Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Truth vs. Fiction

I probably should have been watching Glee last night.  As a savvy media professional who spends way too much time reading up on industry news, they're probably going to take away my membership card for not tuning into this year's television phenomenon.

Here's a little secret: I don't really like scripted television.  The list of shows I've never really gotten into is endless.  Lost, 24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights...I mean, I have tried.  I have tried to watch these shows.  But I just can't.  And it turns out, the only one-hour dramas I really love are the first two seasons of Grey's Anatomy, season one of Felicity, and currently, Mad Men.  Half-hour comedies are a different story, even though my consumption of those is limited as well, but nothing beats a good Golden Girls or The Office rerun.

Previously, I have publicly blamed this on the fact that since I went to school for TV and took classes in writing for TV, I just know too much about how shows are structured to really relax and enjoy them.  And that's partially true - my brain starts working overtime, picking out the A story and the B story and figuring out when commercial breaks are coming - but the real reason is bigger.

I find scripted TV boring.

And there you go.

I don't like the American model of scripted television.  Without having a specific end date in mind, writers are forced to endlessly expand a story that was always better told in two to three seasons.  I was really into Lost for the first season.  But that show was poorly, poorly served by not having a specific end date in mind, because the second season was terrible.  Terrible!  And I didn't have the patience to stick with it.  The same story with Grey's Anatomy.  The first season of that show was genius.  And most of the second season was too, because so much was going on and so many stories were being told.  But then you got to season three and we all realized they weren't even through the first year of their internship program yet.  That's when Shonda Rimes and company started spinning their wheels and things like Izzie and George, Izzie and the dead deer, Izzie and the ghost of Denny (basically any storyline involving Izzie) started to happen and it was bad.  Bad bad bad.

It's a bigger symptom of how hard it is for TV shows to make money, and needing to get to a certain amount of episodes to go into syndication or release DVD sets, but in the end, storytelling always suffers when there's no end in sight.  The Brits have it right.  Their TV seasons are almost like extended mini-series, which makes a show into event television and serves creativity by giving writers something to work towards.

Why do I love reality?  Because it's self contained.  Because the story goes on as long as people are alive.  Because I can watch 14 episodes of America's Next Top Model and be cranky with Tyra for a while but then my commitment is over, and some of you have been irritated by Lost for 6 years now.  (Clearly I have the attention span of a gnat.)

I also love reality because the thing I fell in love with in film school was documentary film.  And like or not, reality TV (especially things like 16 and Pregnant, Be Good Johnny Weir, etc.) is the new documentary film.  I find real people fascinating.  I find what real people do fascinating.  And my TV is filled with it.

So I'll download the latest songs from Glee, and I'll probably watch the series finale of Lost just to see what happens, but in the meantime, I'll be over here with my DVR full of housewives and overweight people and aspiring models and pregnant teens.


  1. I would like to comment on your comments on LOST. It actually did have a a specific end-date set early on. It was supposed to be 5 seasons of 24 episodes each. And yes it got split into 6 seasons of 14-17 episodes because of the writer's strike. It probably won't change your interest in the show but I think it is different than other "scripted" television because it did have a set time span. (However I'm not sure if that was determined before the pilot episode was released.)

  2. Thanks for the comment! I looked it up and LOST premiered in 2004 and the series end-date for the end of season 6 was set in 2007 at the end of season 3. I think LOST is a really well written and well produced show; I'm just a really impatient person when it comes to following long storylines!

  3. By the way I love you Josie. Drew was saying my comment sounds "like you stepped on my cat".

  4. Dude, I thought you were a random Rachel, not a Rachel that I actually know in real life. Ha!