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Monday, 31 May 2010

Why I Hate the Networks (With reference to the Flashforward Series Finale)

Last night, the final episode of Flashforward was aired in the UK, just over a month after it was originally scheduled to end. What I want to know is this: What’s with all these shows getting cancelled?

Seriously, why is it that so many shows these days are cut short without a chance to wrap things up? I mean, fair enough, the networks don’t want to spend loads of money making a show that’s not getting many views, but can’t they at least give the creators a chance to tie up all the loose ends, or something? Or couldn’t the creators film an alternate finale, just in case they do get cancelled?

As you may have guessed – Flashforward ended on a massive cliffhanger, and now that the cancellation of the show has been confirmed, it means we will never see what the creators intended to happen immediately after the season comes to an end. And I just hate that.

Obviously, reality TV shows such as America’s Got Talent or the X Factor are far cheaper to make than these dramas, and get a lot more views; but do we really want the television industry to turn into nothing but reality TV and dirt-cheap soaps? Why is it that all the actual hour-long dramas are being cancelled?

because fuck you that%2527s why Pictures, Images and Photos
"Because fuck you, that's why"

This season alone, we’ve seen the cancellation of Flashforward, 24 and Lost (although I have heard from some sources that Lost was always set to end after 6 seasons – I’m just going on how it was reported when the end of the show was announced), and we don’t seem to have anything in the works to replace them. Now, granted, I haven’t been watching 24 since season 6, and have never watched an episode of Lost (only clips), so that’s not too much of a tragedy from my perspective – but I was rather hoping that Flashforward would go on a bit longer.

I mean, sure, often the writing is just plain retarded, and it’s not the best show on television; but come on – it’s enjoyable, it’s got plenty of action, and it’s intelligent enough that you don’t turn it off when a stupid moment does arise. On top of this, the way the entire season was structured leading up to the events of the original Flashforward remained suspenseful in spite of the fact that after the 7th episode (when it was proved the future could be changed) - when I was thinking “How the hell are they going to carry this on now that we know for sure none of the visions are certain to come true?” – It did carry on, and in fact got better for the most part, after this. But for it to end as it did, just bothers me so much, because now I know we’ll never find out what happens next.

Is it THIS? I Honestly don't know!

And you know what the most annoying thing is about this? That the networks do it so fucking much! Almost every show I try watching gets cancelled – and this just leaves me wondering if I should just say “fuck it”, and give up on TV for good.

WARNING: If you search for "Fuck it" on Google images, you WILL be linked to THIS!

About a week after Flashforward started airing in the UK, we also got another American show, Defying Gravity, appear on BBC. This featured Ron Livingston (from Band of Brothers) as an astronaut on a mission round the Solar System in the future, and this was also cancelled – after just 13 episodes.

Now granted, the writing on Defying Gravity wasn’t any better than on Flashforward; it cut between training and the actual mission, and always has the crew just somehow making use of the thing we see them learn in training on the actual mission; just like how in the Harry Potter books, he is always conveniently taught the exact thing he needs to know in classes just before he actually has to use it. But you know what? I like that format – because it’s not just a wild coincidence – they’re astronauts, they’ve had years of training – so we’re only shown the bits relevant to what’s happening! The show had fairly complex characters for TV, and we would see a little more of the backstory each week as the mission progressed, and it looked like the show had the potential to run for quite a few seasons. And then it was cancelled – right when we finally find out what’s going on with the mission, and learn the big secret that sets out the entire next season for us. And I was so pissed off!

The problem is – the creators of shows these days don’t like to write just one season, and have done with it. There’s too much emphasis on having a show that can just run and run. And that means that if shows want to have a complex story arc, we are always going to have cases like this where they get cancelled, and we’re only left with half, or even a quarter, of the story! Imagine if you had a DVD player (or Blu-Ray player for you rich bastards out there) that cut off whenever you got 20 minutes into a film. Would you watch films on there anymore? That is exactly how I am starting to feel about TV, because essentially we have 3 types of show these days:

1. Simple, formulaic, could end at pretty well any point because no real over-arching story.

2. Complex, grand stories that will be incredible to watch unfold; and which will never make it to the second season.

3. Show with really clever over-arching story that ends after one season, and therefore will not disappoint if no sequel is made.

Unsurprisingly, I can only think of one TV show that fits into category 3 that’s been made recently: The Wire. No other show has that style of story where you have to watch every episode of the season to be on top of it, and it’s incredible to see everything unfold, and yet you could just watch the first season, and need never watch any further. No other show does that! Sure, we have The Pacific, which ran for just one season and has no option to run on any further – but The Wire was the only show that had the same story-telling value as a one season show, but managed to run to 5 seasons and stay interesting. Not only that, but you can stop watching The Wire at the end of ANY season, and it will still be seemingly wrapped up at the end. And that’s what makes it so great.


But can you imagine The Wire being shown on any channel other than HBO? And can you imagine what it would be like if EVERY show was like The Wire? It just wouldn’t work. And consequently, we have to deal with this cancellation problem which, as I’ve already said; pisses me off!

Picture this; of the shows that I really enjoy watching, or that I make time to watch, the only non-HBO one that hasn’t been cancelled at this point is House, M.D. – I literally watch nothing else now!

27/4... or whatever that saying is.

I did watch the first season of the show “Shark” when that was on, and a couple of episodes of season 2, but that was cancelled after the second season and no-one even knows why – it had good ratings; CBS just decided they didn’t want any more episodes. But that’s fine – Shark didn’t need to carry on, because it was always wrapped up at the end of each episode, like House. But there are other shows that DID need to continue:

Take MillenniuM, for example: MillenniuM was a brilliant show which led to the creation of all these cheap, light, rip-offs such as CSI, etc. MillenniuM was one of the few shows that was truly dark in places, and told some of the best stories on television. And yet, it was cancelled after the third season, with only 200-odd days left before the turn of the millennium anyway.

Now, the ending of MillenniuM did sort of wrap things up: after all, we see Frank and Jordan fleeing to go into hiding, Emma Hollis being made a group member, and Peter Watts apparently dead in his office (although had it carried on I would not have been surprised if it turned out it wasn’t him) – but there were still so many unanswered questions, and so much they could have done with the story!

But MillenniuM again is fairly self-contained, not needing to run for any longer than it did, because it was explained as far as it absolutely needed to be. Sure, we still wanted answers, but you could leave it as it was and it still made sense. Harsh Realm, however, did not have this luxury:

Harsh Realm was another Ten-Thirteen production from around the same time (also featuring Terry O’Quinn), which told the story of a soldier who is sent into a virtual world to stop a terrorist who has taken over this world, from destroying the real world, and forcing everyone to become a slave under him in this virtual reality. It was a great concept, and I suspect that after The Matrix started doing really well soon after the show was finished, Fox regretted cancelling it, and wished they’d advertised it as being more like The Matrix. But this series was abandoned after just 9 episodes – leaving us without a clue of what was meant to happen after! Does Hobbs ever kill Santiago? Does he ever get out of the game? Is Santiago’s plan to destroy the real world successful? We don’t know!

Flashforward leaves questions just like these – but it’s especially annoying because the final episode was so clearly set up to lead into season 2! There is another Flashforward in the last couple of minutes, and we see the future once again – obviously seeing the end point of the show’s run had it been allowed to continue further. Not only this, but we see Janis being taken away by some mystery figure (or possibly it was the terrorist woman she was working with earlier? My memory isn’t really good enough to say…), and the building Mark Benford was in explode. Combined with his daughter’s vision where she says “they found him!”, this suggested to me that there was a good chance our main protagonist was going to be written out of the storyline for a while, whilst the other characters took centre stage, and I would actually be really looking forward to seeing how they handled that: If it hadn’t been CANCELLED!!!!

What’s more is that there were clues in the first season as to what was supposed to happen later in the show. Dyson Frost’s board which was wiped clean in the same episode that featured Demitri in that retarded trap that was ridiculously easy to escape compared to the way they showed in the show, had all the possible forking paths right up to 2012 on it – and it would have been interesting to see how these unfolded.

Maybe Janis just gets even MORE Emo?

Unfortunately, if you try and discuss with people what you think would have happened, you just get met by idiots who think where it says “King’s Gambit” it actually says “Cambit” (What is a Cambit, anyway? Doesn’t sound like a word to me – and Microsoft Word doesn’t think it is, either! Then again, Microsoft word thinks “colour” isn’t a word, so maybe that’s not the most reliable source), and say dumb things like “it didn't look to me like Demitri had any restraints holding him in place in that chair” – despite the fact it was CLEARLY a pressure-sensitive chair that was rigged up to the gun. Hello?

Quite Clearly pressure sensitive...

Still, maybe it’s for the best that we’ll never know what was meant to happen: After all, now I can just imagine the story as I would like it to unfold, as opposed to how the creators felt it should. I mean, for all I know they were going to have it so Mark and Demitri died in the car crash in the first episode, and they’re dead throughout the entire show. But then, there’s no way the creator of Lost and the writer of The Dark Knight would do something THAT retarded with their show, right?

picard facepalm Pictures, Images and Photos


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