When I was a kid, I’d rush home from school, just in time to catch the latest 10 minute episode of Rocket Man, serialized on the Magic Tom show, an after-school kids’ program on local Montreal TV. There was an addictive overtone to this metered dosing of pleasure, and like a drug, missing a dose, while painful, also meant that I was less likely to catch the next episode….each missed dose was part of breaking the dependence on my “drug”.
Modern TV largely plays the same delicate balancing act, hooking you with a serialized approach while trying to minimize the impact of missing an episode. Think Lost, Dexter, and a host of other popular shows. I’m sure the network moguls have done the research and I can only assume that it demonstrates an overall positive effect on viewership. But it doesn’t work for me. For example if I don’t catch a series from the very beginning, then I’m virtually assured to never watch it; the loss of storyline continuity is too tough, regardless of how many pre-show synopses they try to do.
I still prefer shows with stand-alone stories and characters that don’t develop too much. IMHO character development is a poor substitute for a lack of story creativity and writing. Another bugaboo is the countless lab and autopsy-room scenes in crime shows. Frankly, watching techs fill pipettes and run Mass Specs gets old really fast. I suspect that if you take out the lab scenes and commercials, the average crime show is only about 30 minutes long….that sure doesn’t leave much room for story development, and it’s probably a good thing since there seems to be a dearth of any creativity on modern television (with some exceptions).