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Old February 17 2012, 06:49 AM   #436
AviTrek
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Caliburn24 wrote: View Post
I think it would be really hard for me to find a single friend who if pressed to list their top five TV dramas of all time would include any purely episodic shows.
Given the board you're posting on, I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't include TOS or TNG on that list.
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Old February 17 2012, 07:57 AM   #437
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

I've watched and enjoyed all the Trek shows, but I consider DS9 by far the best, due to being to build better characters thanks to stuff mattering for more than one episode at a time. DS9 and maybe Enterprise are the only Treks I would want to rewatch that is for sure.

But that is a topic that has been argued endlessly around here, no need to go there again.
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Old February 17 2012, 10:40 AM   #438
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

^^ Most of my all-time favorite shows are episodic. Two of them are anthologies.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
I doubt we'll ever return to a TV environment where the episodic format predominates. All the trends are towards greater niche-ization of TV (and whatever you call it when "TV" is predominantly streamed thru the internet), which favors serialized formats for being better able to grab niche audiences while the episodic format is better for the casual viewer/mass audience environment. This isn't "fashion," it's a long-term trend being driven largely by technology.
No, it's definitely fashion and it's not driven by technology. In the publishing business, multi-volume novel series are more fashionable than short-story anthologies or magazines. In comic books, huge crossover epics have become the norm. Even movies focus on franchises over standalones. Not only does that trend carry over to TV, but it's also a matter of the option being available; up until relatively recently, it was a requirement that TV shows be episodic, with some rare exceptions. I find it hard to believe that after umpteen thousand years of storytelling, short stories will suddenly become extinct.
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Old February 17 2012, 02:19 PM   #439
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

More Syfy development news from Deadline Hollywood:

Writer Brett Conrad (Sons Of Anarchy, Covert Affairs) has sold the spec sci-fi action drama The Dover Agenda to SyFy, with Barry Josephson (Bones) on board to executive produce and FremantleMedia to produce. The Dover Agenda, which is currently being adapted to a 90-minute pilot, the format used by Syfy, is a thriller about a young man who is recruited by a future version of himself to work for a secret branch of Military Intelligence specializing in parapsychology and future tech. The nature of fate comes into play as the young man slowly begins to realize he did not turn out the way he thought he would.
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Old February 17 2012, 03:43 PM   #440
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Caliburn24 wrote: View Post
But here is where we disagree. I could care less if on average episodic shows are as good as serialized shows. Because I am not watching every show on television. I only want to watch the best stuff. And episodic shows aren't even trying to be the best, they are rarely ambitious at all. Serialized shows are often disasters, but when they work, they are better than anything in the episodic format.
But that dichotomy does not exist anymore. There are no pure episodic shows on prime-time television, and very few pure serial shows. Every episodic show these days has serialized elements, and most serialized shows have episodic elements. The majority of shows are both episodic and serial at the same time, with the cases of the week reflecting and supporting the ongoing arc of the characters and the mythology.


I don't want to spend twenty hours a week watching shows that are good. I want to speed four or five hours a week watching shows that are superb.
And there is absolutely no reason why a self-contained story can't be superb. Most of Shakespeare's plays didn't have sequels. Twelve Angry Men wasn't a yearlong serial about a trial that dragged on forever. It's absurd to claim that short-form storytelling is incapable of brilliance, when we have thousands of years' worth of brilliant self-contained stories making up the bulk of our cultural heritage.

Back in the early days of television, in the '50s and '60s, the shows that set the standards for class and intelligence were the anthologies that presented adaptations of stage plays and original plays written for television. The most gifted and admired TV writers were playwrights like Paddy Chayefsky, Norman Corwin, Reginald Rose, and Rod Serling, people known for their ability to create brilliant self-contained plays. So anthologies came to be considered as the epitome of intelligent, quality television -- whereas serialization was seen as the stuff of lowbrow soap operas and old-time kiddie adventure serials. So even shows that had continuing characters, like Wagon Train or The Fugitive or Mission: Impossible, strove to be as much like anthologies as possible, having their regulars get involved in different guest stars' stories or adopt different identities every week, with no references to anything that had come before. Now, this was partly because they didn't have home video or the Internet back then, didn't have our easy access to ways of getting an overview of an entire series, so their experience with television was more on a week-by-week basis, and their priority was therefore to get the most they could out of each individual story, to have each hour be complete and satisfying in itself with no dependence on anything outside of it. But partly it was just because anthologies had a better reputation than serials, so everyone "knew" that episodic, anthology-style shows were better than anything in the serial format. Now we simply have the opposite prejudice, and some are clinging to that prejudice even though most TV producers these days have decided that the best approach is to balance both episodic and serial elements.

I think it would be really hard for me to find a single friend who if pressed to list their top five TV dramas of all time would include any purely episodic shows.
That's because there aren't any. They don't make them anymore, not outside of animation. The closest thing I can think of to a purely episodic show of recent vintage that I've watched was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and even that had continuing character arcs.
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Old February 17 2012, 07:20 PM   #441
Temis the Vorta
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

I find it hard to believe that after umpteen thousand years of storytelling, short stories will suddenly become extinct.
No format is going to become totally extinct, but they ebb and flow in how common they are.

The length of TV episodes has been set for the benefit of advertisers, to give them a nice, compact amount of time around which to schedule ads. The episodic format was the most useful in an environment of mass-market TV, in which there were only three options.

It was designed to capture channel surfers without demanding much investment of their time or effort. They could see an episode and skip the next week without any penalty. Since there was no internet and no DVDs, and reruns were shown in a hit or miss way, there was no easy way for viewers to catch up with a serialized show anyway, so how could that format ever catch on?

It's no coincidence that serialized shows became more predominant as the mass audience fragments into niche tastes, where the episodic format makes less sense economically, and as technological changes make following a serialized show much easier.

The format of TV is contrived, not natural in any sense, and is shaped by economic and technological forces which are now changing. So the predominant format will change as well. None of this is some natural outgrowth of what people like or what is "good." It's all about what's good for advertisers, and what's going to allow TV to survive as technological changes start to really undermine the old ways of doing business, which is a process that is happening now.

Envision a world in which all "TV" shows are streamed from sites like Netflix or Hulu. Why should an episode be an hour long? Why not ten minutes long or ten hours long? Why should there be one episode per week? And the degree to which one episode connects to another could vary just as radically - why not have no connection (the return of the virtually extinct anthology format)?

Or the connection can be weak, or very strong - though for the sake of keeping niche audiences coming back, I'd say the stronger the connection, the better. And maybe the anthology format is also a niche taste, that's not being served. That would argue in favor of the revival of that format. Above all, the trend is towards greater diversity rather than the extinction of any particular format.

There are no pure episodic shows on prime-time television, and very few pure serial shows.
That's an unimportant quibble. There's a continuum from very episodic to very serialized shows that really does exist. TV used to be highly episodic and is a lot less so now. Why? Because the business and technology has changed and has shaped the tastes of the audience.

Viewers haven't driven this change, they've been led into it, as HBO and other pioneers started giving them more options - and that was because of technology that allowed HBO to exist, and then to build a business to take advantage of that technology. This process is going to continue into the future and just as its favored more serialization in the past, it will continue to favor it in the future, along with a greater broadening of options in general (such as the possible return of the anthology format - now there's an episodic structure!)

1. Breaking Bad
2. Homeland
3. Downton Abbey
4. Parks and Recreation
5. Game of Thrones
6. Louie
7. Justified
8. Community
9. The Good Wife
10. Modern Family
Yeah, that's pretty much what I've been saying - maybe the serialization isn't causing the increase in quality of the more serialized shows over the more episodic ones, but there's something that's causing this phenomenon and it's not my imagination.

Maybe it's that cable attracts better writers and cable also demands serialized shows, so all the best writers happen to be working on serialized shows. If they worked on the more episodic shows, then those would be better. Or writers like serialized shows better, because of the greater creative freedom, so if they can get hired onto one, they'll jump at the chance. Since the best writers get their pick of gigs, then that would explain it. Or it could be something else. Doesn't really matter why it's happening, but it's happening.
But that is a topic that has been argued endlessly around here, no need to go there again.
Party pooper! I so love any excuse to inflict mega-posts on yall.

And just to be fair to the episodic format, this show sounds at least partially episodic and also pretty interesting (depending on casting, and assuming, perhaps rashly, that it doesn't become some kind of Future Guy-esque muddle):

Out Of My Vulcan Mind wrote: View Post
More Syfy development news from Deadline Hollywood:

Writer Brett Conrad (Sons Of Anarchy, Covert Affairs) has sold the spec sci-fi action drama The Dover Agenda to SyFy, with Barry Josephson (Bones) on board to executive produce and FremantleMedia to produce. The Dover Agenda, which is currently being adapted to a 90-minute pilot, the format used by Syfy, is a thriller about a young man who is recruited by a future version of himself to work for a secret branch of Military Intelligence specializing in parapsychology and future tech. The nature of fate comes into play as the young man slowly begins to realize he did not turn out the way he thought he would.

Last edited by Temis the Vorta; February 17 2012 at 07:36 PM. Reason: wait! wait! there's more!
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Old February 17 2012, 07:46 PM   #442
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Okay I just noticed something very odd about that Dover Agenda news...Skiffy already greenlighted it a month ago! Or something called Rewind that sure sounds like it, except that the people behind it are totally different, and there's no mention of a guy using time travel to recruit himself.

In its first pilot pickup in more than an year, Syfy has given the green light to Rewind, an action thriller from feature writer Justin Marks, BermanBraun and Universal Cable Prods. Rewind, which has received an order for a two-hour pilot, revolves around a team of military field operatives and civilian scientists who must use untested technology to travel back in time to alter past events in order to change the future and avoid a devastating terrorist attack. Marks wrote the script and will executive produce the pilot with veteran showrunner Tom Spezialy (Chaos), Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein.
Is Skiffy deliberately pitting two very similar sounding premises against each other? (They should air both 90-min pilots and let the audience vote on which should go to series!)

And considering the way time travel shows either get cancelled or go off the rails or go off the rails and then get cancelled, they're showing some guts in not just greenlighting Blood & Chrome instead. Cmon, fighting killer robots, that's easy! (I guess by this point it's a dead daggit.)
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Old February 17 2012, 10:58 PM   #443
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Some guy from Felicity cast on The Last Resort.

I dunno, my first thought at seeing his photo was, "what a douchebag."
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Old February 18 2012, 01:31 AM   #444
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Re: 'Darkover' novels to become TV series

jefferiestubes8 wrote: View Post
According to the novels, Darkover is the only human-habitable of seven planets orbiting a fictional red giant star called Cottman.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkover

Has anyone who has read the books comment on the series?
Well, I certainly haven't read them all. Like most open-ended series, the storylines twisted, the covert narcissism in the character arcs became more and more overt and the themes, such as they were, got completely lost.

Basically it started off with the people of Darkover, who eschewed cowardly long distance weapons in favor of noble and brave hand to hand combat, had developed a society with a noble elite of tepaths etc. The people aren't aliens but a lost colony of Earth by the way. The society had somehow fallen into decay, despite the reality of seemingly magical powers, and was threatened by the inhumane scientific abortion of a culture being forced onto the innocent peoples of Darkover by an arrogant Terran power blind to the true powers of the mind.

Yes, yes, it's all demented but it was at least sincere and at least about something besides cheap thrills of a Leigh Brack/C.L. Moore variety. The women who constantly wore chains connecting their ankles were if I recall perhaps the most notable instance of some of the real appeal of the early series. Bradley apparently was a serious New Ager who really believed this shit, as well as being a little adventurous sexually. I gather for instance she had an open marriage with a gay man, Jon L. Breen, a major figure in the mystery field (albeit mainly as reviewer and anthologist.) No doubt this is an aspect very attractive to the producers who correctly see skin and S&M as a major part of Game of Thrones' popularity.

Later the series veered off into more and more tedious intrigue amongst the magical nobles, delving more and more into backstory. I can't say there was anything particularly sincere and substantive beyond wish fulfilment fantasy.



Re serialized and episodic television, it is crazy to insist that technological factors are responsible for the vogue for serialization. In particular, soap operas were a mainstay of broadcast television for decades, yet the same supposed technological and economic causes promoting serialization in prime time are killing off daytime serials.

Serialization has nothing to do with art, except to make it much harder to make good drama. It exists solely to hook an audience and keep them coming back. Serialization was used in daytime because there was a smaller audience. Housewives had work to do. They had to have a hook to get them to schedule the vacuuming for another time.

Premium cable tends to use serialization because they have smaller audiences and are trying to get a core of viewers who'll pony up the premium. There really isn't any percentage in episodic television because, after all, few people will pay monthly premiums for an occasional episode. Premium cable series are not offering a superior dramatic format. Most premium cable series collapse as dramatically as Dexter precisely because of the open-ended serialization is fundamentally incompatible with quality drama. The cable series do not even offer more imaginative or artistically original fare. The cable series simply offer racier fare that advertisers are still afraid of. Sex and gore are the only things that cable does better, and claims to the contrary are delusional.

Basic cable of course tends to avoid serialization because serials are usually inferior, having less to offer once you know how the story comes out. Which is naturally less popular. Broadcast networks tend to use serialization more today because they are struggling to retain share in a dwindling audience. There is a genuine tendency for serialization to work better in DVD format but there is still formidable competition for serialized programs even there from episodic television. The very worst offenders in episodic television, series from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies also sell in DVD. And of course, these are often the mainstays of basic cable. The perception that serialization is taking over is an optical illusion caused by an excessively narrow focus.
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Old February 18 2012, 01:38 AM   #445
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

As for the whole serialized vs. episodic debate, I really have no preference, and honestly don't give a crap what a shows format is. All I want is a good story, and TBH I've never really seen where one format is better at giving us good stories than the other. It all depends on the stories and characters for me.
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Old February 18 2012, 01:42 AM   #446
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

From what I can tell of the genre shows that have gone to pilot, most of them don't have an episodic angle - which generally reveals itself by having a cop as the main character and a premise that lends itself to a case-of-the-week structure. That, however, is absolutely no guarantee that any of them will be good.

In the sf/f genre world, the big ratings successes lately have been strongly serialized - The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, Once Upon a Time - and I think that's starting to have an impact on genre shows as a whole. But the episodic format will be retained for all the cop/spy/doctor/lawyer shows which of course will be joining us again next season, and which I will continue to blissfully ignore.
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Old February 18 2012, 10:57 AM   #447
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
I find it hard to believe that after umpteen thousand years of storytelling, short stories will suddenly become extinct.
No format is going to become totally extinct, but they ebb and flow in how common they are.
Exactly. Fashion is different now than it was 40 years ago, and will be different again 40 years from now.

Envision a world in which all "TV" shows are streamed from sites like Netflix or Hulu. Why should an episode be an hour long? Why not ten minutes long or ten hours long? Why should there be one episode per week? And the degree to which one episode connects to another could vary just as radically - why not have no connection (the return of the virtually extinct anthology format)?
That's a good vision. The arts should be driven more by creativity than the demands of advertisers.

JD wrote: View Post
As for the whole serialized vs. episodic debate, I really have no preference, and honestly don't give a crap what a shows format is. All I want is a good story, and TBH I've never really seen where one format is better at giving us good stories than the other. It all depends on the stories and characters for me.
Yeah, that's exactly how I feel.
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Old February 18 2012, 03:04 PM   #448
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Episodic versus serialized is irrelevant because there's no evidence that one is better at good stories and characters than the other?

Sneaking around detailed discussions of good for the moment, on the one side, episodic SF/F television has Star Trek, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. And serialized SF/F has train wrecks like X-Files, Lost, BattleStar Galactica and DS9's Sisko in the fire caves and Red Eye Dukat. Well, it also has Babylon 5, but then, it is also widely hated as well as loved. It seems to me that it is precisely a concern with good stories and characters that would lead one to conclude that serialization, especially open-ended serialization (which would leave out Babylon 5, by the way,) is inherently inferior. Not impossible. And there are no rules in drama that can't be profitably broken by someone sufficiently creative enough.

But returning to the question of what is a good story and character, it may be that social decay is leaving people disengaged from the world. They have less and less power over their fates and at some level they must realize that the future is not theirs, nor their posterity's, but that of their masters. It is natural for the weak to take refuge in fantasy, particularly personal fantasy. The open-ended serial very much tends to indulge in the central characters' personal stories, even to the point that there isn't really much else in the fictional universe besides a few talking props. The much vaunted character arcs substitute fantasies of personal reinvention leading to success, love, fame, power, while the social vacuum allows such daydreams undiminished by the harsh light of reality.

These kinds of dramas are inherently limited to personal tastes and there's nothing to say about them, for there's nothing really there. Nothing, that is, save frustrations at not having the proper day dream material suitable to one's personal idiosyncrasies.
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Old February 19 2012, 06:13 AM   #449
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Hmm television serialization tied into the old idea of "Bread and Circuses". An interesting notion. Where would Western culture be without so many of us spending hours every week involved in TV shows, video games, Facebook, Reddit etc?

I have only seen bits and pieces of a few foreign(Non-English) shows, but serialization seems quite heavy in what I have seen. The various Spanish language telenovelas, the Korean soaps. We're certainly not alone in wanting escapism in our entertainment.
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Old February 19 2012, 03:17 PM   #450
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Strictly it's not bread and circuses, because the powers that be aren't into giving out bread, just circuses. Besides, in addition to the question of how much serialization has really increased overall, there's the question of how much escapism is just normal rest? Worse, alternative question is whether the apparent huge increase in villainous heroes expresses a newly unashamed imperialist ethos? That may be a more useful question.

One thing about escapism is that it depends on what's entertaining. I once read some remarks by some fool about how reading modern arty literature was like solving a crossword puzzle. (Robert Heinlein? I forget for sure.) Since no one ever did a crossword puzzle for anything but entertainment, this was a remarkably stupid complaint. Entertainment includes things like being dropped from great heights in a roller coaster. And it is very likely that nothing has ever topped the entertainment value of sex. The "it's just entertainment" argument is a sure symptom of thoughtlessness.
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