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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Dara says:

    This is obviously true of Glee, by the way. It’s looking pretty obvious that the show’s gonna get renewed at this point, and I don’t know what on earth the writers are going to do with another season to fill.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I haven’t seen this one yet. But it’s certainly true of so many other shows – even shows intended to be multi-season “epics.” Even, dare I say it, The Sopranos.Report

    • Yeah, Glee is my and my wife’s favorite new show, but I have no idea how it could keep things up beyond the end of this season.Report

      • Avatar Three-nineteen says:

        I read this website all the time, and it takes this thread to make me de-lurk. I believe the creators of Glee have stated they have story arcs for the first three seasons already planned out.Report

    • Avatar Kyle says:

      Truth, I mean it’s already starting to lose its coherence but then again that’s EXACTLY what happened with Ryan Murphy’s Popular.

      btw thanks for getting me to watch it.Report

  2. Avatar Lev says:

    Well, I think it has something to do with American shows running for as long as they can, until people stop watching basically. Comedies have to run for 100 episodes before they can start to make real money in syndication, for example. So it is difficult to take the long view.

    This is exactly what happened with BSG. The show’s premiere introduced the themes and asked a number of piercing questions, looked at the arguments, and eventually concluded most of them with the Pegasus episodes. Aside from finding Earth and the girl in Baltar’s head, the show was essentially over at that point. But that was halfway through season two, and so we got 2.5 more seasons of half-cooked religious themes and red herrings with an occasionally good episode nestled in there, and then it was all concluded by one of the all-time worst finales in the history of SF. BSG did have a plan, they just couldn’t make it work for too long.

    I think that Deep Space Nine, while inferior to BSG in some ways (though superior to it in others) nonetheless did a better job in terms of pacing its themes and building on itself. BSG did that for its first half, finished admirably, then changed into a completely different show and hoped nobody would notice. It didn’t work.Report

    • Avatar Kyle says:

      I was prepared to disagree with this as I’m a pretty huge BSG booster, but I think this is mostly right.

      Where they had a plan, BSG is strongest. Season One, the first two acts of Season 2, the end of Season 3, and season 4.

      It’s a testament to the quality of the show when it was on point that you could tell when you were getting filler. I think you’re spot on when it comes to DS9, a lot of seven (plus) season shows hit their prime in like 2-4, the final five seasons of DS9 were all incredibly solid, it helped that they had a dominant story line for 3.5-4 of those seasons.Report

    • Avatar JosephFM says:

      DS9 also had a rival in Babylon 5 that made the writers keep bringing their A-games. (I’ve been re-watching B5 lately, if you can’t tell. First season-and-a-half are rather dated, give or take a few episodes, but when the plot arc kicks in it’s as good as I remember from middle school.)Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There is a self-limitation when it comes to character interaction as well.

    Let’s look at comic books.

    If you know that you are doing an “Elseworlds” story (either with a one-shot or with a multi-issue arc), you have the ability to do anything at all. Kill the Batman. Kill Superman (like, dead dead). Kill the villian. Kill the bystanders. Kill the planet. Kill god. Anything is possible because both the author and the reader know that this story is not “canon”.

    If you have an ongoing story, however… well, you can’t do that. The readers love the story where the hero fights this particular villain. They love it so much they’ll shell out money for a second printing. They’ll shell out money for a collected volume… and you know what? They’ll do it all over again three years from now. “BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT!!! THE RETURN OF THE JOKER!!!!”

    You can do some stuff to mitigate this… give Batman a code against killing under any circumstances. Well, of course Joker is still alive. He keeps going to Arkham.

    But look at The Punisher instead. There’s only so much you can do. “They never found the body” works for a villian once… but beyond that, you’re dealing with an incompetent Punisher and that’s not why people buy the book. They buy the book to see him kill the bad guy. Eventually… you run out of bad guys. Or you’re stuck writing a story where The Punisher is fighting against nameless goon number 492 on his way to kill named goon number 50… and people stop buying those stories because there are only so many ways to make an unstoppable hero interesting enough to carry his own book.

    This brings us back to television.

    Most television shows want to be around forever. The problem is that actors get older, actors get arrested, actors’ bodies show up in bullet-ridden bordellos, all those things… so you’re stuck never really changing anything to keep people coming back. Dharma and Greg have to constantly be in love. Ross and Rachel have to constantly be almost but not quite-ing. If we can squeeze out another season, that’s another year’s worth of decadence paid for. (This is what made The Sopranos so interesting. You’d spend all this time with a character and WHAM! They’d whack him! Wore thin by the end of season six though, didn’t it?)

    Since most of the people working want to work again next season, they’re stuck telling a neverending story which, by definition, can never achieve final resolution.

    Hell, if you want that, pick up an Elseworlds book. Seriously, they kill everybody in those.Report