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Old 03-27-2017, 01:53 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 09, 2001
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Default Why Television Shows Should Have Term Limits

Girls isnít a show I ever associated with a long-term plan, but there are clear thematic threads that itís tying up as it heads into its final stretch. That both makes what came before it simultaneously better AND worse in retrospect. Yes, you get the thrilling disconnect that comes from Hannah Horvath suddenly being the adult in the room. But you also can see all the loose ends and dead ends that litter the first five seasons. And sure, television is about the journey, not the destination. But that doesnít mean that a show can waste its time on stories and character that ultimately donít matter, either. Thatís not a singular condemnation of Girls: Thatís a condemnation of any show that filled the air with content for the sake of fulfilling a contractual obligation over telling the story that started in episode one.

And whoís to blame for that padding, ultimately? Not the showrunners, but those paying for episodes that have everything to do with syndication/streaming deals or subscription-based models. Showtime, as a notable example, has run countless fan favorites into the ground by perpetually renewing shows long past their natural due dates. What ensues is a war of attrition, in which networks and audiences have a virtual stand-off to see who will blink first. The result? Dexterís a ****ing lumberjack.

Nothing is as cut and dry as that, obviously. No oneís forcing anyone to make these shows, and everyone in every part of the entertainment ecosystem has a part to play in this cultural dťtente. Getting back to the music analogy: I love Dark Side Of The Moon as a complete entity, but I also value the skill that comes from writing a supremely catchy one-hit wonder. Why? BECAUSE THATíS ALSO SUPER DIFFICULT. If it werenít, I would have written ďCall Me Maybe,Ē and I wouldnít be writing for Pajiba, because Iíd be swimming Scrooge McDuck-style in the hot tub in my Maybe-Mobile.

Thatís why, even though it would never practically work, it would be useful to have showrunners do shows in a manner similar the way Iím training for a half-marathon this Spring. I didnít run the thirteen miles in my first attempt, because that would be lunacy and involve a trip to the hospital by mile six. I get my reps in at lower mileage, and build up (hopefully) both distance and speed until I actually finish the race. I need to learn how to pace myself at each goalpost, adapt, learn from failure, and move on. Thereís no way to equate running with creative writing, since itís much more difficult to apply lessons from one project to another, but the principle is the more or less the same: Donít attempt the impossible until itís semi-possible.

All of this isnít meant to curb the number of serialized shows, but make them more accessible and ultimately more successful. In the asynchronous age of TV consumption (which is already almost completely here), are you more likely to catch up on two three-season shows that friends have told you were really great, or one six-season show that had flabby spots in most seasons and downright sucked in season five when it was clearly padding itself in order to tell the REAL endgame? Even if that sixth season towered over anything in the other two hypothetical shows, what it comes down to is minute-by-minute investment. Thereís increasingly lesser time to devote to making or consuming these shows anymore: Isnít it wiser to make each hour watching them count more?

Each episode of Girls this season is top-to-bottom quality. Iíve never been more engaged with the show, because it has never felt like the show was this engaged with telling its story. If it takes getting to the end to raise that urgency, isnít it better to get to the end sooner rather than later? Thereís value in spending years with fictional characters. But if that time is spent out of inertia rather than engagement, then itís wasted time. And with so little time in any of our lives to waste, the shows that understand their limits and execute within those parameters at the highest levels at all times are the ones Iíll always value over the ones that promise me things will pay off, eventually, just wait, we have a plan, youíll see.
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