Last summer's TV season left us with some great cliffhangers. Consider just the shows I followed:
"Veronica Mars": The plucky girl P.I. solved her best friend's murder, but her boyfriend might've been beaten to death by bikers. And who was it at the door?
"Battlestar Galactica": The President was tossed in jail, there were naked Boomer clones everywhere, and Commander Adama was shot twice in the chest in front of everyone.
"Lost": The raft was blown up, Sawyer was shot, Walt was abducted and Locke blew the hatch open.
"24": Jack Bauer saved the world, but was killed. Again.
"Alias": Sydney Bristow and her immediate family saved the world from her extended family. And Vaughn revealed he wasn't Vaughn...just before getting bashed in a car wreck.
Excitement! Intrigue! Body count! Can't wait!
But four months into the new season, and I'm only three of those shows are still on my must-see list. "Alias" and "Lost" have dropped off my radar due to a serious lack of interest. Not mine, but that of both series' creator, J.J. Abrams.
"Alias" debuted back in 2001, and while it was never a breakout show, it did garner a following. I was lured into it by friends who praised the snappy writing, the snarky bad guys and bad-ass Jack Bristow, and soon I was hooked.
By the start of season four, "Alias" was starting to suffer. Too much "been there, done that, worn the wig." Abrams was nothing but a name in the credits; he was preoccupied with reinventing Superman. Writing and plotting were handled by minions. The infiltration-of-the-week storylines were wearing thin, and I only watched sporadically.
Then "Lost" premiered, and all was forgiven. If "Alias" was an occasional mindfuck, "Lost" was a non-stop mental orgy. Where did the polar bear come from? Who was the crazy French lady in the recording? What's under the hatch? Are there others on the island?
Two episodes into the current season, and most of those questions were answered. Going down the hatch was like Dave sleeping with Maddie. Then, instead of ratcheting up the post-hatch tension, "Lost" became a collection of soul-searching flashbacks about one Lostaway after another. When they ran out of first-season characters, they gave us the Tailies so we could have MORE soul-searching flashbacks.
The repetitive nature of these episodes reminds me too much of "Alias" post-Abrams. The man himself is busy shooting Mission: Impossible 3 and developing a new pilot for ABC. Busy, busy! What a work ethic! I can understand the desire to get ahead, to move on to bigger and better things. And, in truth, "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof has had a far larger hand in the show's development. But it's Abrams who's been the man in demand since the show found its wings, so he's my designated deadbeat dad. If the show continues to drift aimlessly, my finger is pointed at no one else.
Abrams isn't been the only easily distracted writer/producer out there. Joss Whedon pulled the same stunt several years ago when he pulled up stakes from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and sunk them into "Angel," only to leave the whole Buffyverse behind shortly thereafter for "Firefly."
Chaos ensued. "Buffy" meandered through two dismal seasons and "Angel" stopped being about the titular character almost entirely. "Firefly" was cancelled after only 11 episodes, leaving an seemingly apologetic Whedon to write cast members into the other two series, both of which were in their final seasons. Would "Buffy" still be on the air if Whedon hadn't decided to diversify? Tough call, what with Sarah Michelle Gellar chomping at the bit to do Scooby Doo 3. But you never know.
I would love to fault Chris Carter's preoccupation with other projects ("Millenium," "Harsh Realm," "The Lone Gunmen") with the putrefaction of "The X-Files" during its last couple of seasons, but his hands were all over it the whole time. So it's entirely his fault, no qualifiers. (His c.v. on IMDB shows he's done nothing since. I want to believe that he's in a dimly lit room being tortured by Alex Krycek.)
Nothing on television lasts forever, with the exception of "60 Minutes" and "Sesame Street." Most new shows are lucky to last a season, let along four or five. Prodcos try and scratch out enough episodes for a syndication deal or fill out a DVD set.
But that's a fate that somehow seems ignoble for smartly-written, well-acted and cleverly-plotted shows like "Buffy" or "Alias" or "Lost" which challenged the staid standards of procedurals and prime-time soaps. They were gifted children left to the care of a drunk uncle; without nurturing, they got stupid and apathetic...fast.
Is the yin of creative genius necessarily tempered by the yang of a short attention span? I confess I suffer from it; I've got pages and pages of begun-but-never-finished stories and screenplays, all quickly set aside when another new idea popped into my head, demanding all my energies. But unlike Abrams, Whedon, et al, I'm not on a global stage, pulling golden stories out of a hat and tossing them over my shoulder to land where they may, smug in the belief that the hat is deep.
So my plea goes out to Ron Moore, the producer, writer and director of "Battlestar Galactica," and Rob Thomas, creator, writer and producer of "Veronica Mars": Don't abandon your offspring. You've both got critically-acclaimed shows on niche networks, and you know how much you struggled to get renewed for a second season. Don't blow it by letting some underling run the show, or you'll find yourself reduced to playing "Copy Shop Manager" on someone else's show or providing craft services for an entourage of Scientologists, all the while watching helplessly as your progeny is ruthlessly ridiculed on web forums around the world.
Please...think of the children!
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
1.23.06 @ 5:50a
Not wanting to give spoilers to back up my opinion, I'll just say Galactica seems to be starting to skate on thin ice with this season, but I'm not willing to give up just yet.
1.23.06 @ 7:58a
The same can be said for departure of Adam Sorkin:
The new president on "The West Wing" will be a real short-timer: NBC announced Sunday it was pulling the plug on the Emmy-winning political drama after seven seasons in May.
NBC, struggling to regain its footing after the worst season in its history, also outlined several midseason schedule changes including the moves of popular dramas "Law & Order" and "Las Vegas."
"The West Wing" announcement wasn't much of a surprise. Although this season's story line with a presidential campaign involving a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and Republican portrayed by Alan Alda has been strong critically, ratings have sunk with its move to Sunday nights.
The series finale will be May 14, preceded by a one-hour retrospective. The campaign to replace the fictional Josiah Bartlet as president will be settled, NBC said.
The only show that ever did well on Sunday nights was "Murder, She Wrote."
Oh, yeah, and "60 Minutes."
1.23.06 @ 8:01a
When all else fails, there's always Netflix.
1.23.06 @ 9:33a
The Simpsons has been on Sunday night for quite some time.
1.23.06 @ 10:05a
Damn you Battlestar spoilers!
1.23.06 @ 10:07a
It is actually pretty lucky that I just watched that finale just this weekend. I don't think I've been hit with a Wham! episode like that in a long, long time.
1.23.06 @ 11:05a
I have only seen the mini and just now watched the 1st two eps of season 1. What ep is the show up to?
1.23.06 @ 11:12a
Season 2, Episode...13? I think that's accurate.
You've got a long way to go.