Friday, February 10, 2006

On storytelling in prime time television...

So, this may delve into the absurd or ridiculous, but, besides sports and Sunday morning news magazines I make time to watch only 3 television shows. Rescue Me, The OC, and Scrubs. I used to make no apologies about liking the OC. It was a soap opera but well written. You wanted to see the characters succeed. You wanted to see them happy. And despite the claims that it was a teenager show, it never really was. The storylines with the "adults" in the show were just as important. And often times more intiguing. This was helped along, in no small part, by Sandy Cohen being one of the best TV dads of all time. However this year has been testing my last nerve.

As a writer for these shows, I gotta imagine it's not easy. You gotta keep enough drama and suspense going week to week to have people want to come back. The OC is a drama, and you need the suspense, the suprise, and the misfortunes to keep the show going. But there is a fine line between keeping that going and just screwing with the viewer so often that he stops caring. For instance, in the OC we have Ryan and Marrissa. From the first show we had him as kid from the wring side of tracks and her as beautiful girl next door. This seems to have been one of the key storyline from the beginning and if you even go back and watch the first episode it seems like a bedrock relationship of the show. It just seems that there is no other logical way for the show to eventually end than with Ryan and Marissa together. Granted, I am sappier than most when it comes to this stuff, but I think most viewers would feel the same way.

So, why then are the writers rehashing the same old storylines and obstacles for those two with nothing ever completely resolved. This entire season, to my recollection there has not been a two episode run where these two have been happy. Does this sound ridiculous yet, that I am posting this long that I have thought this much about the OC? Good, it get's more ridiculous. Just wait.

As a viewer of a tv show, a movie, a play, a reader of a book, whatever you want to choose, you need to care about the characters, about their well being in order to stick through the story. There may be some people out there who choose to watch/read stories just to see people they don't care for suffer, but I haven't met too many. More often than not a viewer makes a connection with a character and wishes the best for them and wants to see them happy. This seems to be lost on the writers of the OC, all of the sudden. They have taken one of the bedrock relationships of the show and put the characters through the ringer. A few weeks back I was hopeful that something would happen which would give Ryan and Marissa temporary reprieve and temporary happiness. Now, after everything that has gone on, the situations they have put those two characters through, and the way they have reacted it's almost at the point of no return. It's as if, were they to suddenly work it out as a viewer you are so angry about the situation you have stopped caring. That's playing with a viewers head after you had made them take a liking to the characters before. And really, that's just poor, irresponsible writing if you want to keep viewers. It may be where the show has gone wrong, and it may leave setting time aside for only two shows in the future.

I told you this was gonna be ridiculous.


D. Spiegel said...

yep, ridiculous.

scot said...

your insightful comments have me rethinking some of my original thoughts, d. thanks. :)