Peak TV and serialization in the wake of the Game of Thrones finale

So… how about that Game of Thrones finale?

Okay, let me cut through the icy, awkward silence, and start over.

We live in the Age of Peak TV, or that’s what all the smart websites tell me: Peak TV this, Peak TV that. The House that HBO and The Sopranos Built has become the castle that looks down upon all of us.

So why is everybody so miserable?

The article continues after these advertisements...

In case you’ve been living under a cave, the series finale of Game of Thrones has been extremely polarizing. People have taken to the internet to share their hot takes about how the show went off the rails, jumped the shark, destroyed childhoods, and every other bit of hyperbole that fans go to when a TV show lets them down.

Pictured: Game of Thrones fans’ reactions to the finale.

I’ll leave alone the fact that if people dedicated as much of their passion and energy toward solving problems in their community as they do toward the TV they watch, the world would be a better place. This isn’t to shit on Game of Thrones fans; Well, not entirely. I may take a potshot or two, but I’m married to a Game of Thrones fan, so my happiness depends on diplomacy. Believe it or not, there was a version of this essay in my head that would have went something like this:

Dear Game of Thrones fans,

Fuck off!

You think you’re the first group of fans to be disappointed in a finale? Since The Sopranos, fan base after fan base has taken to the internet after their particular finale wasn’t up to snuff. From Lost, to How I Met Your Mother, to Dexter, people keep losing their shit because the last episode of their favorite TV show wasn’t the best. Grow up and get a spine already!!!

But I thought better of it. Frankly, I’m not one to judge. I’ve bitched about TV shows taking narrative turns I didn’t like before. Full disclosure: I didn’t really watch Game of Thrones. I read the books it’s based on, and I did watch the last season with my wife. She was disappointed, but she was fairly reasonable about it. I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong for disliking the finale. What I really want to do is confront what may be at the root of the problem: Serialization.

In the Age of Peak TV, one of the characteristics of a “great show” is serialization of a storyline. The Sopranos is often credited as the progenitor of the trend, but there were shows that came out before it that dabbled with having long arcs that stretched throughout a season, or even multiple seasons. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine come to mind. But the first non-soap opera to really try it was Babylon 5. The idea was that no longer would TV shows be episodic affairs with throwaway one-time stories. Now, shows could be large epics that told grand sweeping stories that had deep, resonant themes. The era became known as TV’s new Golden Age, and I will admit there are a lot of quality shows out there, and a lot of good shows have clogged the airways since the new millennium dawned.

My problem isn’t serialization itself. Serialization is a storytelling choice. It’s like telling a story in a nonlinear fashion, or having a character who’s a Chosen One. It can be done well, but it comes with its own unique challenges. If one fails at those challenges, it can really undermine a show’s quality. While there are many shows that mastered serialization, there have been many that have reminded me of the simple joy of watching “classic shows” from the ‘50s and ‘60s that featured mostly standalone episodes. My problem isn’t serialization per se, but the fact every show is serialized to the point where the writing would have to be perfect for the show to make sense and the ending to be satisfying. So who’s at fault here?

Just what is it you guys want, anyway?

Again, I’m not writing this to shit all over fans who were let down. But I must still ask the question above. We live in an era where we have more entertainment choices than ever, more than previous generations could ever hope to comprehend. And yet we seem very easily irritated. (A bitching marine is a happy marine, as the saying goes.) So the question of audience expectations comes up, and with the shows I mentioned above, as well as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the overall impression I got from fan complaints was “I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what we got!”

Which brings us back to what is it that we want from a series in the first place. To be entertained? For everything in the story to make sense? To be surprised? To have the ending that was in your head play out? My wife had almost seven complete scenarios mapped out of how the show “should” have turned out. Maybe it’s my approach to criticism, but I’ve never believed that when critiquing a work one should say what the creators should have done. You critique what they actually have done, and whether it was a satisfying experience. So I ask rhetorically, Thrones fans, what would have been satisfying?

I’m not asking these questions because I think fans are necessarily wrong. But these questions do need to be asked from time to time. A good example is season one of True Detective, when a lot of fans were disappointed with the ending because it turned out the murderer was just some guy. I mean, there were twists and turns, but in the end, it was about a serial killer, and the efforts of the main characters to track him down. It’s like everyone was expecting there to be more to it than that, when the show never advertised that there was anything other to the story besides some true detectives trying to solve a murder case.

Then again, while fans can read too much into some things, sometimes they get suckered in.

Do shows do too much to get viewers’ hopes up?

In this respect, Lost and Battlestar Galactica come to mind, but so do The X-Files and even the Star Wars saga. Lost and Battlestar Galactica both seemed to be telling this long, overarching story that was at the center of the narrative, one that was driving everything that was going on. One that would pay off when everything came full circle. There were so many questions about all these mysterious elements in Lost, and Battlestar even went so far as to say of its villainous Cylons, “They have a plan.” So there was a plan, then? The writers of both shows must have sat down and planned out these epics in detail before they got going, right?

Yeah… no.

Troubling signs emerged as the shows dragged on, with sudden plot twists popping up that seemed to have been tossed in to prop up the flagging storytelling, and in Lost’s case, there were so many questions that one began to wonder if the story was thought out at all. Then the finales for both aired, and we finally learned from behind-the-scenes materials that what we all suspected was true. There was no plan. They were just making it up as they went. They just acted like they had a plan because it was a hook to get audiences interested.

You saw this with Star Wars and how fans were coming up with fan theories as to who Snoke was, and who Rey’s parents were. My hatred of fan theories aside, I could only shake my head and think, “Guys, come on. It’s J.J. Abrams. He’s always presenting story elements like they’re some great mystery even though he has no idea what the answers to the questions are. You’re all going to be disappointed.” Sure enough, The Last Jedi comes out, and all the fan theories meant nothing. And before you jump down my throat about how it was all Rian Johnson’s fault, every source I could find basically said Abrams left it up to Johnson and Andy Serkis to figure out who Snoke was and what he was on about.

While I could make fun of fans, I could also argue that they were taken advantage of. If my insight into the creative mind holds any weight, I think some writers like to seem smarter than they are. What better way to do that than act like you have some grand ingenious plan? J.J. Abrams even said in a TED talk how much mystery can open up possibilities in storytelling—though, I don’t remember him ever mentioning how important it is to resolve any mysteries.

Even George Lucas falls into this category. While he’s insisted over the decades that he had this large story mostly formed in his head when he began the Star Wars saga, if you look at the various statements he’s made, the number of “planned” films in the series changes constantly. At one point he was insisting he had 12 films mapped out; For most of my childhood, it was nine, with the original trilogy being the middle part of the story. Then after the prequels concluded, and reception was still polarized, he was insisting that the series was always going to be told in six chapters, and that it was always supposed to be about Darth Vader’s character arc. Of course, that doesn’t really explain why Darth Vader only has 12 minutes of screentime in A New Hope, but hey, what do I know?

It should also be noted that when you read interviews with literally anybody who was involved in the production of Lucas’ Star Wars movies from a storytelling position, it seems clear they were making it all up as they went along. Maybe that’s because…

Long form storytelling is HARD!!

The statement above is not meant to be condescending. It’s something I think we all know. But the sheer amount of vitriol has inspired satirical news articles with titles like Game of Thrones writers petition fans to write their own goddamn show, if they’re so smart”. While I do feel for creators who have to deal with fan reactions that drift right into hyperbole, there’s something that we shouldn’t miss here. In the Marine Corps, we like to joke that USMC stands for “U Signed the Motherfucking Contract”. Basically, it’s a catch-all phrase to get people to stop bitching about the perils of the job. As annoying as fanboys can be from time to time, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, you were the ones who tried to adapt Game of Thrones. You accepted the challenge. You undertook the mission. You did so knowing that things could get messed up. You’re responsible for the show when it’s good. You’re responsible when it’s not good.

I’ve been playing devil’s advocate with my wife since the series ended, and I’ll say to fans what I said to her. The showrunners have inked a deal to work on the next Star Wars trilogy. They also have an alternate history series in development with HBO. It’s clear they wanted to wrap Thrones up and move on to other things. I’m not saying they’re right to have handled the last two seasons the way they did; I’m saying I understand why. Understanding doesn’t mean agree with.

Also, here’s one of my few potshots at the fans: stop with the petitions already. Disney is not going to remake The Last Jedi; they’re too busy remaking every animated film they’ve released in the last fifty years. You may be correct in disliking a piece of work, but if you can’t even say you’ve produced a short film that was well received on YouTube, what makes you think you’re capable of making a better version of anything? You’ve made your displeasure known. As fans, as customers, and as consumers, that’s all you can do: let the producers know they did it wrong, and hope they learn their lessons. Long form storytelling is hard, with many different ways to screw it up.

In storytelling, there’s the term “midpoint”. The midpoint doesn’t necessarily need to be in the exact middle of the story. But it’s a turning point at which all the setups in the story begin to converge. The moment when the Millennium Falcon is captured on the Death Star is a good example. All the plotlines get fastened together and all the characters start heading for the conclusion. The problem with Thrones’s final seasons, from what I can tell from questioning my wife, is that they spent six seasons establishing setups, and then tried to wrap them all up in thirteen episodes. Even a genius storyteller would struggle with that. As Ralph Sepe put it in his video on the subject: “They didn’t stick the landing, because it was a hard landing to stick.”

If you’ve read my columns for the Agony Booth in the past, you might notice a pattern. I’m not just criticizing what kind of stories are coming out of Hollywood, but how they’re made. For me, a big part of being a fan of cinema is understanding how it all works. TV is an industry. I know it doesn’t feel like it, because it involves making images of dragons, lightsabers, and derring-do, but it’s still a business. I work behind the scenes in sports broadcasting (humblebrag), and let me tell you, the desk that Shaq and Charles Barkley clown each other at takes a really long time to build.

My columns are simply my way of airing my concerns about the business side of the entertainment industry, which does affect the product we consume. Case in point: The first example that I can find of true serialization is Babylon 5. If you haven’t seen it, watch it; it’s a pretty cool show. It was conceived by creator J. Michael Straczynski as a “novel for television”. It was always planned to be a five season series, with 22 episodes per season, with each episode essentially being a chapter of the larger story. And for the most part, Straczynski and his writers pulled it off.

But life got in the way. When it seemed the show would be cancelled in the fourth season, the writers tried to get as much of the season five plot into season four, just in case. Then the show wasn’t cancelled after all. As a result, the end of the fourth season felt a bit overstuffed, and the fifth season felt like half a season stretched out to a full one. The show was still pretty awesome, but one couldn’t help but feel like there was a marked dip in quality.

In the case of Game of Thrones, I feel like the show succeeded more when it was adapting George R.R. Martin’s source material directly. As the seasons wore on, they basically ran out of novels, and had to subsist on Martin’s notes for the last two unwritten books to guide them as they worked out the story. And the story in the books may end very similarly to how it ended in the show. But it’s fairly clear the showrunners were in a hurry to get there. They took shortcuts.

To go back to my columns, every single one of them is about storytelling choices being made for reasons that aren’t creative in nature. Whether it’s bringing back long dormant properties, or announcing a glut of projects before you know how the first few are even going to be received, many decisions come about because of money or perceived self-interest. In the case of Game of Thrones, they just wanted to move on, and instead of handing it to other writers with the time and vision to get the job done, they felt they had to do it themselves.

Maybe we could back away from the serialization for a while?

While I enjoy a good serialized story, I do think there are some things to be said for so-called “classic” TV. Don’t get me wrong—I do think we’re spoiled in terms of how many good shows are out there. But as someone with two kids, one of whom is not yet teething, I’ve had some time to watch old TV shows, and I think in the rush to serialize everything, something has been lost.

I’m sure most of you don’t pay attention to the Emmys, but they usually give awards to episodes rather than to the shows themselves. In the modern era, episodes have to be three things at the same time: They have to be a part of the show’s overarching narrative, they have to be a part of the season’s story, and they have to be a good story individually. But back in the day, the episode was all that mattered, because there were no overarching narratives. While I’m not suggesting we go back to the way TV was made in the 1950s, or that serialization should die, it doesn’t hurt to learn lessons from the past.

After all, while Star Wars was revolutionary at the time, it did take several old-fashioned cinematic and storytelling techniques, combine them with some new methods, and create something vaguely familiar yet fresh. One could even argue that the modern TV season and miniseries are descendants of the film serials of yore. So really, Game of Thrones is an example of taking something old and making it new again, as well.

Watching old episodes of Star Trek and westerns like Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and Have Gun, Will Travel, I’m struck by how much storytelling can be packed into one episode of TV, some as short as 25 minutes (the one-hour TV drama wasn’t really codified until the ‘60s). From guest stars who had so much subtext and hinted backstory that I wished the episode was movie-length, to ballsy episodes that pushed the main characters to their limits, there’s a lot of craftsmanship and effort in “classic” TV episodes. There’s certainly more than the stereotypes would indicate.

Balance

Now don’t get me wrong. “Classic” shows had their share of bad episodes, including my beloved Star Trek (and a few of those episodes have been covered on this very site). Trust me, I’m putting “classic” in quotes for a reason. Nostalgia makes viewers forgive a lot. But having a chance to watch these shows again as an adult, I’m stunned by how much some of the episodes hold up. In fact, I would put any episode of Star Trek or The Twilight Zone up against any episode of any show released in the last five years. I encourage readers to answer in the comments: when’s the last time you watched an episode of any modern show and thought to yourself, “Damn, that was an awesome piece of storytelling, regardless of how it fits into the larger narrative”? I’m sure there are a few of you who can name a couple. A bet there are more than a few who haven’t thought about it in ages.

And if there’s a bad episode of Star Trek or The Rifleman or The Twilight Zone, it’s just a bad episode. In the streaming age, I can just skip that episode, and the next one will be just fine. But with a show like Game of Thrones, a couple of bad episodes can “ruin a show” for a lot of viewers. You can’t gloss over a bad episode when every episode is tied into one giant story. A lot of people give The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King grief for its extended ending (I should know, I was one of them), but it’s still an exceptional movie. If it had completely and utterly sucked, people wouldn’t remember that trilogy so fondly.

Once again, I’m not saying we should go back. If anything, I think The Wire is the best serialized show ever. Mostly because it kept its storytelling focus within each season, with each following season feeling like a sequel to the last. If I’ve gathered anything from talking with Games of Thrones fans, it’s that the first four seasons (and parts of the sixth) embody all the pluses of the serialization trend, while the rest of the show is a masterclass in all the pitfalls. Who knows? Maybe there’s some kid who watched Thrones, took notes of what worked and what didn’t, and will apply that knowledge when she gets a chance to work in TV.

One last saved round for the dumb fanboys: If you don’t like how they did Star Wars or Game of Thrones, signing petitions asking for remakes is pointless. Go to film school, or just get a job in the film industry, pay your dues, get some clout, and then you can get a chance to remake anything you want. Disney is never going to have The Last Jedi be just a dream. As a fan, you can say whether or not you liked a story or didn’t, but unless you’re a member of the filmmaking community, and convince the right people to hire you, you have no say in the matter of how the story is told.

Other than that, I’m with the fans on this one. Though I’ve got no skin in the game, I can side with a group of people who are letting their displeasure be known in a reasonable manner. I can only encourage my fellow TV watchers to have high standards for the shows they watch. So here’s hoping that HBO learns its lesson when it creates the next big thing in TV. Maybe they won’t, because Hollywood is very slow to catch on. Lord knows DC rode the Zack Snyder train for about three years before it finally sunk in that they were never going catch Marvel that way. I’d like to hope HBO is a little smarter than that.

I really do believe that Peak TV has overwhelmed us a little bit. Maybe this will encourage the suits in Hollywood to look for the next new storytelling trend in TV. HBO broke barriers before, they can do it again. It’s a shame they couldn’t do it with Game of Thrones season 8.

You may also like...

  • Murry Chang

    Ya know what finale was really good? 12 Monkeys. The creators had 4 seasons worth of story and got to tell it all in a satisfying and logical manner.

    • Nathan kerner

      I would have to agree. There is a big sense, and I pointed out with Lost, that they had no idea where they were going, and figured they would figure it out when the time came. I always tell younger writers to at least have some idea of what you want the climax to be, regardless of the story’s form. it pays to know where you are going.

      • Murry Chang

        Definitely. Look at The Walking Dead: They had a tight and focused first season and gradually petered out after that because there’s no endgame, only the shambling corpse of a once good series.

        • Nathan kerner

          They should have a Hall of Shame for shows that started brilliantly and then came to an ignoble end, either for going on too long or just plain not concluding things well. To give future writers examples of just how easy it is to fuck up a good thing you have going…….

          • Xander

            The X-Files is an example of a show that had a clear end in mind, but they were too popular and were pushed to add more and more seasons. By the time they had that extra season a decade or so later, I was beyond caring.

            I will admit to liking Fight the Future because it was a nice, self-contained story that recognized what came before. It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but it was enjoyable for what it was, especially as a casual fan that dropped out after the show became more serialized.

          • The_Shadow_Knows

            The biggest problem with THE X-FILES was that, whenever fans guessed something correctly, Chris Carter would change it on the show to spite them. That’s why, for example, there were several contradictory explanations for what happened to Mulder’s sister. People can complain about LOST all they want, but at least I never got the sense that D+C were deliberately changing the story just to spite fans.

            (There were actually TWO additional seasons of THE X-FILES made recently, by the way. Don’t bother with them – they’re a garbage fire. The original show had some great episodes and some rubbish ones, but the revival leaned on all the worst aspects of the worst episodes in the original run. The beginning of the second revival season literally said the finale of the first revival season was just a dream, er, just a psychic vision. It doesn’t get much worse than that.)

          • Xander

            Changing things because of leaks or fan guesses is never a good idea. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to a fuster cluck like the Monarch reveal in DC’s Armageddon 2001 event.

          • Nathan kerner

            I actually found out they leaned into the more conspiracy aspects of the show because Gillian Anderson got pregnant, they didn’t want to write that into the show, so they needed to write her temporarily out of the show and come up with stories that didn’t rely on Muldar and Scully together. So they developed the Mulder’s sister and the conspiracy stories in the meantime. And yeah, they kept changing the hints as to what happened to Muldar’s sister.

            And I don’t want to come down on the side of Hollywood screen writers too much, but because of fandom’s presence on the internet, there is a constant catch-22. If fans deduce what is happening, you can either stay the course with the plot twist revealed, or pull a Monarch and fuck it all up. On the other side, if your story clash’s with the fans expectations too strongly, fans react with disappointment. Rey’s parentage was always just a plot device, but everyone came up with their own ideas as to who her parents “should be” and couldn’t accept the explanation that they got. But in the end, I must agree with Xander, it’s best to stay the course regardless what the denizens of fan forums think. Changing it midstream never works. Or at least, I can’t think of an example where it turned out positively.

          • Xander

            You’re right about the Catch-22 to a point, but in this day and age, there are going to be competing fan theories, so you might as well go with what you planned. That way you’re going to surprise someone, at least.

        • Thomas Stockel

          I see what you did there. :)

          • Murry Chang

            Gotta grab that low hanging fruit with both hands dontcha know?

  • Kradeiz

    I’ve found the best serialized storytelling tends to be when the writers had some idea of how things would end AND there wasn’t too much network interference spreading things out or cutting them short.

    One of my favourites is Avatar: The Last Airbender which told the story it needed to in three 20-episode seasons. Whereas its successor, The Legend of Korra, averaged only 13-episode seasons, which led to many of its storylines feeling rushed and bloated.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Excellent points. Avatar was a masterpiece of storytelling, with an amazing cast. I’m just sorry Mako did not live to see it through to its conclusion. :(

    • PhysUnknown

      Pretty sure Orphan Black was this way. The writers/creators envisioned a 5-season story, wrote and produced a 5-season story, and it was amazing. The story never felt rushed or incomplete, the pacing was perfect, and the ending was satisfying. I’ve heard Breaking Bad was the same way (never really watched it).

  • Kradeiz

    The animated series Gargoyles had an interesting balance between episodic and serialized stories. They would have what they called “tentpole episodes” every now and then where important plot stuff happened and in-between them would be a bunch of less plot-heavy episodes that could be viewed in any order. This made things easier for the viewers and the network since it wasn’t as big a deal if people saw things out of production order.

    (Plus it was just a really good show!)

    • Thomas Stockel

      I loved the hell out of Gargoyles. One of my favorite moments was when Xanatos, who throughout the series was a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, hand waving defeats away, got his ass handed to him. And then he said to Goliath something along the lines “Now you’ve started to annoy me.”

      Finally Xanatos had to admit that Goliath and co. had been kicking his butt on a regular basis. It was a magnificent payoff to see a cool and collected villain start to lose it.

      • Kradeiz

        Xanatos and Goliath contrasted each other in unusual ways for a villain and hero. Xanatos was very pragmatic and collected, usually forswearing things like revenge as he considered it a “sucker’s game”. Whereas Goliath was more emotional, prone to rages, and didn’t have much problem with taking revenge, only getting talked out of it by his friends, and even then not always.

        You didn’t see that too often, especially in kids’ cartoons.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Excellent point regarding The Wire. I loved the hell out of that series and thought each season was fantastic. People who didn’t like season two because of the dock storyline are wrong, in my opinion. The producers were showing different aspects of Baltimore and illustrating the destruction of the old way of life regarding the docks was fascinating, as well as showing how good men could be driven to do bad things.

    You’re right in that format seems to work best. Give fans a beginning, middle and an end. Or at least be competent in knowing how to craft a multi-season arc like the first producer of Supernatural was.

    • Nathan kerner

      It reminded me a lot of the best Star Trek movies, II, III, IV, and VI. They tell an overarching story, (About Kirk accepting that he is getting older, and the world is changing even though he isn’t) but each installment told it’s own distinct story with it’s own distinct stakes. That’s what I liked about the Wire, Same characters, different scenario, different stakes. And when it was clear that they were running out of stories to tell in this world with these characters, they wrapped it up.

  • oohhboy

    Let them have their petitions. It’s harmless venting, don’t deride them for it.

    Calling it a business doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to burn your customers. Regardless of whatever fan theories might be a bad is bad. The creator made it bad, saying it didn’t match your theorise is blaming the customers which is a massive problem. So often when a show tanks it’s always blaming the fans, never taking responsibility.

    It doesn’t matter how much money you made on the last film when everything afterwards is going to lose money ala TLJ and Solo. That said it’s bloody JJ always leaves a mess behind, TFA got a free pass on brand alone making it looked like JJ did nothing wrong. He already killed Star Trek and I agree with you with “what the hell were you expecting to happen?”. None of this reduces the crime against cinema Rian committed.

    Show Business is selling emotions, suspension of disbelief is king something that cannot be qualified on a spreadsheet making it so often discounted. A brand can have an value attached to it however vague thus used in ROI calculations regardless of the quality of end product. Throw $X to get $Y money like it’s some financial instrument.

    Even as someone who didn’t watch GoT I understood how bad it was. The level of sloppiness, lack of care, the nonsense all too clear to see. It’s mechanically broken. The excuse “Its hard” is just that an excuse. Serial, episodic, doesn’t matter. This wasn’t their debut, they were neck deep having taken the coin, they chose the difficulty. If they had reached the point they didn’t think they could handled it they should have stepped aside.

    Nobody have weird fan theorise about where Empire Strikes Back could have gone as a fix, it’s an amusing jaunt into what if. When fans start coming up with stuff to fix your stuff to this extent, defenders having to come up with head canon, its criticism. It means the creator messed up.

    While the customer isn’t always right, never blame the customers for your failure, an apology can take you a very long way. If the customer fouls up stay quiet or help them out, don’t insult them.

    I could go on but really it comes down to this. Suspension of Disbelief is of the utmost importance, if you break it at your peril.

    • Nathan kerner

      I see your points, but I don’t quite understand your overall points.

      I came down on the side of the fans at the end of the essay, that they had good reasons for not liking it. That was at the end of the essay. Please tell me you read that far.

      And I don’t think it was the final season was an atrocity. One of the consequences of fandom is that we can’t let movies be “okay” or “mediocre” anymore. Every movie or season of a show is either a triumph that’s the the greatest thing ever or an abomination that is the worst thing in the history of everything. I enjoyed parts of the the final season of GOT, just from an aesthetic point.
      But I didn’t find it all that great. I told my wife, big fan, and she conceded that there were probably worse seasons of TV out there. (There was a show in the 70s called Heil Honey, I’m Home, which tried to turn Hitler and Eva Braun’s marriage into an old-school sitcom. You can’t tell me GOT’s final season was worse than that)

      Creators mess up all the time,. as nobody is perfect. I am happy that fans are finally developing higher standards in this era of peak content. I could do without the hyperbole and the clothes-rending that fans engage with whenever they are disappointed.

      • GreenLuthor

        Sadly, Heil Honey, I’m Home! wasn’t from the 70s. It was from 1990! (Yeah.) On the other hand, it was also canceled after only one episode aired, so at least there’s that. But, yeah, Adolph and Eva as a sitcom couple dealing with their Jewish neighbors. I know British TV will allow things American TV won’t, but sometimes that may not be a good thing…

        (The show’s creators say it was intended as a satire of trite sitcoms, intentionally using the worst example they could come up with to put in silly stereotypical sitcom plots, but, obviously, they took that idea way too far.) (And then a decade later, Trey Parker and Matt Stone would try to do the same thing with the Bush White House in That’s My Bush!; I’m sure it was better than Heil Honey, but that’s not saying much…)

        • Nathan kerner

          you are correct. It was produced in 1990. It was a parody of sitcoms in the 1970s. I acknowledge the error.

      • GeorgeCMusic

        Being a pedant, I’m afraid I have to point out that there was only ever one episode of Heil Honey, I’m Home, and it was from the 90’s. It was intended to be a parody of bad 70s British sitcoms (things like the borderline racist “Love Thy Neighbour”). Unfortunately it was so unfunny it ended up being worse than the stuff it was parodying.

        Doesn’t detract from your overall point whatsoever of course. Sorry for the needless pedantry.

        • Nathan kerner

          no no. I acknowledged the error in GreenLuthor’s comment below.

          I must have misread or misremembered my research.

      • oohhboy

        Accepting a show going bad is ‘ok’ because there are worse is… not really… yeah..

        By it’s own standards it’s a dumpster fire. It broke it’s legs on the landing. An ending doesn’t have to be the BEST THING EVER but it should at least hit average. A disappointing doesn’t get you this kind of reaction. Disappointing would be a burger that wasn’t quite as big as it was made out to be yet tasted good. This is a peanut butter sandwich that I saw the creator scrape off the floor.

        No matter how you slice it they didn’t care. The post episode clips were shocking, “We forgot”, attempts to retcon, blaming the viewer’s TV etc. Not being perfect isn’t even factor, this wasn’t some simple mistake, they didn’t even try. They had every opportunity to avoid this, there was no outside mitigating factor (Blaming GRRM is a laugh), they did this to themselves.

        If hyperbole is your real issue, well you just have to filter it out I am afraid. There has always been the worse/best thing ever, it’s a sentiment, a way to quickly express oneself. “It’s not actually the worse but it might as well be the worse” isn’t quite as catchy. Its magnitudes visible now, immediate and with greater weight because we see far more of the internal processes and interact with the creators. There is more evidence available at a crime scene than ever before now you’re able to prove their guilt.

        Before it was show came out of black box and if it went bad that was that. If you wanted to interact you had to write a letter or see them physically. It was a firewall. Social media shattered this for both good and bad.

        Being episodic or serial isn’t the problem, its bad people making bad shows. Your cause and effect is mixed up.

        If you want to see a recent show that masterfully blend both episodic and serialised story telling go watch Orville. Outside of the two parters they can be watch alone and gives you a bonus for watching it in order/paying attention.

  • GreenLuthor

    I really wish networks would look at Babylon 5 and insist anyone doing these types of serial stories has a plan for the series before they pick it up for production. (I mean, they won’t, but I can dream.) Straczynski had season-by-season plans set out even before filming the pilot movie, and even included possible “escape hatches” if external circumstances forced him to change his plans. (He successfully managed to navigate having to replace the main character after the first season due to health issues; obviously, Sinclair was intended to have a much bigger role in the series, but the change to Sheridan still worked. I doubt most shows could have pulled that one off…)

    • Nathan kerner

      That’s why I love Babylon 5. Even when it isn’t as good as its best moments, the fact that they still managed to pull off a level of quality even with the Tall order is pretty damned amazing.

  • PhysUnknown

    I would argue that Castle did the mix of episodic and serial pretty well, at least until the last few seasons. They had two real continual story lines (3xK and Beckett’s mom’s murder), but everything else was more or less episodic. The characters’ lives changed, but if you missed a couple of episodes, you weren’t lost. I would say the same about Brooklyn 99, though I haven’t watched all of it.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I was digging Castle until the season where Beckett got her job at the FBI and then a few episodes later she was right back being a NYC police detective. So nothing substantial changed, we got the reset button. Then you had the 3xK girlfriend story and the ominous We’ll Meet Again song, and next episode it’s Thanksgiving and everythings happy! There’s potentially two serial killers running around and they don’t like you, how can you possibly be cavalier about that? You would think Castle would maybe call up his spy Dad and tell him and ask him for help? Maybe he did but by that point I gave up on the show.

      • PhysUnknown

        Yup, that would be season 6, when the show really started to go downhill. The season finale featured Castle and Beckett preparing for their wedding, only for Beckett to discover that she’s still married to her college boyfriend! Oh no, who could have seen that coming, other than every 90s sitcom writer?

        Things got weirder from there, with more abductions, Castle becoming a PI, Beckett “leaving” him (but not really). I did like the culmination of the 3XK story in Season 7 – it may not have been the best couple of episodes, but it felt like they actually gave it some thought. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the series finale. I know they didn’t have a ton of notice that it would be the finale, but it felt like they’d never even thought through how the story would end, and so we got this really abrupt, “Oh, it was THIS guy!”

        Always felt the show should have ended when Beckett and Castle hooked up. She’d solved her mother’s murder, have her finally end 3XK, and ride off into the sunset with Castle. I mean, there were still some fun episodes, but overall, the show definitely declined.