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March 24, 2007

Making it Up

Salon has an interview with BSG creator, Ron Moore. There are a couple questions they ask him that I find interesting.

First, they ask about the difficulty in keeping an audience for a serialized drama. How can you pick up new viewers when it's essentially impossible for someone to start watching from the middle.

When asked how they deal with this challenge on BSG, Moore says "I don't. It's a genuine problem I have no solution for ... It's certainly not something [the network is] in love with." And he goes on to say "We've done a few stand-alone episodes here and there, and they're almost never very successful."

True that.

Second, they ask about how planned out the season arcs are and how much is changed on the fly. While the major story arcs are planned "as you do it you find that there's this other more interesting path." When asked for an example of something that resulted from this organic approach, he says "In this season's finale, I decided on the fly to give Laura her cancer back."

Boo! Just slapping someone with the cancer stick at the last minute is some weak-ass soap opera bullshit.

But more importantly, HBO's The Wire has shown there's a better way to deal with serialized drama. You treat the whole season as a single piece and tell one, 12-hour story. No one gets cancer at the last minute and you don't have stand alone episodes.

Yes, this is probably only sustainable for the shorter seasons that premium TV allows. But I'd be so much more happy with BSG if they'd kept to the momentum they had back at the end of season 1/beginning of season 2.

In short, the way in which to make serialized drama work is to not treat it as a serial. Consider the whole thing long-form fiction and make a complete (if slightly shorter) story out of a single season.

2 comments:

Nelson said...

Agreed entirely about the value of having a serial drama have an end. BSG sort of does this in that each season has a story arc, but they pad it out in the middle with crap that doesn't work.

But the best show to have stories that end is 24. And that's network television, a full 18 or 24 episode season. Yeah, it's way over the top, but the fact that it comes to an end makes it work. Even so they sometimes run out of material and have to fill.

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