Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Problem with Series TV

I tend to watch TV/movies through a writer's eyes (can't help it!), and I've noticed something, regarding series TV. If it has a "bigger picture" type mystery, it just doesn't work.

I was watching the new "The Firm" last night. Yep, based on the Grisham bestseller (in fact, Grisham is an exec producer). I loved the novel and wanted to give this show a chance. But as I watched--some of it intriguing, some of it dull with bland side stories--I figured out why I wasn't fully enjoying it.

Because with the novel, I had concrete evidence in my hand that it would end. And I knew exactly when it would end. On those last couple of pages, I knew I would finally discover the "big picture" mystery of what was going on in that mysterious firm. It's what kept me reading (quickly!) for those few hundred pages. To get to the end, the finish line. And I knew I would be rewarded.

But with a TV series, it's much different. Those "last couple of pages" don't happen until....the final episode. Which could be years away, not pages away! Sorry, but I don't have the patience for that.

Or worse, the series could be cancelled well before we ever find out those final answers, so all our viewing was in vain (isn't that just like the last few chapters of a novel being completely ripped out, with no way to retrieve them??). I made the mistake of watching the show "Reunion" years ago (about a high school reunion in which one friend was killed by another in the first episode, and the rest of the episodes were one great big who-done-it). The problem? I never DID find out who done it because the series was cancelled after a dozen episodes. I searched online, trying to find out any scrap of detail I could about the proposed ending. But all I found was an interview the writers did, in which they confessed, "We don't know who done it -- we hadn't written that far ahead yet."

(Which brings up yet another issue with series TV -- because of the long-term format, writers haven't yet mapped out their ending, so even they don't know how it'll end. I like to TRUST my writers, but how can I do that if they don't know where they're leading me??).

Even worse, still, is the build-up that occurs for years, the expectations on the part of viewers, only to be....*gulp*.....disappointed with the ending. (*I'm looking at you, LOST!!*).

So, what's the solution? I can only think of two. That mysteries in series TV should be one-season-long ONLY (yay, "24," for getting it right, for wrapping up the mysteries at the end of each season!), or that I just stop watching shows like "The Firm" altogether. Which I plan to do. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. That's why Babylon 5 was so good. The complete 5-year story arc was written before hand. Of course, it was a real writer who wrote that series, not a television writer (sorry for saying it that way, but that's how I feel about it), and it's a great story and series.

    This is also why I didn't like the new Battlestar Galactica. Despite the whole, "they have a plan" thing, it was grossly obvious (and I mean grossly in every sense of the word) that they, the writers, had no plan at all. The story was disjointed and took weird right angles that didn't work in their effort to figure what was going to happen.