Thursday, 11 November 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #629: AMC Crosses The Rubicon, Then Crosses Back

Welcome to the show folks....

AMC has canceled the first of its first crop of original dramas, the conspiracy thriller Rubicon.
Now I never saw Rubicon, but I heard many good things about it's intriguing plot, and unique style, but there was one thing I did know from the first moment I heard about it. I knew that it wasn't going to last.

I'm not saying that I thought it was a bad show, like I said, I never saw it. I just knew that it was doomed from the start no matter how good the show was.

How did I know? Did my natural brilliance spill over into the realm of clairvoyance?

No, but it was nice of you to think that.

I knew it wasn't going to last because the core of the show's premise was a conspiracy based mystery.

You see the problem of a show centered around a conspiracy is that sooner or later you're going to run out of conspiracy. You see episodic television is a great medium, but it is by it's nature episodic. It needs something to it that can be wrapped up in an hour's viewing time even if there is some sort of wider plot going on.

You see, the problem with building a show around a big multi-faceted mystery is that sooner or later, you are going to run out of mystery, and you either have to have the answers, or run the risk of completely running out of steam and alienating your viewers. Viewers can smell when a show is getting a little too wrapped up in its own mysteriousness, and will tune out, because when something is as episodic and open-ended as a TV series, they will be made to think that there is no real solution, and they're just going to get their chain jerked season in and season out.

Lost. They set up all sorts of mysteries, more and more each episode, so many that they confused and annoyed their viewers, who fled the show in droves. They only got some of them back when they promised a definitive ending to the show. Then they blatantly refused to solve 99% of the mysteries they spent the past seasons dumping on the audience, and scolded them for being stupid for wanting things neatly wrapped up, but quietly promising a few more answers if you shell out the bucks for the DVD box set. In other words, they want you to pay extra because they wrote themselves into a series of ever deeper holes.

The X Files was another example of this problem. While it maintained a more procedural structure of FBI agents investigating the paranormal it did have an over-arching sub-plot about a secret alien invasion and a government cover-up. The show caught on and became a monster hit, and was promptly doomed by its success. Unlike the people behind Lost, they actually had an ending to their story, but they couldn't use it. Instead they had to end it, restart it, and not quite end it for real when the series was finally canceled. This left the hard-core fans who were with the show from the beginning feeling alienated, annoyed and disgusted.

And those were just the successful ones, the TV landscape has a sizable cemetery of similarly themed shows, and by the way, there's an opening there for NBC's The Event.

On-going story-lines on TV need to be either wrapped up within a reasonable amount of time, with the show's premise strong enough to continue in a new direction afterward, or have the ongoing story-lines be based upon character development.

Mad Men is the perfect example of this. The staff of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce, Larry, Curly, & Moe have situations that are mostly concluded in some form, but often not permanently, within the episode, while the nature of the characters go through ongoing developments and changes.

Either that, or it's all one big conspiracy.

1 comment:

  1. Dirty McDingus sez:

    'Rubicon' was yet another tired story about a civilian Cabal that creates horrible incidents in several places to exploit the resources within. Since governmente conspiracy are so '70s, this is like 'the International' movie that wraps it all around corrupt nasty businessmen! Of which they talk about~ again~~ again~~~ again~~~~~ & again~

    There was THREE action moments withing the ENTIRE SERIES. One in the first where a train slams into another one (you see only the moment before impact there) - Two is where somebody tries to kill someone else.. Poorly - and finally somebody is killed in rather tepid '50s styles in a "dramatic" moment

    95% of the show is talking.. so if you're in the liking of 'Mad Men', perhaps this ones good for a rental.

    Or useful for insomniacs to have a Solid EIGHT sleep instantly after fifteen minutes!