No-one really knows what makes a show succeeded. If that was in the realm of human knowledge, there would be no need for pilot episodes. Fortunately for those who feel the need for variety in television all the networks can do is look at previously successful shows and try and determine why they were successful. One of the most successful series of the last twenty years is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Even today the show is widely popular, and there are a variety of reasons why.
For those not familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was commission in the late 1980’s to be a follow-up to the original Star Trek TV series from the 1960’s. While not revolutionary compared to the original, it did offer a high-tech update to the series in terms of computer technology and offered a much higher standard in acting. The basic plot was the same: a spaceship flying around in space from planet to planet having a different mission and subsequent adventure each week. This formula, while sounding trite, has provided the basis for 5 series of Star Trek shows: the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Each of these shows was popular to a degree, but none have yet to match the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The main reason for the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation is its wide audience appeal. A viewer who has never seen a single episode of any Star Trek episode can sit down and basically understand what is going on. There are a variety of reasons for this generality. The first is the series never took its self as serious science fiction, basically there was a camp feel to the show. Another is that it never tried to appeal to a single audience, by selling its self out to a single group such as computer nerds. Finally all of the characters in the show are stock. Every one of them has been presented to every TV viewer countless times, and even on watching the show for the first time the view can immediacy identify with the different characters motivation because they have seen the exact same characters many times before.
The final reason for the popularity of the show is the support of the strong fan base. Every new series dreams of developing a fan base as strong as that of the Star Trek series. There is even a pop-culture term for these fans: “Trekies.” This fan base has been recognized in television and film numerous times, from the major motion picture “Galaxy Quest”, to the documentary “Trekies”, and even to the Simpson’s Mark Hamell Episode.