Archive for October 18th, 2010

Why Episodic TV is Bad

Many times I’ve written on this blog about how much I hate episodic TV, and it’s time to come clean. Episodic TV are shows that follow a routine plot episode after episode. Most cop shows are like that, for example. I personally avoid episodic TV. I just don’t watch any of it, and I suggest you don’t either, for the reasons below.

1. Characters don’t grow
The characters never grow in such shows. The same cop you knew in season 1, it’s the same character in season 7. Even the popular House M.D., while it tries to have a back-story, it features no major character evolution. It’s still episodic TV, in disguise.

2. A single episode is not enough time to study big things
There is a reason why I like Star Trek: TNG. It is because on seasons 3-6 it would make me think about what’s ethical and what’s not, in a grander scheme. Instead of using crappy every-day themes like spouse cheating, it raised questions of privacy, technology, sociology, artificial life (and it barely managed it at 48 minutes per episode). But these are the kind of stories I want to watch about. I don’t give a damn about who cheated on who (e.g. Desperate Housewives), who ended up in a hospital full of swinging doctors (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy), or who killed who for revenge or money (e.g. CSI). These are plots that I LOOK DOWN TO. Call me a snob, call me an elitist, but these situations don’t represent me in the slightest. If I wanted to celebrate and waste my time with whatever is wrong with people today, I’d just bug the apartment of the couple next door, hoping for some dirt. Bleh.

3. Canned experience
We get the same, and the same again, and over again. A murder, an investigation, a small twist, the solution of the crime — all in 43 minutes. It insults our intelligence. Instead, I want to see grand, serialized stories, that have an impact in the whole of society, in the whole of the known world. I want to see how the heroes are working towards solving these problems for their world. Basically, I care about big problems, not about small individual hiccups of some mentally unstable people.

4. Not a stimulating art
CSIs, or Psych, are just not art. They’re just cheap shows, with cheap scripts. LOST is art — despite it’s disastrous 6th season. Firefly is art. ST:TNG is art (seasons 3-6). BSG is not bad either. These are “classic” shows because they had something big to tell us about.

There are some shows that while largely episodic, feature a strong background story — basically they’re hybrids. Stargate:Universe is such a show. I watch it, but it’s on the border of my patience. The fact that it’s sci-fi helps though.

On the other side of the story, there are serialized shows, where nothing really happens. Caprica is in fact a good example as to how a serialized sci-fi show, with all the right ingredients, that tries to ask big questions, can go bad.