I am about to watch the third episode of Forever.
Before I start with the traditional dead body reveal scene, I wanted to acknowledge the overall change I’m witnessing in the new series television dramas this year. At least in the few I’ve watched so far, they seem to be throwing us the character back stories right away. They feel rushed to get it all out in the first two episodes.
When you watch any new 90-ish minute long superhero reboot movie like Batman or Spiderman or Superman, they always struggle with having to bother with an origin storyline, and that can take up half the first movie, or more. Nobody seems to want to just start in the middle of the story, despite the fact that everyone knows who Superman is by now. In a TV series however, we don’t know who everyone is in the pilot episode, but we’re usually content to learn more about them over the first year. Sometimes they keep us watching specifically because we don’t learn the secrets of the characters till seasons 2 or 3.
Before settling in to watch this week’s Forever, I had watched episode 2 of Scorpion. It’s an ensemble cast of a bunch of nerds, and I expected to see character development last a few weeks at least, but it seems they feel the need to rush this process now. TV has become so competitive, and cancelations so swift, many shows each fall don’t even get a second episode. If not enough people love a show, it’s gone. Somebody must feel we can’t love a show unless we know the cast better, so they reveal everything as soon as they can.
As is often the case when I start thinking – my mind wanders to deeper meaning, and I start to evaluate the entire concept of the fall season of pilots and premiers. So many things to watch all at once, it’s almost like a Television festival in our living rooms. An epic event. Must-see TV.
I know that many pilots are reviewed and evaluated by the studios, and some make it to the fall lineup. Others are reserved for a later release, or to fill in the holes made by cancelations. It’s a science that has changed over the years, thanks to competition from cable channels and the Internet, but the big fall season is still a big deal. It’s the network new-years eve party.
It’s tougher to get a show on TV these days than acquiring valued shelf space in a supermarket for your new soft drink. I imagine a lot of personal favours are being called in, as business dealings are made. When you consider all this, you have to question why so much absolute junk makes the cut. As is often the case when I daydream like this, I come up with a conspiracy. I consider that many junk shows are produced for three base reasons. Firstly, some bad pilot shows come to air because of contract obligations. Second, some bad shows are only bad in my mind, and turn out to be great hits. I could never have predicted the success of that horrible alien sitcom The Neighbors. Network executives have a better understanding of what America likes than I do. I give the masses more credit than they deserve apparently. Married with Children ran for decades. I think however the third reason is more at play too. In order to keep TV an active participant in the entertainment wars, they need September to be a big gala event, with loads and loads of shows. Each season is filled with more shows and things to watch than they could possibly support. I think a lot of pilots are made, just to showcase a single talent or concept, but with the idea that it will fail. It’s padding. We want a lot of new stuff to premier, and they deliver.
Perhaps HUNDREDS of new shows premier, and just like the first week of American Idol, we even enjoy the clunkers. Then, week two they have even more new shows. They fight via ratings for the single Tuesday night spot available. It’s almost an interactive game viewers get to play with their public opinion. The shows the majority likes stay, and the shows we hate, vanish… with the exception of Fox science fiction shows of course. They vanish no matter how much nerds love them. It’s a mean tease Fox seems to play, giving us great shows like Firefly and Almost Human and then taking them away after only a few episodes.
Knowing the shows have to battle and beat others, and as a nation, we seem to like characters we know, they seem to have started rushing character development, hoping we’ll tune in week after week and keep a show going.
The show Forever cheated the system a bit this year, by presenting a two night, two episode opening night. If viewers came back the second day, they had us. Then they can use math and put the show in the schedule, either Monday or Tuesday depending on the numbers.
Always about those numbers.
At least Forever also has the advantage that it can tell 50 or more origin stories through each episode of the series. They rushed to tell us his basic premise – he is immortal without explanation, but we can now watch each week as they show us some of his history. Unlike a normal TV character, this guy, who looks about 30, has over 200 years of history. Thinking that through, he’s had to move around a lot. I suspect he only has 10 or so years to live anywhere before his unchanged appearance will generate too many questions. We can get a character development origin story, every week.
I’m back for episode 3.
I hope it sticks around.