Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Show Prep

I hoped to post this on Tuesday afternoon, but Internet problems prevented me from getting through to Blogger. If you’re reading this, either the Internet is working again, or I put it on a flash drive and went for a walk to the library.

I was out for a constitutional yesterday, and I had several brilliant thoughts occur to me. I was going to save them for my next podcast, but feared that I would forget them, so figured it was best that I jot them down.

So the other day, I was blogging about the new Law & Order: UK. Now, a British television series usually has a very small number of episodes in a season. Law & Order: UK got an order of 13 episodes for its first season...a number that is incredibly high for a one-hour British drama in its first season. However, Law & Order creator Dick Wolf laments that the season is so short, and is hoping that he’ll be able to convince the British producers to eventually do an American-style season of 22 episodes.

Now this got me thinking about a discussion I was having once with my best friend. He’s become quite a fan of Japanese anime and OVA and how an anime series might only run 26 episodes or so. “Can you imagine that?” he said to me. “That’s such a finite space to tell a story! What kind of story could you tell on TV in just 26 episodes?”

“You think that’s a short space?” I replied. “What about this British dramas, where a season is just 6 episodes! What kind of story would you tell in 6 episodes?”

There really is something to be said for finite storytelling...a TV series of limited length that has a set beginning, middle, and end. The way American television has set things up, it is designed to never end. That’s how we get The Simpsons and the original Law & Order running for more than 20 years. Some would say that that is a more realistic way of storytelling, because just like real life, there is no end. It just keeps going on.

But therein lies the rub. It’s more realistic in the never-ending sense, but in real life, characters are allowed to grow, change, and evolve. Not so on a TV series. Characters are expected to remain relatively consistent during the 10 years or so that a TV series is on. Fry said it best on an episode of Futurama: “People don’t like clever and unexpected. Clever makes them feel stupid, and unexpected scares them.”

But thanks to finite storytelling, because you know that end is coming, you can feel free to take the characters on an arc that will change them forever. Just when the characters have evolved to a point where your audience won’t love them anymore, well, that’s it. That’s the end of the series.

I wonder why North American television hasn’t embraced the concept of finite storytelling more. I can only think of a few examples. Babylon 5 was only designed to run for 5 years, and 5 years was for how long it ran. I believe there’s a similar plan in place for Lost. Listening to the running commentaries for the short-lived sitcom That’s My Bush!, either Matt Stone or Trey Parker (I forget which one) says, “Ya know, in a way, I’m glad this show lasted only 8 episodes. Because by around episode 7, we were starting to feel like the premise was wearing out.”

I hope finite storytelling is embraced. We shouldn’t fear the end when it comes to TV shows.

So I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of weeks now, and I’m starting to learn the ropes. I’m searching around, following more people, and picking up more followers, but still, its surprises me who chooses to follow me.

As part of all forms of media embracing Twitter these days, I’ve found a few of my favourite Edmonton Journal columnists, and started following them. But the weird thing is...they then turned around and started following me.

What’s going on here? Now, I don’t think it’s the “follow me and I’ll automatically follow you” system that celebrities like Britney Spears have set up. When they follow you back, it’s pretty much instantaneous. But with these Edmonton Journal columnists, it took hours – days in one case – for them to start following me back. So I’m assuming from this that it must have been on a conscious decision on the part of the columnist.

Why did they choose to follow me? Was it because I’ve tweeted during my morning show enough that they went, “Oh, fellow media guy. We media folk must stick together!” On my Twitter page, I’ve linked to enough of my other projects, like the podcast and the YouTube videos and even this blog. Have they perused these projects and went, “Wow, a kindred spirit!”

It boggles my feeble mind, and I have yet to work up the courage to go, “@columnist Hey! Why are you following me?”

But in the off chance that they’re reading this blog, I’d like to say, “Hello, Edmonton Journal columnists! I’ve always believe that deep inside every blogger beats the heart of a frustrated writer, and I know that’s true in my case. Reading your stuff inspires me to get more good.”

I had more brilliant thoughts as I was on my walk, but alas, they have escaped me. I had the thoughts on the walk up the hill, and it was on the walk back down the hill that I forgot them. I could sit here and try futilely to remember them, but I find that thoughts are like cats. The harder you hunt for them, the harder they hide. Best to just put your feet up and wait for them to come to you.

No comments: