The End of TV?

I recently learnt of the cancellation of another show I followed; Person’s Unknown. A mystery show around a single storyline. Add to that other recent cancellations of V, The Event, Flashforward and you’ve got a whole load of enjoyable shows that keep their audience on the promise of answering the mysteries that ended up annoying and frustrating those that bothered to follow the show.

Imagine if Lost had been cancelled after the penultimate season. How many people would have written off watching TV altogether from then on?

My greatest frustration is that I enjoyed knowing what was new and coming each year to our televisual landscape, and much like millions of others, gave my trust to the network and producers to tell a full story. Instead, an investment of time, and regular viewing is rewarded by being left on a cliffhanger in annoyance.

A few years ago, I wrote a pilot for a British show called Spores, which was an ongoing storyline that I had planned out in my head over 5 seasons of 6 episodes. Sure, the whole story would have been great to view, with twists and turns that looked back even at the early points, but while I’d only written the script for the first episode, the storylines were designed so that the show could be cancelled after any season and have a proper ending. Generally, by the end of the first season it is clear whether or not a show is coming back (indeed it was clear with most of the aformentioned shows before the airing of the season finale that they weren’t renewed) and Spores essentially ended each season, with a further short scene teasing the continuation for the end that could be left in should it be renewed. How would this be difficult to do for an American TV show?

The real trouble is that with the proliferation of more ongoing stories and mystery style shows, audiences will feel more and more betrayed by networks not finishing their shows properly. Personally I’m finding it harder and harder to start a new show when I have no idea whether or not it will end. Imagine how we would have all felt should they have just made the first two Lord of the Rings films, or never ended the Matrix trilogy (actually some people might have preferred that). I’m nearly at the stage where I’m just going to wait until the shows are over, and figure out whether it’s worth watching then, and buying on DVD. If more people do this, ratings will go down, advertising revenues will reduce, and less shows will ever be completed. Unless networks and producers deal with cancellation better, I can’t see this ending well. Which sounds like one of their shows.

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