[Consider this my semi-regular TV watching rant blog post.]
In the current state of TV, ratings and ad dollars still matter a lot, especially if it means the difference between a show getting renewed or cancelled. However, much has been made about a show’s social media presence. Because it’s no longer a matter of shows you watch and talk about at the proverbial water cooler at work the next day, it’s also about the shows that get you tweeting while you’re watching. Which is to say that many shows have sort of an added pressure to make every episode count (no fillers), constantly amping up the drama or action so you talk about it, and making you want more at the end of the episode.
All that introductory ramble pretty much leads me to this: I sometimes worry about TV and burning out. I look at shows like Arrow, The Flash, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and the like, and start wondering how they could possibly uphold their no-holds-barred approach to writing their respective shows. Mind you, I’m not a creative writer so it would be hella difficult for me to even think about it from the perspective of a TV writer. But I worry that the need for these shows to maintain a fast-paced, high level of quality writing, will lead them to burn out too quickly. Take for example, episode 15 of The Flash “Out of Time” – that was some season finale level reveals, and yet they put it in the middle of the season! Not even a winter finale cliffhanger episode, but the first episode back from break! AND it’s still only the first season!
On the one hand, it’s great that some storylines and mysteries don’t get dragged out too long, because we are living in an age where there’s just so much TV that shows have to engage and keep viewers. I know for me, once I start getting bored with a show, I’m pretty much done with it. I don’t want to waste my time watching something I used to be interested in, when I can be watching something else. Granted, there’s usually built-up goodwill from the time I had invested in the series, that I will finish off a season before dropping it completely. By that point though, I’m usually putting it aside and watching whenever, instead of “I have to watch this immediately.”
On the other hand, when shows are going full force, constantly surprising us, there comes a point where those unpredictable moments are no longer surprising, and sometimes when it’s a couple of seasons in, those twists seem almost laughable. Scandal has been known to fill each episode with “OMG” moments, but when the season 3 finale rolled around, when we were expecting some jawdropping moments, I felt underwhelmed. When Revenge ended their season 3 with the reveal that [SPOILER] David Clarke was actually alive, it felt desperate, like it was a last ditch attempt to keep viewers for the next season. I was already done with the show by that point, but it definitely lost me after that.
If watching the Showrunners documentary (which, FYI, you should totally watch. It’s on Netflix. You’re welcome.) has shown me anything, it’s that running a TV series is hard work. Those who work to bring these shows to life are constantly struggling to find that happy medium, that allows for storylines and characters to be fully fleshed out, but still engages viewers, and makes money for the networks. All the while, they can’t lose their creative vision for the show to begin with. It’s a lot to deal with, and as viewers, despite our complaining and wanting so much of our favourite shows (see above), we have to be cognizant of that.
All of this leads me to some important questions as a fan and viewer:
- In order to sustain the level of quality expected, what is the ideal number of seasons for a TV show to run? We have A LOT of instances where shows get cancelled too soon, but what of the shows that run on longer than they should have?
- Wouldn’t it be easier if all shows ran for just 13-18 episodes per season? Long enough to tell the season-long arc without having filler episodes.
- If shows ran for less than the standard 22-episode season, there’d be room for those underrated TV shows that seemingly get cancelled too soon. More TV on the air, less repeats/breaks, everybody wins, no?
- In terms of content, are we expecting too much from our shows? Then ultimately feel let down when they don’t meet our standards or expectations? What happened to just enjoying the ride and letting them entertain us?
Obviously, this is all just my opinion on what’s going on with TV shows. What I think is boring or great, others will think is not. That’s the beauty and also frustrating thing about TV: we can all have these different discussions about it. We don’t all have to like the same thing (though it’s nice when we do, hence fandoms). But at the end of the day, we’re allowed to worry and ask questions of our shows. It’s just like any relationship, we just want the best for them.