View Full Version : Lynch on TV series
05-28-2002, 12:50 AM
This excerpt is from an interview Filmmaker magazine did with David Lynch in Fall 2001 for MULHOLLAND DRIVE.
<!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> Lynch: Somewhere during all of this I heard that ABC, or television networks in general, had done polls and found out that a lot of people don't always watch the same show every week. They miss a couple of episodes a month. So the networks were becoming afraid of continuing stories. They wanted stories that had closure at the end of the 42 or 44 minutes...<!--EZCODE ITALIC END-->
The continuing, developing storyline is one of the more interesting aspects of television. Unfortunately it seems like Lynch is right.
Is there pressure to downplay story arcs? Is the continuing story disappearing?
05-28-2002, 04:00 AM
This is a constant struggle. And, yes, networks and studios don't want continuing arc episodes. I've had to deal with this question several times.
For one thing, Studios/Networks want the freedom to move things around if necessary. Especially in syndication. They don't want to feel tied into a particular order. Especially if they are trying to time their best episodes for sweeps.
And, yes, it is true that most studies have shown that people don't tend to watch every episode. When I was doing Xena, the research showed that people who categorized themselves as "fans" of the series watched an average of six episodes in a season. Hardcore fans (who would watch all of them) in any series are a small segment of the viewing audience. So the problem is that a continuing storyline would alienate new viewers. As new people tuned in, it would be harder for them to catch up with what has happened. Take a look at the beginning of 24 to figure out that this can be a problem. That's why the lengthy recap every week.
The fact is that every series has viewer dropoff, no matter how popular it is. The people who have been with it from the beginning eventually tire and tune into other shows. But these people (hopefully) are replaced with new viewers. New viewers tend to stay away from shows that force them to try to catch up to the plotlines. And any old viewers who strayed have less incentive to return if they feel they have lost the track. This was (in my opinion) one of the reasons why my old show, Xena, started losing more of it's audience as it went on. It was a very complicated series and it was harder to jump in as it went on.
Now, that doesn't mean that you can't have some sort of continuity. The danger of having no arc in the series is that it becomes predictable and boring. The "fans" lose interest and move away. But it has to be measured and of the type that can easily be explained or inferred within the context of the current episode. As we all know, characters have to grow. So somewhere inbetween the two is the balance that can make for good storytelling.
Every Writer wants to tell a grand epic, a novel, that spans the course of several years, arcing stories and characters into a complicated tale. But with very, very rare exceptions, it doesn't work in the Television arena.
05-28-2002, 05:49 AM
that is unfortunate... because that is what keeps me watching, having an investement in what is going on.
Networks and their need to 'move things around' is what has me practically boycotting television! If I wasn't such the addict...
ABC and the shuffling of 'Once and Again'.. it is like they were trying to lose the audience. Great writing, excellent show, but 7 moves in three seasons? They wonder why ratings drop....
Fox and 'Pasadena', 2 shows, pre-empted how many times, then yanked?
I love episodic television, I also love sitcoms, and they have an episodic approach too.... I don't know of any programing that doesn't rely on some investments in the characters.
Or do I just love tv to much?
05-28-2002, 09:05 AM
I recently read an interview with the Exec Producer on Farscape. In this interview he said that they had decided to treat the viewers like 'adults' and never recap anything other than the opening sequence. I thought at first that this was in direct conflict with the networks desire for unconected episodes, but with further thought I can see how it isn't.
Anyone who watches the show will known what is going on without being told and a first time/new viewer won't feel bogged down by lenghty recaps and get a longer show. The new viewer will likely be enticed by things going on in the show that aren't explained but accepted by the characters within the show.
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