Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TV Intrigue!

I'm not getting TV's concepts right now. I understand with the success of shows like "Lost" the networks are looking for a serial hit, but there's this overthinking involved: TV is taking movie ideas and trying to stretch them into seasons worth of material.

Just like when a movie takes an SNL skit and tries to make it an hour and a half, TV is taking a two-hour premise and making it 22 episodes (roughly 16 1/2 hours), and that's just for one season. Since TV wants to get to at least 5 seasons so they can sell syndication, you're talking a 2-hour premise hoping to be made into an 82 hour extravaganza.

The latest to do this is Fox's "Drive," taking several characters and putting them into an illegal cross-country race. Seriously, if this show is any more than racing and doing cool things to win the race, I'll be bored. If we start getting into involved backstories and subplots, it's going to fail. 2-hour premises are meant to be exciting, fast-paced narratives.

We've already seen the 2-hour premise fail on TV: ABC's "The Nine," which was about 9 strangers who survive a bank robbery, and the mystery around it was, "What happened in the bank?" sounded like a great idea until you realized that you wouldn't get any real answers for as long as the show ran. Obviously, had they blown their load early, there would have been no more mystery. So it shouldn't be a TV show.

Huh, sounds like "Lost," right? Well, people who still religiously watch the show like me know that "Lost" is not a 2-hour premise. "Lost" requires seasons to tell, and not knowing everything is much of the fun. And this season has been rocking pretty hard. "Saturday Night Live" recently had a joke that falls under "We think America feels this way, so we'll reinforce that perception regardless of the truth." Amy Poehler on "Weekend Update" says, "Lost has been renewed for a fourth season. When the writers were told about this, they responded, 'Oh crap.'" Yes, well, I suppose "Saturday Night Live" has been fresh for more than thirty years; they should know.

The 2-hour premise goes also for "Prison Break." Long before the dismal Season 2 began, fans like me were wondering how this premise could go beyond a season, or whenever the prisoners escaped. The answer is that it couldn't. Actually, Season 2 could have been great with some better Season 1 planning. There were too many characters getting broken out in Season 1, and we found out that some of the characters we loved in Season 1 were better as prisoners and should have stayed that way. Producers showed too much obligation to keep strong character actors around for the next season when their stories should have ended in Season 1. Also, "Prison Break" played chess with several characters who could have strengthened Season 2 and killed them off. They ran out of options for storylines. Anyway, looks like it's been successful enough to have a third season. I'm probably not going to watch.

My examples aren't the only ones. We've seen other shows like "Reunion" take a movie premise and try to go a full season with it, and NBC's "Windfall," about interconnected people who win the lottery. Those shows were also tiring to watch, for all the same reasons.

In sum, TV...come on.


At 3/27/2007 04:32:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

While I agree with your takes for the most part; I have to admit there is no new show this year that I was looking more forward to seeing when I first heard the premise than "Drive." It could be exactly what you said, but it could also be very inventive and work like gangbusters. Here's hoping for the latter.

At 3/28/2007 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Ken said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/28/2007 09:04:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Well, this is a great post. Interesting topic.

I think you're right, but I would modify it slightly by saying that some of these shows are more like novels transferred over to 22 episodes...many are exactly what you say: 2-hour movies stretched out.

Take a show like The Wire. Take a show like Lost. Heroes. These are, in my opinion, more like novels than 2-hour movie ideas.

And what do we always say when a novel is turned into a movie? They couldn't fit everything in...they lost the subtlety...etc.

As for Drive...what it has going for it, in my opinion, is Tim Minear (of Angel and Wonderfalls and other shows) and the actor from Firefly, Nathan Fillion. Those are the reasons I'll tune in.

I look at Prison Break, which actually held my attention for the first several episodes of its first season. But now it's gotten ridiculous (from what I read). It's gone far beyond the premise of "guy commits a crime so he can bust his brother out of jail" (which was itself a 2-hour movie idea stretched out over 22 episodes).

I'm all over the place here, but mostly I wish that a lot of the novels that get turned into movies were instead turned into tv shows. And that movies were either original ideas (hey, there's a concept) or were adapted from short or shorter stories.

Dark Tower, which I hear Lost's J.J. Abrams has optioned or sometehing...should be a tv series or mini series. Not a movie.


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