I've got another column over at KsiteTV today, this one discussing some things to consider when structuring an entire season's worth of shows. In the course of doing so, I examine the Klaus arc from the last season of The Vampire Diaries and see how it stacks up against one of the best seasons of genre television - the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The CW premieres this week are about to send the new season of genre programming into full swing and you know what that means: season long arcs, new Big Bads, devious endgames, and angst by the barrelful. Serialized arcs are the bread-and-butter for genre TV, which is interesting because as recently as a decade ago, writers and producers were encouraged to be more episodic in their storytelling. (For those not in the know, this means that every episode was more of a standalone, with the stories being resolved in a single show with few continuing threads.) The thinking was that serialized arcs were a harder sell in syndication because they meant that the TV stations couldn’t show episodes in any random order.
Personally, I never understood why this was such a problem but at the same time, it’s hard to argue with the success that episodic shows like Law & Order, CSI and their various spinoffs had on the syndicated market. For the longest time, producers worked to find the right balance between telling a season-long story that had forward momentum through the season while also making as many of those components as standalone as possible.
Aside from the syndication argument, there’s probably a case to be made that it’s not bad on a creative level to take a break from the uber-arcs now and then. Just to name one example, as captivated as I was by the conspiracy arcs on The X-Files during their original run, in reruns I’m far more apt to settle in for a standalone rerun like “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” or “Bad Blood.” And let’s face it – sometimes it can get a little tedious if a show spends its entire season in strict serialization. Done right, it can lead to rich storytelling. Done wrong… and there’s a sense of treading water while the writers drag out an inevitable conflict between the good guys and the bad.
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