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The Growth of a TV Series

Oromous

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I was originally going to post this in "LOL of the Day", but then as I started writing out my thoughts, it got turned into less of a comedic post and more of a discussion post, so it didn't fit quite right in... I also initially felt like posting it in the "Hugely Unnecessary Thread", but quickly realized just how much I have to say about the subject, and here we are with a new discussion thread.

So I found this amusing analysis from Cracked (a comedy geek culture website which came back recently after a year's hiatus for those who care). Obviously, this above chart isn't applicable for every show, as you could easily squeeze Buffy season 2-3 into the "Plateau" period of this chart, with season 4 perhaps landing on the "cracks begin to show" period.

But it's interesting regardless, this study on the growth of a TV series. I mentioned this before when I talked about why I watched Simpsons/X-Files/Buffy at the same time starting from their respective season 1. Originally, I did this out of convenience, but then as I started to see each series grow past their season 1, the similarity in their growth was intriguing, and I noticed that season 1 was indeed generally the season where the writers are still trying to find the show's identity (somewhere between "The Grace Period" and "For Real This Time" on this chart); Buffy, X-Files and Simpsons all utilized the experimentation of season 1 as a first-draft to boost better writing into season 2.

For what it's worth though, the above chart is probably more accurate in describing both X-Files and Simpsons, both of which didn't really reach their "plateau" period 'till season 3; Buffy had its success earlier in season 2. And both X-Files and Simpsons also reached the "Zombie Years" with their incessant continuations, never knowing when to stop; Buffy had its television conclusion just at the right time, and the comic books seem to be doing well with their continuation that a TV series sequel might have ruined.

Looking back at the TV shows I've seen over the recent years, it's kinda sad how many of them followed a similar pattern shown in the chart, and not just the aforementioned '90s series. Dexter had its "Cracks Start to Show" period since season 5; Sherlock season 4; Once Upon A Time season 4; Friends season 5. Over and over, these shows seem to hit their "mid-life crisis" around season 4 or 5, which makes sense because the first three seasons of these shows (minus sitcoms like Friends) seem to act like a trilogy of sorts, with season 1 setting up the beginning of a major arc or thematic character development and season 3 bringing some form of closure to it; season 4, like Buffy, often feels like the renewal of the series, starting anew with a new "major arc" that exists to keep the show running for another three or four seasons, a reboot of sorts, and I think that's the mistake and where writers and showrunners lost their way.

Now, I'm not saying all these just to shame these showrunners or even criticize them in a belittling way. It's just that, since I was a kid, I somehow gained this passion for analyzing the structures of storytelling, how it works, what kind of tropes it has, and how it shaped and was shaped in turn by entire cultures and zeitgeists throughout history. So I guess these struggles and patterns of a TV show's lifespan, how something so culturally inspiring like Buffy struggles on to its seventh season, it fascinates me how it all works, in the same way a horology hobbyist would study how cogs in a watch would work, I suppose. It makes me impressed when a show does succeed beyond season 4 or 5 like Buffy, or if it excels right from the very start like The Wire. The way stories are told through film and television has evolved so much over time that we even had a "Golden Age of Television" beginning two decades ago in the 2000s, and it leaves more room to explore and analyze just how much better TV series could be written in the future, especially with streaming services bypassing network censorship. Truly marvelous, isn't it? A whole new world for storytellers out there with creative freedom.

But enough rambling from me. I started a new thread because I want to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think about the validity of this pattern? Have TV writers and studio heads grown past the point where they could make a show successful from season 1 onward? Have they learned to make a show last long enough without a loss in quality? Or have they learned that "less is more" and made series with fewer seasons? How far has TV writing come since Buffy in the '90s?

Hope to hear from you soon. :)
 
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ILLYRIAN

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After watching the television series Lucipher (four seasons) I noted it needed good and capable actors who give that extra something to the character, it needs a capable scriptwriter and a director who understands what the end product should look like. Other mini series (six episodes) I'd recommend are Humans, Good Omens and The Living and the Dead. Having quality buildings and other fixed assets are a bonus.
 

Oromous

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After watching the television series Lucipher (four seasons) I noted it needed good and capable actors who give that extra something to the character, it needs a capable scriptwriter and a director who understands what the end product should look like.
The thing about Lucifer is that, I feel like it never really reached its full potential due to its departure from the comic book's content. However, in spite of that, I feel that even by its fourth season, it still had a strong storyline going on between Lucy and Chloe, especially because of the major plot development at the end of season 3 that pushed their relationship to the next level.

It's interesting how Lucifer's writers cleverly saved this development for three seasons before allowing all the dramatic potentials of such a development to be unleashed only after season 3. I believe most fans have been waiting for Lucifer to make that particular confession to Chloe for a long time now, and it's not until season 4 that we witnessed the full effect of such a revelation, so there's a lot more potentially interesting development that could be developed over the course of two or three more seasons. Unlike the usual series that would try to make the first three seasons the main event, Lucifer saved the main event for later. Brilliant, yet the consequence is that it makes the first three seasons kinda dull, especially when it's a procedural cop drama that's far less epic than its comic book counterpart.

Think this might've been more true in the past. Seems like nowadays shows might start off with a bang then fall off later.
Yeah, I noticed that. I think this is largely due to the introduction of the streaming service, and how its format is designed. Back then, you HAVE to stick around for a lot of the series with an ongoing storyline like The X-Files or Buffy or you'll risk not following what's going on by the next episode. TiVo wasn't a thing until 1999, and so you don't get a lot of chance to play back an episode you missed. Nowadays, with people having that privilege to watch whatever they want whenever they can, the network has to counter that privilege with a much better first season. They could no longer have that "come back next week" technique be applicable because now we can just binge the whole thing in a week. lol

And I think TV promos played a large part in that, teasing the audience that might be something groundbreaking going on next episode... only for you to find out it's Go Fish. 🤣
 
ILLYRIAN
ILLYRIAN
What major plot point in season three?

ILLYRIAN

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I was quite disappointed that more wasn't made of Trixi's name, I would have loved to see the exchange between Trixie and her dad. Did you notice Trixie's front teeth were missing when Lucipher first met Trixie at the school yet the teeth were fully grown when she appeared in episode two.
 

ILLYRIAN

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'Ere what are you doing? I was still typing that reply when I got the notification that you liked the post.

As Confuscious might say, (in long form) WTF?
 

Oromous

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I would have loved to see the exchange between Trixie and her dad.
I'm guessing this is referring to the revelation about Trixie's real father in season 5? I haven't watched season 5 yet. lol I'm saving it for later, as I usually do with TV series.

Did you notice Trixie's front teeth were missing when Lucipher first met Trixie at the school yet the teeth were fully grown when she appeared in episode two.
I didn't notice, but now that you mentioned it, yeah. It's probably just one of the many plot-holes in the series. The writing was far from perfect, much as I enjoyed Lucifer.

'Ere what are you doing? I was still typing that reply when I got the notification that you liked the post.

As Confuscious might say, (in long form) WTF?
lol Sorry. I 'Liked' it mostly because you participated in the discussion, superficial as that may be.

What major plot point in season three?
Lucifer revealing to Chloe his demon self.
 

Taake

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'Ere what are you doing? I was still typing that reply when I got the notification that you liked the post.

As Confuscious might say, (in long form) WTF?
This is really rude, please refrain from this kind of behavior. I would have deleted the post entirely if it hadn't been responded to already.
 

Taake

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I was originally going to post this in "LOL of the Day", but then as I started writing out my thoughts, it got turned into less of a comedic post and more of a discussion post, so it didn't fit quite right in... I also initially felt like posting it in the "Hugely Unnecessary Thread", but quickly realized just how much I have to say about the subject, and here we are with a new discussion thread.

So I found this amusing analysis from Cracked (a comedy geek culture website which came back recently after a year's hiatus for those who care). Obviously, this above chart isn't applicable for every show, as you could easily squeeze Buffy season 2-3 into the "Plateau" period of this chart, with season 4 perhaps landing on the "cracks begin to show" period.

But it's interesting regardless, this study on the growth of a TV series. I mentioned this before when I talked about why I watched Simpsons/X-Files/Buffy at the same time starting from their respective season 1. Originally, I did this out of convenience, but then as I started to see each series grow past their season 1, the similarity in their growth was intriguing, and I noticed that season 1 was indeed generally the season where the writers are still trying to find the show's identity (somewhere between "The Grace Period" and "For Real This Time" on this chart); Buffy, X-Files and Simpsons all utilized the experimentation of season 1 as a first-draft to boost better writing into season 2.

For what it's worth though, the above chart is probably more accurate in describing both X-Files and Simpsons, both of which didn't really reach their "plateau" period 'till season 3; Buffy had its success earlier in season 2. And both X-Files and Simpsons also reached the "Zombie Years" with their incessant continuations, never knowing when to stop; Buffy had its television conclusion just at the right time, and the comic books seem to be doing well with their continuation that a TV series sequel might have ruined.

Looking back at the TV shows I've seen over the recent years, it's kinda sad how many of them followed a similar pattern shown in the chart, and not just the aforementioned '90s series. Dexter had its "Cracks Start to Show" period since season 5; Sherlock season 4; Once Upon A Time season 4; Friends season 5. Over and over, these shows seem to hit their "mid-life crisis" around season 4 or 5, which makes sense because the first three seasons of these shows (minus sitcoms like Friends) seem to act like a trilogy of sorts, with season 1 setting up the beginning of a major arc or thematic character development and season 3 bringing some form of closure to it; season 4, like Buffy, often feels like the renewal of the series, starting anew with a new "major arc" that exists to keep the show running for another three or four seasons, a reboot of sorts, and I think that's the mistake and where writers and showrunners lost their way.

Now, I'm not saying all these just to shame these showrunners or even criticize them in a belittling way. It's just that, since I was a kid, I somehow gained this passion for analyzing the structures of storytelling, how it works, what kind of tropes it has, and how it shaped and was shaped in turn by entire cultures and zeitgeists throughout history. So I guess these struggles and patterns of a TV show's lifespan, how something so culturally inspiring like Buffy struggles on to its seventh season, it fascinates me how it all works, in the same way a horology hobbyist would study how cogs in a watch would work, I suppose. It makes me impressed when a show does succeed beyond season 4 or 5 like Buffy, or if it excels right from the very start like The Wire. The way stories are told through film and television has evolved so much over time that we even had a "Golden Age of Television" beginning two decades ago in the 2000s, and it leaves more room to explore and analyze just how much better TV series could be written in the future, especially with streaming services bypassing network censorship. Truly marvelous, isn't it? A whole new world for storytellers out there with creative freedom.

But enough rambling from me. I started a new thread because I want to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think about the validity of this pattern? Have TV writers and studio heads grown past the point where they could make a show successful from season 1 onward? Have they learned to make a show last long enough without a loss in quality? Or have they learned that "less is more" and made series with fewer seasons? How far has TV writing come since Buffy in the '90s?

Hope to hear from you soon. :)
I agree with the general gist of the life span, however, not on the after season 7 stuff. I feel like shows like Supernatural, X-Files hit certain lows at that time, but then turned it around and became great again. However, some shows definitely enter the zombie years, and I would both say that the Simpsons and Family Guy only had momentary glimpses of greatness, but remained fairly watchable if inconsistent.

But I do feel like this is changing now, it feels like a lot of shows start out with a much stronger season 1 these days but intentionally don't run as long either, so there is less build up for a longer legacy if you will.
 

ILLYRIAN

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I didn't know there is a season five. The dad I referred to is Dan.
Chloe had seen Luciphers face ages before that, I'm not sure when Lucipher's reflection as the Devil was shown.

I'll have to go to check on how many season it's gone on for. As for season 7? did the scriptwriter work for Lost? I was quite happy with season 4 being the end.
 
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Oromous
Oromous
I would've loved to see more of Trixie and Dan as well. It felt like they abandoned the family issues Chloe, Trixie and Dan had after season 1. Also, Chloe might have seen Lucy's face, but she didn't believe it 'till end of season 3.

DeadlyDuo

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Once Upon A Time season 4;
I'd say the cracks started to show in OUAT in Season 3, certainly the back half. The Neverland arc, though it had some good elements kind of plodded along in the middle until Regina and Rumple teamed up and actually got things done. Everyone else didn't need to be there. However this is the start of the repetitive every villain is somehow connected to the heroes. The good stuff was with the villains (making Peter Pan and the Lost Boys the bad guys) but the heroes stuff was just angst for the sake of it. There were so many lost opportunities with the Neverland arc, there should've been flashbacks to Baelfire's time in Neverland (or used that as a spinoff) but instead we got a pointless Snowing flashback amongst others that feel forced when that screen time could've been used a lot more productively.

The back half of Season 3 (the Oz arc) gets worse. They kill off Baelfire, thus taking away Rumple's whole motivation and the reason for the dark curse in the first place, and then just kind of forget about him. They began pushing CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen, the latter so shoddily written, it's ridiculous. The pandering to Regina was so over the top, it made what had been a popular character somewhat unlikeable.

Season 4 is even worse and is probably the worst season of the show. The Frozen cash in was obvious and reeked of laziness, the writers basically relied on people having seen Frozen rather than doing their own re-imagininng of the characters, The OutlawQueen "triangle" basically made Robin look like a douchebag (and we later find out it's not even that version of the characters that were the soulmates).

Season 5 is the plateau, it's not worse than Season 4 but it's not much better either.

Season 6, the writers stopped forcing two arcs into one season and instead spread one arc over the two halves, however it's a very uneven season. and it was clear the show was running out of steam.

Season 7 actually seems somewhat of an improvement (I've not watched the season yet and have only seen clips on youtube but what I have seen looks promising). It returns more to the Season 1 format and seems to have an episode or two that almost reaches the level of Season 1 episode Skin Deep (probably the best episode of the entire series). So OUAT finished with at least a little dignity left intact.
 

Oromous

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I agree with the general gist of the life span, however, not on the after season 7 stuff. I feel like shows like Supernatural, X-Files hit certain lows at that time, but then turned it around and became great again.
I'm not sure about Supernatural, but I'm not surprised about X-Files becoming great again at certain points. Before yesterday, I criticized Chris for making the mytharc more convoluted than it needs to be, but there is this fascinating pop culture blog called "the m0vie blog" that does essay-length reviews of X-Files and Millennium episodes, and in one of such reviews, it highlights that, even at the worst point of the series, Chris Carter still managed to remain ambitious in his storytelling, daring to go into places conventional TV drama wouldn't (usually) go. But it also pointed out that Chris' initial intention was to end the show with five seasons then continuing onto a series a movie anthologies, but Fox wouldn't let him, so he's forced to kinda just go along with the flow and does his best to come up with gimmicks that would prolong the series. In the process of making those sequels, you could still see the effort there made by Chris to keep things entertaining.

So a reason for the mytharc becoming as messy as it did might not be entirely attributed to his dwindling talent or "running out of ideas." And I think this is the same with many showrunners too, who were obligated either by contract or by promise of a larger paycheck to prolong a series they already had a solid conclusion in mind.

However, some shows definitely enter the zombie years, and I would both say that the Simpsons and Family Guy only had momentary glimpses of greatness, but remained fairly watchable if inconsistent.
The folks I've talked to down at the Simpsons forum agree to some extent that there are indeed brief glimpses of greatness, occasional episodes that hearken back to the Golden Age ("Holidays of Future Passed" and "Barthood" are particularly famous examples that are often cited to exemplify this). Family Guy, on the other hand... phew. The criticisms of that show on the Simpsons forum. Lots of 1/5s all around the board for the modern episodes/seasons. The things I've heard about the modern FG episodes just makes modern Simpsons look like an Emmy Award winner. Like for example, the quite recent episode aired in May, "Better Off Meg", one of the most notorious examples of how far and mean-spirited the comedy has become, even beyond its shock humor of old. Its whole premise is that
Meg has died and everyone acted quite indifferently towards the fact.

I think "inconsistent" is a word more suitable for modern Simpsons, because there still seems to be genuine cleverness in its humor, even if it's not the kind of nail-biting satire that argued against modern American society/family cultures that made the old Simpsons so special. Family Guy, on the other hand, has been seemingly a consistently dead horse for a while that even Seth MacFarlane agreed it needed to be put down a long time ago. He sabotaged the show by killing off Brian back then, only to quickly bring him back because of the backlash.

Even the most triumphant comedy of adult cartoons, South Park, has passed its prime with recent seasons being criticized as the kind of mindless shock humor FG relied on.

But I do feel like this is changing now, it feels like a lot of shows start out with a much stronger season 1 these days but intentionally don't run as long either, so there is less build up for a longer legacy if you will.
It's a good thing because it allows writers to have more room to create new content without being obligated to drag the story out to 5 or 6 seasons. On the other hand, one main reason for many of Netflix's shows being that short is because of their premature cancellations. So pick your poison - having a story dragged out 'till its demise or cancelled before it has fully grown. 😕

I'd say the cracks started to show in OUAT in Season 3, certainly the back half... There were so many lost opportunities with the Neverland arc, there should've been flashbacks to Baelfire's time in Neverland (or used that as a spinoff) but instead we got a pointless Snowing flashback amongst others that feel forced when that screen time could've been used a lot more productively.
There was also the existence of the failed spin-off, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland", so I wonder if creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz had their attention occupied elsewhere.

The back half of Season 3 (the Oz arc) gets worse. They kill off Baelfire, thus taking away Rumple's whole motivation and the reason for the dark curse in the first place, and then just kind of forget about him. They began pushing CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen, the latter so shoddily written, it's ridiculous. The pandering to Regina was so over the top, it made what had been a popular character somewhat unlikeable.
Yeah, I think by season 3, it felt like they started to fall into the habit of making things up out of thin air. I think it was around that time that I also started to realize the kind of melodrama/soap opera relationships that started to form in the likes of CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen. The twists related to these shippings also started to become more unbelievable and contrived. A notorious part of OUAT's writing is that they usually try to weave some hidden truths into the characters' past in the later seasons without any foreshadowing at all, as if they were just improvising. Many of the "conflicts" in CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen were due to such shoddy writing that were written out of convenience, not natural character development. It's almost similar to the way Dom's brother showed up in the latest Fast & Furious movie. Like where the heck has he been the past eight films?!

I think, where OUAT ultimately failed is when they stopped sticking to the original formula of returning fairy tales to their darker and grimmer roots and started becoming a conventional romance drama. But I think, being an ABC show, defying established fairy tale conventions was never going to last long in the first place. This isn't Fox. Doesn't help that it's a subsidiary of Disney, a company known for being a stickler for tradition.

For what it's worth, OUAT had a good run during its first three seasons, even the problematic season 3. I think that's the season limit most shows should have, three seasons, maybe a fourth or even a fifth one if you really need to push the narrative like Breaking Bad with its five seasons.
 
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thrasherpix
thrasherpix
I liked OUAT in Wonderland, but only as a 1 season offshoot. I don't see how I could've kept enjoying it if they dragged it out.

DeadlyDuo

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Even the most triumphant comedy of adult cartoons, South Park, has passed its prime with recent seasons being criticized as the kind of mindless shock humor FG relied on.
South Park is still going?

There was also the existence of the failed spin-off, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland", so I wonder if creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz had their attention occupied elsewhere.
The spin off took a while to get going but was fairly decent by the end. They brought the knave over to the main show briefly because he was a popular character from the spin off but then did nothing with him, he was a mere plot device in the RumBelle drama and they never answered what happened to Anastasia when she was his true love in the spinoff.

They should've done a spin off with Neverland based on Baelfire and his time there since they didn't cover that at all in the Neverland arc. They would've had their end point (Baelfire escapes) but they could've shown how he reached that point.

Yeah, I think by season 3, it felt like they started to fall into the habit of making things up out of thin air. I think it was around that time that I also started to realize the kind of melodrama/soap opera relationships that started to form in the likes of CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen. The twists related to these shippings also started to become more unbelievable and contrived. A notorious part of OUAT's writing is that they usually try to weave some hidden truths into the characters' past in the later seasons without any foreshadowing at all, as if they were just improvising. Many of the "conflicts" in CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen were due to such shoddy writing that were written out of convenience, not natural character development.
The heavy focus on CaptainSwan and OutlawQueen were massively detrimental to the show and Henry was given the role of author which was a stupid plotline when they could've just said the curse created the book.

I think, where OUAT ultimately failed is when they stopped sticking to the original formula of returning fairy tales to their darker and grimmer roots and started becoming a conventional romance drama. But I think, being an ABC show, defying established fairy tale conventions was never going to last long in the first place. This isn't Fox. Doesn't help that it's a subsidiary of Disney, a company known for being a stickler for tradition.
Agreed. It's a shame really because OUAT had the potential to be as good as Buffy and it squandered it by pandering to shippers. By Season 4 they were practically cutting and pasting the characters from the Disney movies.

For what it's worth, OUAT had a good run during its first three seasons, even the problematic season 3. I think that's the season limit most shows should have, three seasons, maybe a fourth or even a fifth one if you really need to push the narrative like Breaking Bad with its five seasons.
Agreed.
 
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AlphaFoxtrot

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It's mostly true. It's true for NextGen, the Office and the Simpsons, and Buffy, for that matter.

The only thing I take issue with is the first season. Most long running series make the first season look primative. I'm fully also willing to grant the existence of shows with a genius first season, but with no endgame. "Once" had fantastic first season. Family Guy came back from the dead on the strength of the early seasons. So, not universal, but generally true.
 

Hunga Munga

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I think the notion can apply to the old network broadcast model . 7 seasons of 22 episodes equates to a helluva lot of filming .

For most shows reaching 100 episodes and network syndication was their overarching dream back then .

Another focus before streaming was attracting and keeping 'ABC1' viewers , 18-49 with high disposable income . Probably still important now , but not like it was . With narrowcasting taking over in recent years , cash profit is more important than the wallet it came from. :D

This fascination with the ABC1 market probably propelled shows like BTVS and Gilmore Girls , or Northern Exposure, into extra seasons , when the talent were looking to move on .

With 'modern' shows I don't think it applies so well . Often IMO , the first and second season are the best and the show never breaks new creative ground , just rehashes what made it special in the first place . I'm looking at you 'Falling Skies' , 'IZombie', 'Tru Blood' and others . Every one could have been a genre defining show , but the mid seasons let them down , in my opinion :) .
 

The Bronze

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Even the most triumphant comedy of adult cartoons, South Park, has passed its prime with recent seasons being criticized as the kind of mindless shock humor FG relied on.
Nah South Park is nothing like Family Guy. Sure it can be shocking, offensive, gross and stupid. However it still has loads to say on social and political issues and current affairs. Funny too.

Think that model is OK for a decent proportion of shows but I feel now a lot struggle with following up a solid first season.
 

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Nah South Park is nothing like Family Guy. Sure it can be shocking, offensive, gross and stupid. However it still has loads to say on social and political issues and current affairs. Funny too.
I agree. I've only seen snippets here and there, along with the first handful of episodes from season 1, but South Park seems to remain as the smarter cartoon of the adult cartoon line-up. Probably not as smart as it was back then - no show could ever be for that long - but its recent criticism of America being biased to China was hilarious, especially Trey and Matt's response to China banning the episode in their country:



Think that model is OK for a decent proportion of shows but I feel now a lot struggle with following up a solid first season.
Yeah, that seems to be the consensus in this thread. I think the way series production has changed after the existence of the streaming service, writers are forced to change the way they tell stories, to produce the best content from Day 1. Unfortunately, that means there's no build-up to the much better season in season 2 or 3 because the best ideas have already been used up. They're better off as miniseries nowadays than a full-fledged series with two or three seasons.

I think older series like Buffy, they had the excuse of trudging along with baby steps because that was the format back then, and the audience's patience allowed them more freedom to slowly develop stories. There wasn't that kind of urgency today where you need to compete with 10 other shows streaming on three different platforms (phone, TV and computer). So, storytelling has improved that writers are putting all their eggs in the basket called season 1, but they ended up burning out in the long run, resulting in their inevitable cancellations.
 

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I think its normally best to start off slow and build. It tends to give the show more lasting power. Also serialised TV as form is meant to improve over time certainly in the way the characters and themes of the story grow. If the writing does its job and there's an overall plan that will be the case. Mad Men is a good example of that happening. More recently Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. With sitcoms like Seinfeld and Cheers, they had modest starts, but gradually got better over the first 3-4 seasons meaning that S7 was probably around the peak for each show. The first season of Cheers is actually pretty solid, whereas the first season of Seinfeld really isn't very good and not the show fans would grow to love. Chances are if Seinfeld was on the air now people might just give up on after the first season. Something similar might have happened with S1 of Buffy. But knowing the greatness which is coming and how invested I am in the characters its easier to sit through now.
 

Oromous

Constantly Tired and Weary
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Aug 16, 2020
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Singapore
Sineya
With sitcoms like Seinfeld and Cheers, they had modest starts, but gradually got better over the first 3-4 seasons meaning that S7 was probably around the peak for each show.
I think that, with the way sitcoms are written, they are a dying genre or even long dead:

While researching a mega piece about the fall 2018 TV ratings, I learned in excruciating detail that every network sitcom not starring a Sheldon is criminally under-watched. The Good Place can’t scrounge up 3 million viewers, Fresh Off the Boat is tanking hard in its new Friday home, and The Neighborhood is considered a solid hit with just under 7 million viewers a week. Not even the return of an iconic series like Murphy Brown goosed numbers; it too is hovering under the 7 million a week mark, a far cry from the show’s ’90s heyday. And even a 21st century blockbuster like Modern Family is sagging in the ratings now that its in its 10th season, averaging around half of what it scored at the show’s peak.
- From a 2018 Decider article,
"Are Network Comedies Dead?"
I remember that in my scriptwriting class, while we were discussing the format of a sitcom, we touched on how an average episode is written, and I feel that the main reason why this format isn't a relevant genre in our age of streaming services anymore is because of the way jokes are written: between every five to ten seconds, there must be a joke. That was at least how we were taught to write the "ideal sitcom." This might have worked on network TV where audiences could go channel-surfing and land upon a sitcom with jokes that work for them. The jokes of a sitcom are the main draw that get someone to stick to a channel and watch a show, not the overarching plot.

Today, however, audiences have evolved past that. TV series, even comedies, are now more complex. Serial narrative is the norm, unlike the '90s where Buffy and The X-Files were the trend-setters. People couldn't just stick with a show anymore and wait for a joke that works for them, and even if you have a season full of well-written jokes, they still need to compete with smarter comedies with either more intelligent commentary on society or even more quirky and interesting characters.

I think it all comes down to the audience's patience and the fact that they now have to pay $10 or more for a subscription service. They now have a limited window of one month to make that $10 worthwhile, whereas before Netflix, when you only had local channels that are available in your area (assuming you don't have cable), people would have a greater threshold of tolerance to wait patiently and give a show a chance.

In fact, I'm surprised procedural cop drama that relies on the "crime of the week" format isn't as dead as sitcoms yet. Most of these shows, their appeal is also similar to sitcoms, but instead of "wait and see if their humor works for you," it's "wait and see if you're interested in the kind of crime they are portraying." Good character writing plays a part to that appeal, yes, but I feel that good characters are the bare minimum of a series' quality, and having interesting characters just isn't enough for a show anymore to compete with other shows that also fulfill this minimum requisite.
 

AlphaFoxtrot

Scooby
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
1,580
Age
39
I do think making fewer episodes has affected the quality and lifespan of television. As art, the British method of serials over series, except the four or five shows that have been running since the war, is probably superior. However, the endless narrative is pop art usually works, so the compromise, that is probably a happy medium, as long as Venture Brothers remains the exception and not the norm.

The other thing that seems unmentioned is this. Network Television, like using radio waves to transmit information, is a Boomer Market. They still watch a lot of TV, which is why Law & Order and NCIS are enjoying long and healthy runs. Makes you wonder why Modern Family really ran that long?

But seriously, if you are going to write a long form story, at least have some idea how it is going to end. I cannot stress this enough.
 
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