Too much serial in the television bowl
Every 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.