05 February 2007

Interesting Show Format

I noticed something strange about several new tv shows I've been watching lately - despite being a diverse set of genres, they've got a remarkably similar format.

Specifically, these shows have large ensemble casts that are hardly ever in the same scene together, with multiple overlapping storylines (sometimes barely overlapping). Examples are The Class (a 30-min comedy), Heroes (a 60-min sci-fi drama), Boston Legal (a 60-min legal drama), and that housewives show I'm hesitant to admit watching. :)
Other shows like Scrubs & My Name Is Earl have large casts, but they tend to hang out together, or at the very least share the same action & sets. In Heroes, some of the characters come in and out of each other's lives, but The Class and Boston Legal are basically 3 or 4 shows rolled into one.
Of course, this isn't a new phenomenon, but I think it's interesting to see the approach being used across so many different genres and story types.


Mark said...

Yeah, it seems like a "shotgun" approach. With 3 or 4 (or more) stories in one episode, you're more likely to get a viewer interested in at least one! I'm not sure if I like the concept or not...

What I definitely don't like is the "bazooka" approach, that most shows in the drama category seem to be taking. Each episode has to contain a more outrageous scenario than the last. To me, it is just distracting - especially when these things all happen to the same group of people - who actually has a life like that? Have any of you ever had the cocaine-addicted baby of your ex-spouse (who was murdered by your next door neighbor) dropped off on your doorstep minutes before the outbreak of a deadly plague, all while you are still contemplating the implications of your parent's recent gender-reassignment surgery?

And don't get me started on the CSI shows. For all their popularity, the "cool science" they present is simply absurd - again, I just find it distracting.

Don't get me wrong, there is certainly room for a bit of fantasy and imagination in entertainment. But most of these shows just strike me as though the writers are incapable or unwilling to write something interesting and engaging without going straight to maximum hyperbole overdrive.


Michelle said...

Yep, I'm definitely with Mark on the crime shows. I studied forensic anthropology and no one ever told me I'd get to carry a gun and interrogate witnesses if I pursued that career. Or that the FBI would come knocking at my door to give me said gun.

I am hip on The Class, Heroes, and Lost (which was suspiciously left off your list). All of which seem to be slightly better written than most of the other junk on tv. I usually attribute it to the writing (or at least THOUGHT to the storyline). Maybe Mark's right about them offering at least one character we can relate to, but I think it has to more than that. It still has to be done well, and I think those are. (Not mentioning the housewives show that maybe you shouldn't either.) :)

Dan said...

Ah I love Lost - and wasn't quite sure if it really fits the format tho. It certainly has a lot of branching & intersecting storylines, but they do all seem to gather on the beach pretty regularly (or at least they did before Jack et al got captured).

So, I guess the latest season (1/2 season) in particular fits the profile, of a large cast that isn't in the same scene anymore.

Can't wait for the new episodes to come back!

Kim said...

Oooh yes, Lost is the only show that I make sure I'm home for every week! Love that JJ Abrams.

Per Mark's comment: My old lab was hoping to get one of those PCR/printers from the CSI set. Sure would have saved us months of bench work. :P

Dan said...

Good comments, everyone - thanks!

And speaking of The Class, apparently the Holly character (the news reporter) has been cut, despite the cliff-hanger "I'm going to get you" situation with Fern.

I just noticed she's not in the photo I used either.

Michelle said...

I watched The Class last night and decided that the red-head is just hilarious. The actor, the character, his lines . . . love 'em!

Dan said...

He's amazing, isn't he? He can say the word "what?" in so many different tones, and they're all funny.

I should have included Studio 60 in this category too... you never see the whole cast together - ever.

Gabe said...

Dude, I love Heroes. The best ever! This thing gets better and better every week. (I'd just like to see more superpowers.) And if that wasn't enough, one of the newest characters is the ex Dr. Who from the new series. Fantastic! That's a crazy good show too even if the special effects are chessy (and they're made that way on purpose.)