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April 30, 2010


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"There's something in the storytelling that, more than film, needs plot, complication, forward motion and eventually, closure. A quotidian, slice-of-life, ambling television show isn't really going to work."

I'm not sure this is necessarily true. I concede that most of network television is given over to chippy procedurals of the criminal or medical variety, but shows like Parenthood, Brothers and Sisters, or even--ugh--7th Heaven, generally do exactly that. (You're dead-on about cable doing much better, though, Treme being a great example.) And now you've got reality shows (unedited ones, like If I Can Dream) that are nothing but slices of lives. They work fine; it's the modern audiences that are broken. (For instance, Chuck, which we both agree on, is perpetually in danger of being canceled. Makes no sense at all.)


Hm. I think I disagree about Parenthood and Brothers and Sisters. They may not be full on, plot-heavy in the vein of a procedural, but they're not exactly aimless or disjointed. When I think of ambling, slice-of-life, I think of something that's more like the film Old Joy or something that's operating in far subtler way than just about any television show.

I don't think modern audiences are any more broken than any other audience. Chuck's issues are more with a busted network that doesn't know what to do with a show and a show that has a niche appeal. If Chuck were running 12 episode seasons on USA, it would be...well, Burn Notice, which doesn't need campaigns to save it.


I think a series that functions like a normal story, with a beginning, middle, and end, sets up the audience to look for stories by the same writers/creators - people who like Lost probably watch Fringe. People who liked Buffy The Vampire Slayer will watch pretty much any old thing that Joss Whedon makes. People who watched X-Files now avoid anything made by Chris Carter, because who wants to be set up for so much disappointment, again?

However, I think people watch tv shows for different reasons - sometimes people watch a show for its story (in which case they want an ending), but other times they watch it for characters (sit-coms, crime dramas, reality shows), or setting (like, any Star Trek show). There might be a segment of the population who watch television for the sheer artistry, but there's not many shows that will get by on artistry alone, without some hefty strength in the story or character department. People who enjoy characters most are happy to follow a character through whatever unending adventure they are on. So shows like Castle are fun, and work well, because people love Malcolm Reynolds, or whatever that guy's name is, and they don't mind that the murder mystery he's solving isn't terribly elaborate, or that the sex tension between him and Becket won't be reconciled until the show's popularity is flagging, because they just like him, and want to see him again next week. He's like the friend you always invite to your dinner parties. Your sad, sad dinner parties that involve just you and your television set, and a carton of ice cream.

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