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November 27, 2014

Too much serial in the television bowl

by Richard Keller, posted Sep 21st 2006 9:10AM

Serial drama VanishedEvery television season has its trend. After The Cosby Show premiered in 1984 the trend was toward family sitcoms. In the late 90's and the early 21st Century reality shows and nighttime game shows dominated the schedule. Last year, the trend was towards science-fiction and supernatural shows like Surface, Invasion, Threshold and, well, Supernatural.

This year is no exception as the very prominent trend is leaning towards the serial drama or comedy. Now, before you get all defensive I know that the serial has been around since the dawn of television, particularly in the daytime soap operas and previous shows such as Dallas, Dynasty, and Melrose Place. And, I also know that shows like Surface, Invasion, and Threshold, as well as the late-lamented Heist could all be considered serials. But, this year seems different because it looks like a good number of these shows could actually last the whole season and beyond.

This is a bad thing. Would you like to find out why? Then, jump ahead, my doubting friend.

This year we are looking at no less than twelve shows that are serials, or have a major serial element to them. Of course we have the veteran triple threat of Prison Break, 24 and Lost. Then we have the new shows. FOX and CBS only add one serial drama apiece to their schedules. Vanished appears on FOX, while Jericho appears on CBS. NBC adds two new serial dramas, Heroes and Kidnapped. ABC, apparently jumping onto the success of its hit series Lost, adds FIVE serialized programs to the schedule: the dramas Brothers and Sisters, The Nine, and Six Degrees and the comedies Big Day and The Knights of Prosperity, although this last one may not be serialized so much, according to Joel. You can also add on shows like Desperate Housewives, ER and House, which have serialized plot threads throughout a number of episodes.

Why it's different this year is that they are all taking the themes of granddaddy serial drama Lost to the extreme. In other words, layer, upon layer, upon layer of mystery that slowly gets peeled away week after week. For example, in The Nine the events that took place during the 52 hour hostage ordeal at the bank will be revealed throughout the series. In Jericho, townsfolk will try to determine if America was attacked by nuclear bombs, and if anyone else is left outside of their area.

This means that viewers will have to watch these shows week-after-week to piece together all of the clues to find out what is actually going on. If they follow the path that Lost has taken, it might all lead to dead ends. My fear is viewers won't be able to do it. Why? Because the schedule is now so saturated with these types of shows, some of them on the same day or time, that the viewing public may not be able to catch up. And, while I know advancements in technology let us record many different shows at one time, your Tivo or DVR, as well as your brain, can only handle so much.

What I think is going to happen is that too many of these good serials are going to be left behind. That's too bad, because I think this season has some of the best shows to date. Can we keep track of all of these shows to save them? With DVRs and Tivos, and airings of these shows via iTunes or the networks' websites, there is a slim chance, but I see some casualties. Let me know what you feel.

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Jessy Scholl

I just want to add my two cents. I agree we may have a big problem with serials this season, but some are good and I think CBS will let Jericho complete its run while ABC will have their hands full with Six Degrees. As for Reunion, the only problem with that show was that the creator didn't have an out in case the show didn't go the entire first season and Fox was willing to work with them to make sure that Reunion had a satisfactory conclusion. In any case, serials are fun to watch because they ask the questions, give answers, and create plot points that stretch over a season or over several seasons.

September 25 2006 at 3:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris

The goal here is to pick and choose. ABC went a little bananas... but remember what they did with Whose Line is it Anyway and Who Wants to be a Millionare? "These are good shows, let's kick it into overdrive." That's what happens to ABC everytime.

In regards to Vanished... great story... horrible characters. The only reason I watch is for the story. Anyone else feel this way?

September 21 2006 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sonya

Thankfully the 'nets wizened up and are streaming the shows that I'm most interested in. Actually that's how I'm going to be watching most of the shows including my favorite, "CSI". I'm already hooked on "Studio", and "Kidnapped". "The Nine" looks very promising as well from the clips that I've seen

The pilot of "Kidnapped" is terrific but I wonder what they will do after they find the son? What do you do, keep kidnapping children? I'm liking the anti-hero rescuer Napp a lot.

September 21 2006 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Reid Sorenson

What, you'd rather see MORE forensic crime procedurals? They already make up more than half of the CBS primetime schedule. Even those generally have, as you put it, the occasional plot thread that carries on across episodes.

A television program that has no continuity between episodes is called a Movie of the Week. And those, thankfully, have mostly moved to cable. And anthology series like the Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories have flopped time after time with modern audiences.

Guess what: people like continuity. Life has continuity. They also like variety, which is why it's good to see the networks trying to bring back more serialized programs to attract those loyal audiences.

September 21 2006 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Seth

I wouldnt argue that Lost started this trend, I would argue The Sopranos did. The Sopranos was the serial granddaddy and the first show to spur massive DVD sales.

Lost isnt serial - you are equally clueless as to whats going on whether you followed the previous 12 episodes or not - because its just a bunch of nonesense, and no conclusion will pull it together (I think one of the writers already admitted that regarding the numbers). I havent missed an episode, because I am a sucker, but I am less and less entertained per episode as well.

I also wouldnt say House is serial, any more then Law and Order or CSI. All 5 shows feature disposable serial 'trinkets' which neither engage long-term nor prevent enjoyment of a single episode.

'Vanished' has 2 great lead male characters but is weakening fast (Hint: Make Ming Na the partner, not sidekick).

'Studio 60' was the best series premiere I have seen in a long time. Outstanding cast. Amazing transition by Matthew Perry. I forgot Chandler instantly.

Both myself and my girlfriend turned off 'Smith' 3/4 of the way through, and were pissed off we gave it the extra 15 minutes. Just horrible.




September 21 2006 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erroneous_nick

Bah! I like serials. Besides, if shows don't lose viewers because they require too much time or attention, they'll get canned for unknown reasons by the networks. At least it's not another glut of reality shows.

September 21 2006 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Wyant

It's so frustrating to have so many shows on that seem interesting. I haven't committed or invested time in any of them yet, because it's just too much. The networks are really taking the viewers for a ride here, expecting them to give up shows they already watch or go to wide technological lengths to record everything. I'm borderline offended at Thursday nights. There is so much shit on, it's not even funny, and all the shows are stacked against each other. I guess I give NBC some credit for moving Studio 60, and putting The Office and Earl in the 8-9 slot. But with so many channels offering so many programs, it's unrealistic to expect any market supremacy. CSIs, Idols, Two and a Half Mens, etc don't come along every day and that's not to say there aren't a lot of other good shows. But those good shows WILL get canceled if the retarded ratings system (which still doesn't take into account DVRs) decides that the market share is too marginal.

September 21 2006 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Porchland

The big kicker is when a network cancels one of them in the middle of the run like Fox did last year with "Reunion." The least Fox could have done was finish the run online with finger puppets or something.

(Apparently, I read later, the daughter was the killer. Made no sense at all.)

I'm already sucked into "Vanished" this season, and if Fox pulls another "Reunion," I'm probably done with serials for a while.

September 21 2006 at 10:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
R

Yes, I agree. I myself am a fan of Vanished and am anticipating the premiere of Heroes. I commented to my sister the other day "As much as I like these shows, how do they plan to keep the plot going if it survives the season?" I said to her that a show with a defined goal, such as Vanished (find the Senator's wife), is hard to maintain because after some time views will want the resolution. And there are only so many tie-ins and coincidences a discerning viewer like myself will allow along the way.
I can only hope that if nothing else this show, as well as the others you have named, will last the season (hopefully longer).

September 21 2006 at 10:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MosquitoControl

There's big money in DVDs, and serials know this.

I've been bitching to my friends for a while about this. People only have so much time, and these shows demand it. There aren't enough viewers to go around.

Which will just make things worse, as some of these will be cancelled unresolved, after people invest heavy time. Result? People will be weary of involvement.

Not a big deal for me, I really watch TV exclusively on DVD, the exceptions being a few rare syndicated shows, the occasional Adult Swim (which I think I moved to DVD) and the Discovery Channel. I can pick and choose the winners when they get released over the summer. Makes serials so much better - you watch them at your own pace, no annoyance due to cliffhangers (a plot device that tends to piss me off, not intrigue me) and you schedule them around your life, not the other way around.

September 21 2006 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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