Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When All You Have are Secrets

My friend, Noveleye, was playfully musing about applying Aristotle's criteria to television shows. She observes how some programs work with the progression of events in their their universes and how some some shows, (which are actually structured for a very contained broadcast life,) can be thwarted by a popularity that keeps them on the air long past the expiration date inherent in their DNA:

If Lost were a book I'd have skipped ahead already. I'm watching only to find out the answers and every Thursday this season I'd think--is this really worth it?

(...)

The success of the X-Files kept propelling it on, so that answers could never really be given and as a result the last seasons are feeble floggings of dead horses. (Can he possibly have resurrected it for this new movie?)

If you know you have a timeline, then you can progress, from A to B, B to C etc. You don't have to keep coming back to A so that you don't run out of story before your popularity wanes.

Actually, as I think about Melody, the further along a show is, the more it can play with it's own rhythms. CSI could have a season finale about a member being buried, or a background story of the miniature killer because so much has already been established. They can go from A to E in a story and need only return to C in the next episode. The Simpsons too can play more freely with the shape of a story--stories change direction all the time from what it seemed it was going to be about (sometimes successfully, others less so). The Simpsons (and indeed most cartoons) can go from A-Z in an episode and return to A at the beginning of the next without the blink of an eye. Homer has been famous too many times to count. Lisa has tried every sport out there. And each week Homer is back to his job at the plant and Lisa is back to being unpopular and Maggie never speaks. And we don't care because it's a cartoon.

1 comment:

Rolando Teco said...

Having recently watched Seasons 1-3 of LOST, I have to say I'm still on the fence as to how I feel about the show.

Certainly, the writers are experts in stringing us along and milking a lot of airtime out of a minimum amount of story.

Having said that, every once in awhile an episode will catch me off guard by presenting something utterly revealing and unexpected about human nature. That, more than the nitty gritty of who did what when and how this or that happened, is what keeps me watching. So far.

Just not sure how long my patience will last.