How many of you out there have fallen in love with a television show? A show of hands would be fine. Alright, now how many of you have felt that same television show has betrayed you in some capacity? Keep those hands up. I would imagine if we were in a classroom environment right now we’d see kind of a 50/50 type scenario (can you imagine I Am Geek the Class?! I think I do every day of my life). Why is that? Do all television shows that we fall in love with eventually break our hearts? Not because they end, all good shows should have an end game in mind, but because they lose track of what we made us fall in love with them in the first place? Sometimes this is because the hype becomes too real or maybe the story becomes stagnant, or even worse, the writers have no idea where to take the story or maybe because the show over stays it’s welcome. No matter the reason it’s always this awful feeling when we watch a television show out of duty and past love opposed to seeing the obvious… this show isn’t for us anymore.
The best example of this I could give is Heroes, and I feel it’s something I’ve touched upon here before. When you sit back and look at it, Heroes had one of the most successful first seasons ever. No, for serious. This show was all over the place. For starters it was something different for the super hero medium. As a matter of fact I would attribute Heroes as part of a movement that started to make the ideas of super heroes kind of main stream. In the past there was your Batmans and your Hulks but those shows seemed to focus on the more campy sides of heroes whether intentionally or by accident. Batman especially. Must I remind you of the Batusi?
Heroes tried to put the idea of super powered humans in a more serious tone. Of course there was a degree of camp, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but for the most part Heroes was rooted in telling a serious story that involved super powered people. It even came with it’s own tag line, “save the cheerleader, save the world”. If we know nothing else about pop culture it’s that if you have a catchy tag line it’s going to help your product blow up. If it looks good on a t-shirt then that means dollar signs and dollar signs means viewers and so on and so forth. Round and round we go.
The writing was on the wall for Heroes probably as soon as the season one finale. The battle that we’d been waiting for all year took places behind closed doors. Literally. The door was closed and they fought. The viewer never gets to see the action of the final big battle just some flashing lights behind closed doors and what has to make the list of tv’s biggest rip offs. And the show never recovered from that. Season two ended up being a disjointed mess where the show runners tried to focus on star making opposed from story telling, and then tried to get back into story telling, and some how this all lasted three or four seasons before NBC thankfully pulled the plug. Heroes had glimmers of hope but was never able to re-discover that shine from season one. Which begs the question, is it possible for a show to come back from something like that?
This whole column is stemming off the last two weeks of Arrow. After season two, I personally found that the quality of the show had started to slip. There were handfuls of episodes per season that had those moments where they felt like the show I had fallen in love with, but for the most part I had resigned myself into believing that Arrow had lost it’s footing and Flash was now the flagship show of this DC television universe (I still think Flash is). Then these last two episodes happened and I found myself remembering just why I fell in love with Arrow in the first place, and I did what I always do, I got excited. I waxed hyperbolic on social media and wanted to go back to some of those earlier episodes and surround myself in the awesome of the show. You know, the falling in love phase of watching.
Which made me wonder if it’s possible for a show to re-discover it’s niche. You would think that the longer a show goes on the harder and harder it’s going to become for it to recover. The memories of it being spectacular become a distant memory and people to start to watch more because they have to and without much emotion. “Oh it’s Tuesday, I suppose I’ll watch such and such now”. In a situation like this you would have to work extraordinarily hard to reignite that spark in your viewers because at this point it’s just a failing relationship. We all know how that goes. You stick around for one or two more seasons, or one or two more years, because you have nothing better to do and then look back and wonder why you wasted all that time. It’s tragic.
This is something that almost happened to me with LOST. Around season three I grew impatient and frustrated with the series. There were promises of answers and the revealings of big secrets, and all I was getting was the story behind Jack’s tattoos. It came to a point where I felt the show had chased me away. I was done. Then I was at my buddies house and he asked me if I was still watching. I replied no and loosely inquired about it. Think of it again as a relationship, you’ve broken up and you don’t want to seem needy by asking questions about the other person buuuuuuut you still want to know. Tim (my friend) gave me the loose map of what had been happening on the island and somewhere in the middle he told me Sayid had gotten shot. At that point he had my attention. What the hell happened to Sayid? Was he okay? Who the hell shot him? No, don’t tell me? And just like that I went back and watched all the episodes I had missed on the ABC website, something that was super new at the time, and didn’t look back once, and I’m glad that I did. LOST is one of my all time favorite television watching experiences. It’s the 1a to Breaking Bad in my favorites, but because the show had run stagnate and started spinning wheels, they almost lost me (pun not intended but now I wish I had). Not all of us are that lucky. Not all shows can win us back.
It’s safe to say that we’ve all had these types of relationships with our programs before, and they’re never easy to accept. Some people could site Rosanne (that later years) for being a big culprit or maybe even shows like E.R. and The Sopranos. Some where along the line these shows put out the flames and we hung around out of a sense of duty. I guess the hope is that the show will find it’s footing again. Maybe we’re that invested in the characters that we don’t care how bad the story telling has become? Maybe it literally is because we have nothing better to do. I don’t know but we stick with these shows because we love (or loved) them, and we hope that one day they’ll repay that love. I don’t know if Arrow will maintain the momentum it has right now, but I do know that I’m enjoying being reminded of what made me fall in love with this show in the first place. In some ways it’s like falling in love again. You just have to be careful. In my experience that second relationship after the break up flames up heavy and burns out fast, and then everything turns to ashes. Pretty heavy analogy, right?
By ash I mean you stop watching all together, but I’m sure you already knew that.
How about you Geeklings? What shows have broken your heart? Sound off in the comments below. Let’s have ourselves a good ole fashion therapy session.