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Many television shows have fans, and, you know, good for those series that manage to develop a fan base in this crowded entertainment landscape. But, some shows have much more than solid audiences who tune in weekly. Such is the case with the Starz time-traveling historical hit, Outlander. It would be fair to say that the series has a committed fan base that loses its collective mind a bit just waiting on a new season to begin, and, that's just how Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch wants it. In short, if you watch Outlander and are not already obsessed with it, then you've let Hirsch down.
Jeffrey Hirsch recently spoke about Outlander and what he wants, not just from that series, but from all of the shows that are original to Starz, and what he likes to see from fans of their shows. When Hirsch was asked to expound on his comment about actor Sam Heughan's "eye candy" value from last year, which didn't sit well with author Diana Gabaldon (who penned the novels on which the show is based) or fans of the drama, here's what he had to say:
Look, I think the show is rich in a lot of different ways to bring a female audience into a great story. I think this season features some of Caitriona Balfe's best work with some very, very hard content at the end of the season. It will be tough to watch for a lot of people. I love the fan base. I love how passionate they are. The fact that we have a Droughtlander! I mean, what other show has a secondary B-side called Droughtlander? That’s what you want. You want content for a fan base that is so passionate and so obsessed with it. Whether it's good, bad or ugly, they are talking about it all the time. And I'm thrilled with it. Sam is a phenomenal actor and if anything, the comment probably didn't do great justice to how he has developed as an actor over the last five seasons. If anything, I want him to know that we value him for his ability to bring that character to the screen and to the fan base.
OK, so I think the important thing to take away from what Jeffrey Hirsch said to Entertainment Weekly is that he's proud of Outlander and its ability to bring in fans who are beyond dedicated to its story and characters season after season. And, this seems especially true of what audiences can expect from the upcoming Season 5 and what we'll be seeing of the performance from Caitriona Balfe's work as Claire Fraser. It sounds like there will be some rough times ahead for her character, but Balfe will make it all just as watchable as always.
Hirsch also put a spotlight on Outlander fans and how committed they are to each and every season of the show, whether things are changed radically from the books or not in order to bring the story to the small screen. As he noted, Outlander is the only show on television that currently has a nickname for its hiatus: Droughtlander. This means, of course, the show's millions of dedicated fans feel so put out by not having new episodes to down for extended periods of time, that it feels like being deprived of something that literally gives us life.
I don't think anyone can argue the intensity of that kind of fandom for a TV series. We all know that we can live without new Outlander, but we simply don't want to. Our worlds are just...dry without it.
But, Jeffrey Hirsch also did go on to clarify his earlier comments about Sam Heughan's shirtless "eye candy" bringing people to the show. He made it clear that he understands it was unfair to imply that Heughan was only worth the beauty of his musculature on Outlander, and did say that the actor has, obviously, grown since he started on the series and done a lot to bring Jamie Fraser to life for the property's millions of fans. While Heughan didn't seem to take offense to Hirsch's comments, this should go a long way toward making things right with Outlander's fandom.
As someone who hasn't read the books, I do have to wonder, though, just what might be coming up for the end of Season 5. Jeffrey Hirsch literally said that going through some parts toward the end of the season "will be tough to watch for a lot of people," but what could be harder than what we've all already seen transpire on the series? In four seasons we've seen several rapes and near rapes, a miscarriage, murders, mercy killings, torture, a manbear attack, scalping, watched someone burn to death, and had at least one decapitation.
I mean, after laying out many of the horrible things that Jamie, Claire and their family and friends have had to deal with on the show so far, aren't you kinda scared about the end of Season 5 now? Can it actually get worse than Jamie having to wear the dreaded redcoat uniform? What's going to happen? Are we only going to see Claire and Jamie have sex once? Will all of American Revolution era North Carolina be transported to early 1970s Boston?
We know a big trial for the Frasers going into this season will be the growing tensions between the colonists and the British, and how they're trying (again) not to end up on the wrong side of history. Namely, we know that Jamie is in a very hard place with regards to Governor Tryon and the mission he gave Jamie to find and kill Murtagh...you know, Jamie's godfather, whom he just found again after over 20 years. The trailers for the new season also make it seem like traveling through time will at least be considered as the possibility of war grows.
Jeffrey Hirsch will have another batch of obsessed fandom to fawn over soon when the current Droughtlander ends next month. Outlander will debut Season 5 on Sunday, February 16 at 8 p.m. EST. Until then, you can check out our 2020 winter / spring premiere guide and Netflix debut schedule to see what will be on the small screen in the coming weeks.