The New Viewer Fallacy of TV

Short remarks:

I think you know this problem: there is this show that’s been going on for a while now and your friends tell you to watch it. You give it a shot, maybe even several episodes, but it is not for you. So you give up on it. It’s simply a bad show.

Then something dreadful happens. No, the show does not get cancelled and reduces your friends who stuck with it to tears. No, the show starts getting good, or at least your friends tell you it has gotten good.

If we are talking about network television this will mean a show that has gotten good in its second season will have 20-26 episodes in the can so far, 20-26 hours of storyline. Even if it is not completely serialized as a cable show with 13 episodes. In many ways a cable show that you are told to watch because it’s gotten really good is even worse, because those are literally 13 episodes of story you need to catch up on.

This is why there are still so many shows out there that are not completely serialized, at most lightly serialized, or have maybe 10 out of 26 episodes that are story related. This allows us to catch up. But is it really worth it? From a viewer perspective, should I need to sit through a season or two to catch up to the storyline and drag myself through all the bad stuff? Sure, you can read a summary on Wikipedia but we all know that this doesn’t give you the emotional connection necessary for the inevitable highs your friends keep telling you about. And from the perspective of a fan or showrunner?

From a storyteller and a fan perspective alike, it is also a problem you are facing. You try to get better and better, but you need to remember one thing: you are not doing this for new viewers, and as a viewer you won’t be able to bring new people in. This era of television has come and gone. There were times where this was possible because there was negative continuity going on, but those days have gone past even in un-serialized storytelling. If the show is still getting better than that is probably to keep its current fanbase happy and tuned in. A show is 99% more likely to lose its audience, rather than gain more viewers. So maybe we should just stop trying so hard to get people interested and instead value the shows ourselves. In the end, television is fleeting and there’ll always be other shows that deserve ones attention much more than ones that we simply care not about. Consider this me absolving you of having to stick it out with a show.



Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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