Thursday, April 21, 2005

[How to: TV] The Situation is a Tube

Thanks to Chris Gilman for this analogy ...

While the Situation defines the types of stories your series tells, it also defines the types of stories your series doesn't tell. For instance, Battlestar Galactica is going to seem odd if it blows up the Battlestar and strands everyone on a planet for the rest of the series. The Situation is like a tube and the boundaries of the tube dictate the sorts of stories you can tell. In the case of BSG, it's about the journey and the threats (within & without) faced on that journey.

Because Gilmore Girls is a family drama, we don't expect terrorists to show up in Stars Hollow and hold Emily hostage, forcing a rapprochement between mother and daughter.

The tube of Situation provides a boundary on the types of story it's permissible for your series to tell - but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It also tells your audience what to expect every week. If they like the Situation, then they'll keep tuning in.

Can you change the tube? Well, I'd like to hear your thoughts on that. The closest I can think of at the moment is Angel Season 5 which is changing the situation from 'heroes helping the helpless' through to 'heroes corrupted by absolute power' - or so it seems. It means that (at least in these early eps) stories with a different feel are being played out.

5 comments:

hix said...

The tube also places boundaries on how much relationships are allowed to change (but I'll have to think on that a bit before expanding on it).

billy said...

Saw an episode of ANgel a couple of days ago - I've seen very erratic quantities of it over time. It was weird. Spike's a ghost?? (never saw Buffy season 7, so I shrug) and yeah, they have infinite resources now...

I have no content here.

hix said...

Spike as ghost = fairly recent development.

::Commonsense Spoiler:: He won't stay dead for long. Basically they just needed a way to get one of their most popular characters to swap between shows and 'ghost' is the obvious transition given how nuked he was at the end of BtVS7.

What it does brilliantly tho' is create real Spike-Angel rivalry over their mutual love of Buffy, and reintro the Harmony-Spike exes relationship. Voila! Instant conflict! And funny, too.

Svend said...

Isn't "jumping the shark" essentially all about changing the situation (in your sense)? See also "the Cerebus Syndrome", I guess...

Is it possible to change it in a positive way? Well, it has been done in web comics (c.f. Sluggy Freelance), but it's pretty darn rare. I can't think of any examples in TV, unless you count the old Battlestar Galactica when they got to Earth.

hix said...

I thought jumping the shark was about a show repeating itself/eating itself/beginning to suck. While changing the situation could be part of that process, it could also be an (sometimes desperate) attempt to keep itself fresh.

Angel (for instance) was instructed by the network to lift the ratings. Team Angel's move to W&H may or may not have been pre-planned by the creators. Is that jumping the shark?

I'll check out Sluggy Freelance, but question ... did the old BSG continue after they got to earth?