Marissa 's insight:

Vulture's tagline for the wildly popular new show is quite right, Sleepy Hollow isn't afraid to embrace its crazy, but does so in a nuanced and well balanced fashion. Vulture takes at look at what factors could have possibly lead to the shows sudden take off and what factors, such as focused story lines, have lead to its popularity. 

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Fall TV Popularity Contest: And the Winner Is…

Fall TV Popularity Contest: And the Winner Is… | Sleepy Hollow | Scoop.it
TVGuide.com users have named their favorite new show — and they know a hit when they see one!
Marissa 's insight:

After 350,000 votes were cast, Sleepy Hollow has been designated as fall TV's most popular new show. A category with staunch competition, including ABC's new hit, Agents of SHIELD, a spin off of the highest groosing film ever, The Avengers, Sleepy Hollow came out on top. Past winners of this poll have included Revenge, an ABC hit, and Arrow, a member of the CW; two shows that continue to go strong in a rapidly shifting TV landscape.

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