Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 7: Hanging Threads

How do I put this? This took me awhile to come up with the proper title to this post. As I took the time to add more thoughts to this, I revised the title several times. Originally, this was called “The Killing of Interesting Storylines.” That’s the gist of what I initially talked about, but I wanted to expand on those thoughts. I also wanted to have a title that was briefer — within 70 characters for those with at least some basic SEO knowledge— yet still encapsulated the ideas I wanted to express.

The Types of Hanging Threads to Which I’m Referring

Basically, I’m complaining about storylines that were either unresolved (read: dropped entirely and/or completely unfair, with respect to other characters) and those that were teased yet unrealized, and characters that were dropped entirely.

Come to think about it, the term “hanging threads” could also be used also be used to described promising or good shows that were cancelled prematurely. However, but I’ve already talked about those. Again I am referring to are certain types of storylines that have left me hanging.

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Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 6: Life and Death

In certain dramas, life and death can oft be treated with a general carelessness. One character may be killed off for flimsy reasons or another may be brought back from the afterlife. In either case, their death (and life) are being cheapened. It takes away the impact of the moment and ruins the suspension of disbelief moving forward.

Heartless Deaths

When I use the term, “heartless death,” there are at least three scenarios I’m referring to. There might be more, but these

Scenario 1

An actor might clash with another actor, a writer, or a producer. As a result, that first actor’s character is written off the show (and most likely killed off). That character’s death may be announced in passing or happen in a quick, unemotional way. This is an outgrowth of awful writing and/or pettiness.

The first scenario was the case with Valerie Harper, the star of Valerie’s Family. She wanted more money and as a result, the titular character was killed offscreen. The show became The Hogan Family, and it sucked so bad imo, that I refused to watch any of those reruns.

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Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 5: Diminishing Returns

Have you ever watched a drama, comedy, or variety show that you found highly entertaining, ultimately to see it sharply decline in quality before being canceled? This might not be the case for all shows, as there are other ways a show can be ruined beyond repair. Maybe it’s been on too long or the head writer left after a few seasons. In any event, the program will lose all things that initially attracted you to it, leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Running Shows into the Ground

This is pretty much the complete opposite of premature cancellation. In this case, a show is kept on too long only for each season to decline sharply in quality.

Now, experts may differ over the amount of years shows would need to last in order to be considered successful. It really depends, as some writing teams only have plans to tell certain stories in less time than others. Hence, a show would be run into the ground as producers and network executives would push to have a show meant for only a 3-season run to last for more than double that. As such, the writers will run out of ideas and the characters — who may have been fully developed during the natural lifespan of the series — may run in circles or be pushed to act out of character along the way.

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Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 4: Premature Cancellation

More specifically, when I say premature cancellation, I’m referring to the abrupt end to good or promising shows. To be even more specific, I’m talking about most programs that are cancelled after one season and short of at least 3 years. Dramas first come to mind. Of course, there may be a few comedies in there, as well as variety and clip shows.

Over the years, I have seen a number of well-written shows get pulled off the air without so much as an explanation. At the same time, truly awful shows have been allowed to stay on past their expiration dates. This may be due to ratings or viewer feedback — or the flat-out disregard for them either way.

Is Premature Cancellation is All about Ratings?

Partially. Often, we get this story that the premature cancellations were based on ratings. As many of us know, ratings are analyzed by demographics; in particular, networks want to see how much of the 18-49 market their shows attract. It boils down to money, as advertisers are trying to reach the 18-49 market (which represents ages of consumers in years). This is supposed to be the group that drives consumerism or something like that.

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Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 3: Clip Shows, Et Al.

I generally don’t watch most of these shows, although I will catch a few episodes from time to time. From the three genres, I generally like clip shows more, but it depends on the format. After clip shows, I can tolerate prank shows to a degree, depending on [who is doing] the acting. Fake reality shows are low on my list, so I will cover those last.

Clip Shows

Before I delve into this, I would like to be more specific about the types of clips shows I’m talking about. There are four kinds of clips shows you might see on television:

  • Viewer Contributions: These that are basically in the style of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” where people seen in home videos or personal events they taped for the shear hilarity. Since more and more video footage is being shared on the Internet, shows were created to address that, too.
  • Amateur Video: These are in the style of “When Animals Attack,” whereas those who film events that are often jarring and otherwise lack humor in and of themselves.
  • Sitcom or Drama Montages: These can occasionally be seen on serial programs as characters and actors flashback to important or favorite scenes, as well as share some behind-the-scenes and bloopers.
  • “Round Table” Discussions: These in the style of “I Love the 80s” or any show on MTV, VH1, or ESPN whereas celebrities and comedians comment on past events.

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Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 2: Reality TV

Why do I hate reality television? Let me begin with a story.

It’s About MTV

On August 2, 1981, a glorious cable network was launched. Its first offering was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Music Video Television featured a wide assortment of videos and awesome personalities (known as VJ’s) to introduce them. However, much of that started to come to an end the moment it introduced The Real World.

The Real World was a show created by MTV by accident. The original pitch was to create a soap opera for the network, but they couldn’t afford writers and could only afford so much to pay real actors. As the idea “evolved,” there was the agreement to find perfect strangers and let them live with each other for a short period.

I never liked The Real World, tbqh. Even years after that show was created, MTV would have awesome shows (like Liquid Television, Daria, and other things where music celebrities would pay a visit) but neglect those programs. Specifically, MTV would move Daria around the schedule while they played the shit out of Real World, especially on Fridays. And the show lives on. Now called Real World, its 31st season was set to start in 2015.

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Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 1: Network Decay

To borrow a term from TVTropes, Network Decay is what happens when a network moves from its primary objective. A cable network can be created and be dedicated to one type of programming but then move from that premise — and the intended core demographic — over time.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Ratings
  • The era or necessity.
  • Competition, particularly with streaming services.
  • The absolute hubris of executives.

Ratings Can Dictate What Networks Show

Of course, networks always consider ratings, particularly for irregular programs that might have been featured from time to time. Perhaps a cable network dedicated to finances shows a sporting event one year. What if the network then shows five more the following year and it is determined that those sporting events garnered far more viewers than the regular programming? While there might be a complete shift in the network’s approach in the future, less time may be given to the regular programming. Given more time and more success with the sporting events, the channel might be completely unrecognizable.

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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 710 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.