Rather than being able to sleep last night, this is the crap I was thinking about when I went to bed, so I figured I would write a bit about it this morning. Recently I downloaded Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, a serial from 1941. I like the old serial cliffhangers of the ’40s and ’50s. Obviously they are not as “realistic” and edgy, but they still kick ass. And they make you watch the entire thing. No resolution until the end, instead of a neat little encapsulation in each show. With a few exceptions, most of the television that I grew up watching in the ’70s and ’80s was like that. Encapsulated. Each hour-long show (not counting the 30 minute sit-coms) began and ended in one showing, occasionally being a two-parter.
For the most part, I am not a real big television watcher. I set up my PC to record movies, which I like, and then there are a handful of shows that I like to watch, even look forward to. TV (mostly premium cable channels) marketing execs seem to be getting it right now. They are going back to what I consider the serial model. With shows that have a clear beginning and end in the same night, if you are busy for a couple of weeks, which I might be with running a 24 hour restaurant, it’s easy to lose interest and forget about whatever you thought might be a good show. The ones that I enjoy, I have set to record, and look forward to watching, and DON’T want to miss. If you miss just one episode you are fucked. The Sopranos have gotten like that, and Deadwood, both on HBO. Carnivale was on for two seasons, and I liked that one as well. Even though it is very popular, I like LOST. It’s the same way. You can’t miss too many without wondering what the fuck happened. As an example of the other end, I loved MASH as a kid. Watched it with my parents all the time, but it doesn’t matter where you pick up in the entire run of the series. That’s why it does so well in syndication. Except for the cast changes that occurred, you can pick up anywhere in the several year run and not have missed anything.
Recently I have been watching Millennium on DVD from the late ’90s. It was right on the edge of being back in the serials. Each episode had a clear beginning and end, but also progressed toward something (plus it is creepy as hell, which is why I really like it). Chris Carter does creepy shows. I have enjoyed most of the stuff that he has done. He seemed to see that to hook people, you had to make them want to come back next week to find out what’s gonna happen.
One other wildly popular show that I have watched the last two seasons is 24. It is definitely a serial right out of the early to mid 1900’s. An entire season that encompasses one 24 hour period. It’s certainly not the greatest show on TV, it’s very unrealistic, and almost fucking stupid, but it’s very addictive.
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