Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pay Off Or GET Off (My TV, That Is)...

There is something to be said for "the journey"-- of life, of love, of television. No one believes more than me that something is not worth doing-- or watching, as it were-- if you are not invested in the characters. Without caring about them, you cannot care about what they go through along the way to get to their predetermined "end." That being said, though, there has to be a pretty strong pay-off to do the journeys justice, too, and unfortunately, lately it appears that once-great programs are just falling short. Maybe it's just me-- because I have studied television the way a med student would pour over anatomy models, texts, and graphs-- but Lost is quite possibly the best example of all of this. A once thought-provoking, downright confusing show, Lost had fans tearing up message boards and blogs after each week's airing to find out just what was inscribed on Hurley's ring or what the poster behind Jack in his flashbacks said and how it all connected in the greater mystery of the show. This season, however (and perhaps last season, too, but I only caught the last two episodes last year, so I don't know for sure that this isn't a new occurrence), the writers and producers have promised to answer all of the great questions...only the way they have been doing so has the audience a step ahead of the show by the end of every episode. For some reason, week after week, the writers thought it would be "clever" to reveal a past character in their younger form, probably to remind everyone just how cool time travel is. But audiences-- especially Lost's audience!-- are much more savvy than they appear to be giving them credit for. We had already met Young Ben when the 1977 baby's name was revealed to be Ethan, so anyone paying attention would have already demised that there was no one else this baby could have been! The minute Young Ben delivered a sandwich to a locked-up Sayid, it was equally apparent that Sayid believe he was brought back there to kill Ben.

But you know what they say: if something is destined, you can't go into the past and change it, so though Sayid thinks he completed his task, Young Ben will probably be found "left for dead." And Sayid's actions against the boy who just trusted he would be helped will be the catalyst to turn Ben into the evil S.O.B. we knew and loathed from seasons past. But since that won't play out for a long time because they like to make everything overtly "suspenseful" and drag things out for episodes and episodes, I'm sure it will be pretty ho-hum once it is finally revealed. After all, after spending weeks and weeks imagining what it will be in your mind, very few are able to meet, let alone pass, such expectations. Just consider all of the crappy movie adaptations of fantastic books.

Maybe we should blame the internet for some of this, though-- because rumors, gossip, and spoilers spread like wildfire here!-- but Edie Britt's seemingly inevitable demise on Desperate Housewives was just plain lackluster, despite Marc Cherry's best efforts to shock (and quite literally) the residents of Wisteria Lane and the audience alike. When ABC "teased" the episode during the week leading up to the airing, they flashed through each housewife at a time when she was looking particularly vulnerable and posed the question of "Who. Will. Die?" But we already knew; in fact, we had known for weeks when everyone from Michael Ausiello to Kristin Dos Santos had been weighing in on the whys and hows. So if we tuned in, we did so to finally watch what had been promised (not through seeded plots but through tabloid reports) and see if it could live up to our wildest expectations. And it was only okay. If anything, it appeared Cherry and his merry band of writers knew what we were predicting, and instead of blowing us out of the water, they simply gave us all of the moments we speculated one on top of each other in the most OTT way. Dave did it! No, irony did it! Oh wait, you're all wrong; it was just bad luck/third time's the charm! Maybe Cherry was attempting to take the show back to its roots in camp, but it just came off feeling preposterous.

Even newb United States of Tara disappointed slightly with its first season finale. After an amazing and gut-wrenching performance by Toni Collette, who morphed from one "alter" to another effortlessly and overlappingly, we learned something that had been quite obvious since the pilot: what happened to Tara at boarding school did not cause the emergence of the alters; rather, something traumatic led up to her shipment off to boarding school-- something that had already caused the alters to start slipping out. After all, Charmaine has been whining incessantly ever since we met her that "Tara got to go to boarding school," while she had to stay at home with mom and dad and her crappy public school. The clues were all leading up to the big "click" moment, and unfortunately the show opted to make that the finale's "cliffhanger"...but these days, that is not much in the way of such a thing, and all we are left with is a feeling of not "What's next?" but instead "That's it???"
(Clip not available as episode has not screened linearly yet)

There is a very thin line these days with shows not giving enough information/investment to their audiences-- creating way more questions than they have the time or ability or interest in answering-- and giving too much too soon, to the point where audiences feel like they are being treated like slow five year olds. Personally I find the latter more infuriating: without feeling invested in the characters, I have no problems simply walking away from the show, but feeling like I'm beat over the head with things that I already know about characters I actually care about...well, that just makes me want to beat them over the head. And not in the figurative sense.

I just hope that Dean's revelation last week on Supernatural doesn't end up being that in order to save humanity, he must slay his brother...though the mano e mano fight scene would be pretty hot!

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