Is Four Seasons all We Can Handle?

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by Nowhere Man, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Do they have short attention spans? Or are their long attention spans actually hurting shows by pushing them beyond the point where the premise says they should have stopped?

    Dexter's ratings are what's pushing that show beyond the number of seasons it should have had, to optimally explore the premise. If they're not careful, the producers will turn that show into a procedural, simply because they've run out of ideas.

    Entourage went on and on, long past the point where there was anything left to say about the characters.

    Kurt Sutter has said he's got a 7-year plan for Sons of Anarchy, which if he can pull off, bless him, but that show sure looks to me like the story needs to kick into high gear now (Jax's long awaited confrontation with Clay and Gemma) for a big wrap-up by the end of next season at the most.
    Tell that to The Simpsons.

    Or its sibling, Futurama. I love Futurama, but this past season, eeesh...they are really really out of ideas now.

    Here's another show that has gotten hit or miss because the premise has been thoroughly squeezed: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
     
  2. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think when a show has story-arcs, it becomes harder to write something beyond 4 seasons. It's often why every new season will have a new story-arc. It's when a show that doesn't really have story-arcs that end up running longer, where the stories are a lot looser and not necessarily connected. The way I take it is, writers will get burned out quicker while writing story-arcs, and the show will run out of situations more quickly. Shows like the Simpsons are a good example of why a show like that can continue; no story arcs, and tons of pop-culture that can be used as the show continues to grow older. Sure, the writing may not be as sharp as it once was, but the formula is tireless, like a perputual machine.
     
  3. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Here's a TV show structure that could go on forever: where each season is in effect a different series, with new characters and maybe a new setting. Tim Kring wanted to use this for Heroes, and Harper's Island was going have a similar structure (each season a different murder mystery).

    It's a sneaky way of having your new series auto-greenlit, by linking it to the series that actually was greenlit. But Heroes' fate shows why it might not pan out. When a series succeeds, the actors/characters are a big part of the success, so why dump them and screw the whole deal? Sounds like a sweet deal for showrunners but not so much for networks.
     
  4. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    At then end of the day the key figure to a shows continuation is viewers, and to a secondary extend how much it earns. As for whether or not 4 seasons is all we can handle, perhaps that is when the creative team need to be mixed up a bit to prevent it going stale.

    After all some shows such as DW are at something like Series 32. Of course the TV landscape has changed over the years to a much more diverse market, but generally quality attratcs
     
  5. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Quality attracts viewers on cable. On broadcast, formula still seems to be king.
     
  6. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    The other thing to consider is that the writers of shows (not all, but most) also take very seriously what they can and can't do with their characters. How far have we taken Ryan? What else can we explore with Christine? Is there any more mileage left out of Peter's story? ... sometimes, you can write certain characters out and bring in new blood and reinvigorate a series. Sometimes, you can't. Sometimes actors want out. Sometimes actors simply won't leave :lol:

    If the writers feel they've done everything they can with a certain character, they try to wrap that character up and give them a fitting exit. Sometimes they don't. But if you have a show where the story has been told, the energy may be better spent in wrapping everything up.

    Based on the post-screening panel discussion of "Crossroads" at the Arclight in Hollywood a few years ago that the in-between-the-lines conversation that Ron Moore and David Eick had with the audience, it was fairly evident that what ended Battlestar Galactica when it did was that they wanted to have the show go for five seasons but SciFi essentially told them they'd only get four. So, rather than drag things out, Moore and Eick decided to focus on wrapping up the show.

    Another element to consider: what is the franchise of the show? What's the basic hook that gets you in to each episode? Example: On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the franchise of the show was that every week there was a monster to fight so Buffy and the Scoobies would go to the library, then later the magic shop to research the demon of the week and how to fight it.

    Depending on the show we're talking about, the franchise of the show may not be sustainable past a certain point -- Battlestar Galactica would be very difficult to continue after the Colonials reached Earth. But Stargate SG-1 was able to (sort of) re-invent itself after Richard Dean Anderson left partly because as big a part of the show as he was, he wasn't the only thing the show was about.
     
  7. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    On broadcast and maybe also on cable, the inhibition is what the viewers will accept in character change. I would think that writers would be gung ho to change characters a lot more than they do, but then you're stepping on the toes of the fans who might like Character A just like he/she is, or want change, but in a completely different direction. Guess wrong, and your ratings go in the toilet.

    And character change can upset series longevity. For instance, after S4 of Dexter, I wanted the writers to use the "big event" at the end of that season to propel Dexter into a maniacal tailspin. But the character couldn't plausibly come back from something like that because once you amp the drama, you can't ratchet it back down.

    So that development would have signalled that S5 or S6 would have to be the series end. Yet the ratings are strong enough to continue the show indefinitely, which seems to be the plan instead. And to keep the ratings on an even keel, Dex can't change all that much.
     
  8. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There's no reason to think viewers couldn't handle an extremely long story. The problem is that there are very few stories that actually need that much time to unfold. Most multiseason stories screw themselves silly trying to stall the story resolution. Short attention spans really help most long stories because people forget what the series was really about and convince themselves that what they got at the end wasn't just foisted on them but really was `the essence of the series. Most stories about character development are usually unbearably silly. Mostly people grow up or grow old or adapt to a new situation. What they rarely do is character development where they "learn" something from an absurd series of scenes confronting other people.
     
  9. JiNX-01

    JiNX-01 Admiral Admiral

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    OK, I get it. I would certainly like the "ideal universe" to ensure NCIS (Gibbs is No. 1!), Castle, White Collar, Burn Notice and Royal Pains are on for a long, long time.
     
  10. startrekwatcher

    startrekwatcher Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I guess it depends. Most shows I've enjoyed have gone on for one or two seasons too much and became a shell of their former selves.

    Some like Melrose Place or TNG needed a season or so to find its footing then took off giving several solidly entertaining back to back seasons before sucking. Others are great from the beginning going on for several years before crashing and burning(Roseanne, The X-Files, The Golden Girls etc)

    It just seems when a show is just starting and is fresh and new the writers are more excited about it and come up with a lot of good ideas. After churning out several years of consistently good hours, it is only natural that the writers simply burn out and run out of ideas and only because of network insistence due to good ratings is the show kept around resulting in the writers struggling and grasping for ideas leading to cast rotations, stupid story ideas, cute kids being added etc i.e. jumping the shark. It is only after a network has killed the golden goose do they give it the pink slip.

    My own opinion is that if a show can give me interesting characters with *fresh* storylines consistently for 4 or 5 seasons I'm fine. I'd much rather a show end at its peak and miss it than see it turn into a hot mess the way so many popular shows do.

    I think it is probably harder these days for episodic series to go on very long before getting old to viewers since those type of shows generally tend to just tell the same old chestnuts we've all seen a thousand times. Serialized shows have a better shot at longevity simply because they force greater creativity and a uniqueness tailored to the premise itself--and I'm not talking about the overly complicated messes like Heroes and LOST that drag shit out for years and years--I'm talking about your traditional serial with linear season long storylines with no convoluted timelines, flashbacks, ridiculously large ensembles etc.
     
  11. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Perhaps in the US, Networks such as the BBC are generally considered to be good at things such as Period Drama's and documentarys whilst Satelite stations seem to do endless re-runs and cheap formula shows (NB: Networks do this as well).
     
  12. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I wish American networks would do more period dramas. :( Any period previous to 1950. I'm not really talking about the rich-people-in-fancy-clothes routine. That gets tiresome. Westerns seem to be making a comeback, but I'd like to see other milieus as well.

    Speaking of documentaries, PBS is airing Ken Burns' Prohibition starting Oct 2.

    And of course there's always Frontline and POV. I have my DVR set to ferret out anything new from them. Plus The Universe and Curiosity, if those count as documentaries, which I suppose they do, if they fit into any genre.
    L&O: SVU is on season what, 13? Shows that have an episodic structure and a durable formula can go on for inordinant lengths. The shows that struggle with longevity are the serialized ones, because trying to plot out an ongoing story for 13 seasons would be a mind-boggling task and not doing it just means you either get repetitive or tangled up in your own canon, assuming any serialized show can survive that long in the first place.
     
  13. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    ^Well L&O went to 20 years, whilst the ST managed from 3-7 seasons each, didn't it start to get tangled up in it's own canon?

    Realestically perhaps B5 is a good example of a how long a heavily serialised show works. Yes the last season was weaker, but that was down to being renewed almost at the last minute so the last part of S4 didn't go to plan. Compare with "Lost" whih at times seemed to be we are making this up as we go along.
     
  14. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    DS9 did great for 7 years. It needed to end because it had run through the premise sufficiently, but getting tangled up in canon was never a problem for them.

    What they needed was a fresh premise. I was rooting for the Dominion to win the war in the series finale, half the DS9 cast to get killed, and for a new series to start called Star Trek: Resistance, with the surviving DS9 characters, plus some new ones and I wouldn't have objected to some VOY characters joining the show (Tuvok, B'elanna and EMH would have been good choices) when that series ended.

    Canon has never been Star Trek's problem on TV. The problem has been writers and producers afraid to take a risk (which is why VOY and ENT were creative failures) and underlying changes in the TV biz (which is why DS9, VOY and ENT's ratings kept sinking and why it would be hard for even a great Star Trek series to survive now.)
     
  15. Miss Chicken

    Miss Chicken Little three legged cat with attitude Premium Member

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    Supernatural is it to its 8 season and, according to one source that I read Jensen and Jared have been signed up for season 9 and 10.
     
  16. Starbreaker

    Starbreaker Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Supernatural went off the rails after S5 though. There are lots of bad episodes now.
     
  17. Skywalker

    Skywalker Admiral Admiral

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    Although to be fair, not every episode in its first few seasons was gold, either. Particularly the first half of season one. And the fifth season was surprisingly underwhelming IMO.
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    It will be interesting to see if any other series adopt the AMERICAN HORROR STORY model of telling a completely different story, with many of the same actors playing different characters, each season. That was a bold gamble that seems to be paying off for them . . . .
     
  19. degra

    degra Fleet Captain Newbie

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    in the past we were fortunate to get 4 to 5 good solid consistently well written seasons out of a show. Nowadays we are lucky if we get one,,,I think a lot of that has to do with networks picking up more and more shows that are better suited to be a one season limited run series than a multiyear series yet trying to force them to go longer so we get a lot of stallung and filler. Shows like Heroes and bsg vampire diaries etc proved that,,,one excellent season then the show comes off the rails.

    I also think that writers have come to rely on twists, teasers and cliffhangers rather than using those elements sparingly and creating satisfying payoffs.

    I would much rather have a show with a much more open premise, modest ensemble so it could tell season long arcs for a few good years than some unnecessarily convoluted mythology show with dozens of characters to keep track of.

    and re: supernatural,,,its last great year was season 4. Season five was highly uneven but managed to tell some strong stories like abandon all hope. Season 6 7 8 are wretched.
     
  20. Miss Chicken

    Miss Chicken Little three legged cat with attitude Premium Member

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    ^^^I think season 8 is an improvement on season 7.
     

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