Earlier this week on her blog, Patti Abbott asked for, “One Suggestion For Improving TV Shows,” and offered her own; stop having a scene with each major cast member on your show each week that utilizes their one major character trait.
An excellent suggestion. And one of the commenters, Randy Johnson, pointed out that most shows don’t have any real character development because when they’re shown in syndication it’s sometimes out of order and they need to stand-alone. I guess it’s the same for series novels.
Except in many novel series these days there are huge events that change everything.
I mentioned in my review of Giles Blunt’s latest book that the wife of the main character dies in book number three. On the weekend I read a review of the fifth book in Louise Penny’s series and found out that one of the characters I really liked in the first three books (the gay owner of the B&B) is the murderer in book four. If you read these series out of order they’ll still be really good books but your impressions of the characters will be different than if you read the books in order.
My one season in a TV writers’ room isn’t much experience but what the hell, I’m going to make some sweeping statements anyway; this episodic vs. serial approach comes up everyday but no one really believes it.
On The Bridge we were told the show had to be episodic, each episode had to be completely close-ended and stand alone.
Then we’d get notes like, “We like the Russian mobster, can you use him again?”
The answer, of course, is yes, we’d love to develop that character some more so we put him in the next script. And then the note would come back that we’ll have to explain who he is, so we can’t really develop the character because every time he shows up we’re starting from scratch.
At the moment I can’t think of a truly episodic show – just degrees of serialization. And it seems the longer a show runs, the more serialized it becomes.
So I wonder, why can’t we just admit that’s the way it’s going and start there?
Does anyone prefer more episodic shows or stand-alone novels?