It is time to bid farewell to the television of 2008 and welcome 2009 with open arms, but let it be with a sweet, friendly warning. TV viewers are fickle. One day we'll love your show, and the next we'll hate it. Sometimes all you have to do is steer a little off course, or introduce an irritating character, and then we abandon you to the cold. Yet TV viewers can be fiercely loyal, sticking to a show through seasons of awful dialogue just because we remember when it was great. The Writer's Strike put a real damper on new shows and old shows alike this year, but 2009 has a clean new slate to wipe that memory away. First, here's a little TV Wish List for 2009 from a loving admirer.
Wish # 1. Get Back To Your Roots!
and Grey's Anatomy
have to pay the closest attention here, but you other shows that are guilty, you know who you are. Some of the once-popular TV series are losing their flavor; maybe there are too many pointless characters, or time-space confusion, or insanely stupid ghost sex. Whatever the case is, if your fanbase is constantly having to find reasons just to keep watching, you're going to lose them. Eventually something better will come along, alright? So here's the deal: you were popular at one time, so pinpoint what happened and find that again
. Let's use Heroes for example. The first season was a hit because it was new and fresh and brought the comic industry to a mainstream audience. Then it got convoluted and rehashed the same plot lines or brought in characters that no one liked. There were so many characters and storylines going on at once that the fans couldn't follow. The first season may have an ensemble, but there was a commonality to all the stories: they were given gifts and had to figure out what was happening and why. The plots were separate and yet unified all at once. This whole 'who is a villain, omg Sylar isn't anymore, wait yes he is' drama is just confusing. You were beloved for a reason; regular people getting super hero powers and trying to find out why. This isn't rocket science, but it's good TV. And stop messing with the future.
The point is that while moving forward is always important, there has to be respect for the original source and for the reasons fans started to tune in. This is a give and take relationship. So start giving the good stuff and maybe we'll start taking again.
Wish # 2. Give Low Rated Shows More Time!
Listen, it is a hard business to be sure, but over half of the new shows get canceled before they even get a chance to take their first steps. Not everything can be a hit from day one, and sometimes that is due to poor marketing or struggling to find an audience. Yes, some of them are just terrible. Firefly
was not one of those, and after one season it was dead despite its fanatic watchers. Now Pushing Daisies
, Dirty Sexy Money
, Lipstick Jungle
, My Own Worst Enemy
, etc., they're all going and there could be a hundred reasons why.
Dirty Sexy Money - © American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
Yet a lot of the time you hear 'oh I never even knew that show existed' or people picking up on reruns and DVD's rather than seeing the show itself. Come on, pump up these little shows, give them more credit and assistance, because you never know when a sleeper hit is hiding underneath the poor time slots or marketing negligence.
Wish # 3. Let An Old Dying Show Die
One of the smartest things Lost
and Battlestar Galactica ever did was declare an ending date for their shows. No one likes when shows drag on three seasons after it stopped being interesting, and it is always better to go out with a big bang than a meek little whine. Once Lost set an ending date, the show immediately became more focused, intense, and sucked everyone back into it. Too much of a good thing means ratings will go down, DVD's will not sell, and fond memories will be forever tainted. Monk
has recently declared this to be the last season, and it is climbing up there in age so it is wise. We're looking at you for the moment, Scrubs
. Weren't you supposed to be over two seasons ago? The cast looks bored just talking about 'one more season.'
Wish # 4. Procedurals - Character Development Rocks
was one of the few new shows this season that skyrocketed to instant popularity, and it has actually been a competitor for its time slot every week successfully. It could be due to Simon Baker's
adorable smile, but it may be more due to its quirky character development on top of a reliable procedural plot. There is a murder of the week, a villain to find, suspects to be questioned, and resolutions to be had. CSI
and Law and Order
have been two of the most popular series for years now, but if you take the brilliance of their simple "Who Dun It" mysteries and then throw in interesting, detailed characters, it would be unbeatable. The success of shows like Monk, Psych, Life, and Bones
have all been thanks to the mixing of great characterization with consistent plot patterns. House
follows a similar line only in medicine rather than crime.
The Mentalist - © CBS Broadcasting
But it is the addition of overarching season plots, relationships, friendships, character choices and growth, plus a touch of humor that makes these shows unforgettable. You can sometimes watch procedurals mindlessly, but not when following the dialogue can have you laughing or will actually matter three episodes from now. Keep it up, TV.
Wish # 5. Try New Things
TV really tried this year to try new shows and create, and in some ways it really succeeded. Look at True Blood
, Life On Mars
, The Mentalist, and even the failed shows of the year. Maybe they didn't all make it to the top lists, but they were memorable in their own ways, and they were fighting the big popular giants of today. Fresh blood and innovative thinking is how all of our favorites even came to exist today, and shows like The Office
, House, 24
, Prison Break
, and 30 Rock
were all brand new once upon a time. This is where the real struggle comes in for television, because you can never tell what the audience will embrace. If you try to make a show too like another one, they will find it cliche and boring. If you go too abstract, no one will want to watch it. This is a fine line to dance, but without the failures or successes of new shows every year, we'd run out in a few years and have nothing but reality television. Seriously. Please, please, please let's never let that happen. So remember that even if you're not quite sure about this new pilot idea, read it again and give it a chance. Who knows what will be the next hit, and when our favorites finally end, there better be something to replace them.
Story by Chelsea 'Dee' Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer