How Guest Stars Affect Television Shows and Their Viewers

It’s that time of the year again — when television shows start their new seasons, and one has something to look forward to on Tuesday nights. With fresh plots, television writers make room for new characters and, most importantly, guest stars. These minor characters may only appear in one or two episodes, but they leave a huge impact on the story and on the viewers. It is impossible not to want to watch an episode knowing that one’s favorite actor or actress will appear in it, and network executives know that.

Last Tuesday, September 17, FOX’s The Mindy Project successfully opened its second season. Even though Hulu released the premiere early, viewers still checked in to see the episode one more time, increasing the show’s ratings by 46 percent since its first season finale in May. Such good ratings can only have one explanation: James Franco.

In preparation for the second season, FOX invested in advertising the return of The Mindy Project by shining light on a very famous guest star. The show’s marketing campaign for the new season focused more on the appearance of James Franco in the premiere than on the cliffhangers that were left in the finale. Print and out-of-home ads for the show featured a smiling Franco with the tagline, “It’s complicated. It’s awkward. It’s JAMES FRANCO!” The show’s Facebook page was also filled with reminders of Franco’s upcoming appearance on the show, as well as promos that were also shown on television.

No one can really blame FOX for playing the James Franco card, as their strategy proved very successful. Franco played a rather significant role in increasing the show’s rating, which can make one ponder just how much guest stars affect a television show.

Dedicated fans want every opportunity to look at their favorite actors and actresses in action. Guest roles in television shows allow viewers to see even more of their idols. Because of that factor, fans that may not even watch the show that their idol is set to guest star in will be eager to tune in to that episode.

Senior Carina Quiroz is one of those dedicated fans. “I thought about watching [The Mindy Project premiere] just because James Franco was going to be in it,” said Quiroz.

Guest stars may only appear in a relatively insignificant number of episodes, but their appearances are rather significant. They draw new viewers to the television show, as well as convince old ones that the show is worth tuning in to every week. After all, if a show is able to get James Franco to guest star, it must be very good.