Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On story, ratings and plot development

The LA and I have both been glued to the television (this in itself is noteworthy; longstanding friends of mine will know of my views regarding television) for the CBS series Jericho. Last night, season 2 ended - after a mere seven episodes. Now, British readers may think this is long, especially as Jericho occupied a one-hour timeslot, and so was 40 minutes long each week, but the first season was 22 episodes. A lot happens in a season of a plot-driven show out here.

Jericho nearly didn't have a second season. The first season suffered from falling ratings during its run, probably not helped by a significant hiatus and the plot-driven nature of the show - it was a Bad Idea to leap in in the middle. In fact, after the finale, the show was cancelled. A letter-writing campaign ensued, and CBS received sufficient encouragement to un-cancel Jericho. However, the second season was only picked up for seven episodes. As a result, there was a lot more action, and far less character development in season 2. Characters who could have become nuanced were instead stereotyped; practically every major character introduced during season 2 (including one who had actually appeared briefly in season 1) was a cardboard cut-out. Some storylines were abruptly cut off before properly resolved. Somehow, the writers managed to pack a full season's worth of plot into a mere seven episodes, but this came at the expense of character development. What they also did was to wrap up most of the major plot arcs, but with sufficient hooks remaining for future development, possibly in a movie. There are also numerous hooks within the season which would allow for what I'm calling "interquels"; added episodes which focus away from the main, overarching plot which dominated the second season, and add in some of the missing character development. I hope some of this happens; the second season managed to finish where I think the second season should have finished, but there's a lot fallen by the wayside. Hopefully someone can pick it up.

1 comment:

  1. Specifically, US TV "seasons" are usually about 22-23 episodes over 30-some weeks (down from a 26-episode standard in the 80s and 90s, and even more in the past). A "half season" is 13 episodes, which is the standard for a show that doesn't make it -- looking back on some memorable ill-fated shows from when I was younger, VR5 ran 13, Brimstone ran 13, Firefly ran 14, and Freakazoid ran 13+11 (but short seasons are more common for cartoons)


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