Friday, 1 July 2011

Drama Done Good

WARNING- Spoilers within, mostly related to Game of Thrones. Oh and some Heroes stuff, but who gives a shit about Heroes, right?

Game of Thrones came to an end just last week, and reminded me how much I love it when a TV show pulls the rug from under my feet. In case you didn't see, in episode 9 of the show, a major character lost a body part that was key to his very survival. The uproar was amazing. Lots of outrage and a hefty dose of complaining- why was he killed? I liked him! Bring him back! Sitting back and watching all this, it was hard to say which I enjoyed more- the event itself or the reaction to it. As for me is how all TV should be, producing real moments that people actually want to talk about.

However a lot of people weren't happy. They're not used to this sort of thing. Which made me wander what the average person wants from a TV show. Judging by the vast majority of content, they want something relatively unchanging, with nice neat plots that get wrapped up by the end of each episode. No consequences, thank you very much, and definitely no real surprises. What is the point of drama if it's accepted that certain characters are safe? That doesn't seem like drama to me. I guess it's what the casual viewer wants, though. But to quote David Simon, 'Fuck the casual viewer.'

I do get that some people want to just come in, switch off and let a TV show wash over them. But is it what people really want? Or is it something they've just been conditioned to expect? Making drama to cater for this attitude is certainly a lot easier for the networks. Personally, I find it difficult to really enjoy something when I know that the main characters are never going to be in real jeopardy. Because if you lose a big name, well think of the viewing figures. And the ad revenue. That guy cost a lot of money, you know. It creates a system were many shows need to follow a pre-prescribed path and the only risks are managed ones.

Heroes was probably the worst offender for this that I've seen. A show with little in the way of forethought, consequences or script. Kill someone in season one? Look, he's back! And it's Malcolm McDowell no less! As a ghost type thing, possibly! It felt to me like the show's creator, Tim Kring, had stepped out of the TV and shat directly into my mouth. At least I stepped away from the show at that point. Normally I wait around like an abused spouse until the bitter end.

I learned from these mistakes, and I have become better, and possibly, a lot more snobby. Though if snobbishness is wanting my media to be challenging and well made, then I'm OK with it. Sadly, this whole effect is not confined to just TV shows. I can think of few mediums that aren't guilty of pandering to the crowd. My other obsession, comic books, are one of the worst offenders, but that's an itch I'll never stop scratching. Still, even comic books have excellent examples of powerful storytelling, just not enough for my tastes.

Anyway, enough complaining about rubbish TV. I love good TV and Game of Thrones is exactly that. I should be celebrating how lucky we are. We're in a golden time for TV, people, and if you haven't, it is easy to mine the past 10 to 15 years for a dynamite catalogue of shows to work your way through. More than enough to wipe out your need to watch CSI. But with Game of Thrones both providing quality drama and bringing a big audience, let's hope shows like this can wipe out CSI and it's ilk altogether. Hope springs eternal.

1 comment:

  1. What a show. As soon as the show started I ran to my nearest bookshop and bought the book. Unfortunately by the time a certain characters head was removed from his body I had already read about it in the book. Though just as I'm sure many viewers mouths dropped my jaw lay firmly on my chest for the next two or three chapters.

    I don't really know where I was going with this but it seems to me that TV shows are shit because they're written to a formula that most screenwriters follow. Game of Thrones stands out because it's an excellent book (I'm in the 3rd pt 2) and the TV show has stuck as close as it possibly can to the books.

    Bring on season 2. Bigger budget and more action. Actually as I'm typing this I'm pretty sure they're doing some filming around Belfast loch. One thing to remember. NO ONE'S SAFE! It's war and war is brutal.