Televison and the 5 Year Plan?

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Squintz Altec
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Televison and the 5 Year Plan?

Unread postby Squintz Altec » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:50 pm

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and one thing I have almost universally discovered, is that most people tend to shift gradually from love of a show to hatred as time goes by. This isn't to say that people don't enjoy or watch the show after then, but they don't like it as much as before. For some reason, this "divide" usually happens after season 5. Why is this? Let's look:

Season 1 is all about establishment. A lot of shows never make it past season 1, and those are mostly shows with a lot of questions and backstories. In general, it takes the entire season to establish some aspects of the characters, as well as throw in some good conflict (Especially if it is a backstory conflict, it gives more "setting up" in another episode). In general, by the end of the first season, not all the questions have been answered, but you at least have a firm grounding of what each character "does."

Seasons 2 and 3 serve roughly the same purpose. In these seasons, characters and settings are defined, as per season 1. This is where things tend to start changing, and developments occur. However, there are still plenty of fresh ideas for the writers, and it's not a big issue. Usually, the stories still make sense and they're engaging. Seasons 2 and 3 are usually the most liked out of all the seasons of a television show, mostly because they're the seasons where people grow more attached to the characters as they grow and change.

Season 4 is where writers tend to start running out of ideas. This may be because they didn't expect to go 4 seasons, or whatever. The point being, is that ratings will start to slip, so a few "extreme" things will start happening in the show. Characters will change, some for the worse, but things in the end will be close enough to the last two seasons that people will still be mostly ok. This is where you get the first grumblings.

Season 5 is where the ratings slip really affects things. Stuff gets wildly out of control, and sometimes characters are warped so much that they no longer are recognizable. Most shows die here, unless they're big hits. Then they survive on.

Season 6+ is mostly a different show. Either the dynamic has changed completely, or the characters are no longer who they started out as. The ratings continue to slip, and people get nostalgic for the "good old days' of the show.



For example, let's look at Scrubs. The first season introduced JD, Turk, and Elliot as new doctors. It also brought us the staff working at the hospital. They (The new doctors) had to struggle to get used to things, and working their internships. By the end of season 1, they had the hang of things, and became residents.

In seasons 2 and 3, they continued on with their training, fleshing out some characters more and introducing some storylines that weren't "crazy," but actually good (For example, Cox having a baby with his ex-wife. This is actually less weird than it looks, mostly because of who the character of Dr. Cox is.). Relationships expanded, characters grew apart and closer (JD and Elliot)

In Season 4, things started to get a little bit weird. By this time, Turk and Carla got married, the Elliot and JD train had sailed (yes, it sailed), and stagnation threatened the show. So, they threw it for a loop by having Turk and Carla have horrible marital problems, and deciding to make a baby. JD and Elliot get thrown into an "odd-couple" scenario when they're both Chief Resident, and JD gets forced out of his apartment to make room for Turk and Carla

By Season 5, the characters were fully established. There was no more "learning" to be done. this limited Dr. Cox's role significantly, as he could no longer be the "main teacher" of the show. On top of this, JD was hopelessly single, and the storylines got crazier and crazier. At the end of the season, JD found out he impregnated his current girlfriend...after the second date. We even later found out he never actually did the deed, which is even more depressing.

Season 6 is getting even weirder. JD now has an ailment that causes him to faint every time he defecates, and so on and so forth. Many people are tired of the show.

So, what do you all think?

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Justice Augustus
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Unread postby Justice Augustus » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:52 pm

I would agree that there is a point in most tv shows where they lose steam and change moods to the extent where newer episodes seem pathetic compared to "classic" ones. However, I don't think you can put a definite marker on when this happens by calling it the 5-year plan or anything. For example "The Simpsons" is often pointed at as a show which has lost its attraction to many viewer, but most people place that fall at season 8, 9, or 10. "South Park" is into its 10th season, and still retains its original attraction. "Family Guy" fell in the fourth season in my opinion, while "Star Trek: The Original Series" definitely started getting weird in season 3.

The problem here is that all shows must decide how they proceed with their characters: innovate or conserve. Writers have to choose between developing their characters and having them grow emotionally (as is natural for a living being) or maintaining the status quo. By keeping their characters the same writers are able to play with the show and the characters original "hooks" which attracted the audience in the first place. After a while though this can get boring if the characters were not that original to begin with (look at "American Dad" for an example). Only shows with truly unique and interesting characters can keep them the same, and these are very rare ("Fraiser" is my favourite example). By changing the characters writers risk upsetting their existing fans, but at the same time might attract a new fanbase by appealing to other interest groups. The British comedy sci-fi sitcom "Red Dwarf" managed to fully revitalise itself by adding new characters (the android Kryton, bringing in Kochanski, and finally reanimating the entire crew of Red Dwarf itself from the grave). I feel "Scrubs" is trying to do the same: maintaining the same personalities of the three main characters (JD, Turk, Elliot) as well as the supporting cast while adding additional personalities and characters to provide new joke material.

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Guess Who It Is?
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Unread postby KingOfDoma » Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:53 pm

I believe the concept you're thinking of, Adam, is jumping the shark. It's common. There comes a time when all shows start to suck, save for a choice few. It's a fact of life.

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Holy Order of the Crimson Ballpoint
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Unread postby PriamNevhausten » Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:52 pm

Sometimes, it is not the show that changes that is the problem--rather, it is the show having not changed that is the problem. People want the show they love, but they don't want to see what they've seen. It is inevitable that no matter how well you try to stay ahead of the curve, you will eventually fall. Again, few exceptions--and these few tend to stay very close to the not-changed position on the continuum rather than the adaptive bit.

Squintz Altec
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Unread postby Squintz Altec » Tue Feb 27, 2007 5:04 pm

I know about Jumping the Shark, but that is usually a part of the show's decline. Usually, they jump the shark in seasons 4 or 5.

Those are all pretty good points, though. Either way, television shows do have a shelf life.

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