I’m concerned about the increasing prevalence of TV shows to wrap everything up in a tidy little bow. My old stalwart favourites seem to be moving to a “one story, one episode mentality” often meaning that episodes are front loaded with action and then a conclusion reached right at the end, almost arbitrarily so.
Take last week’s Scott and Bailey – a show which I’ve been following since it started. We are now on series 3 – something I welcomed. There hasn’t been a cop show with a couple of strong female leads since Cagney and Lacey (yes, we have Prime Suspect but that only had one female character in the frame).
In the first two seasons we have a running thread which ran throughout, some plot lines were resolved in one episode, but many ran over the entire series. Last week, we saw the makings of a great storyline – a woman murdered in a hotel after hooking up for anonymous sex via an online message board. This had the makings of a rip snorting ride through the seedy underbelly of suburban life and the internet. I was anticipating twists, turns, suspects that turned out to be red herrings. Did I get it? No! What we got was one of the lead characters saying in the last twenty seconds of the episode, that their main suspect had just walked up to her in reception and confessed. Roll credits. What!?
This is not a unique incident. Increasingly some of my favourite shows, including Criminal Minds and CSI are solving crimes which apparently are resolved through activity which is either painfully obvious, or so random that it doesn’t link to anything else in the entire episode. Often, it appears that crimes could be solved by little more than a trained monkey with a copy of the yellow pages.
Why this frustrating trend? Is it that writers have essentially run out of ideas? Is it that TV shows, particularly in the US, don’t want to invest time in nurturing a story as they want ratings NOW.. best not write something over a whole season, it could be cancelled any minute!
Whatever the reason I hope it stops soon. C’mon production companies (writers get their steer from someone and I’m looking squarely at you) stop dumbing down, stop pandering to immediate ratings – give us a story that hooks us and which we can follow. If you want self contained episodes – pace them – grab us – don’t be afraid to leave things unresolved if that makes for better writing. We don’t always need everything wrapped up in a pretty pink bow.