Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Big Reason Most TV Shows and Movies Suck

We went to see "The Last Mimzy" over the weekend and before you ask "Why?" I'll only say my fiancee and I were taken in by the trailers which hinted at an "E.T."-like classic story with novel special effects and neither of us felt like being intellectually challenged on a Sunday. Needless to say, we probably should have Tivo'ed the trailer and watched it over and over 120 times instead of seeing the actual movie. I think the most entertaining thing about it was playing "Count the Product Placements!" In fact "Mimzy" featured the most blatant non-joke product placement possibly in the history of cinema. Way to go Intel. I think ticket prices should be discounted based on the number of product placements. In the case of "Mimzy" the theater should just send us a check for $32.50.

Anyway, my point wasn't about product placement or how execrable "The Last Mimzy" was. Mimzy, like most movies and TV shows suffered from the "stereotype of running time." That is to say, "this is a movie and therefore it should run about this long." Or "this is a TV show and therefore it should run this long." Unfortunately, many stories need a lot more than 90 minutes to unravel their plots and characters. By the same token, many films need only a few minutes. I suspect "Norbit" might have been better as a five minute YouTube clip. We'll watch as long as we're entertained and engrossed.

While lately TV shows have become serialized in their approach to storytelling ("Heroes," "24," "Lost," etc.), they're still missing the point. TV shows like these run as long as the network can suck money from them. Most of today's serial shows have a central mystery and this lack of a known run length must drive writers crazy. Will it end this year, next year, or five years from now? How much filler do we need to add? How much can we flatten this story arc? Alias seemed to suffer from this. The first two seasons hinged on discovering a lost artifact. When they found the lost artifact there was really nowhere to go except off the air. "Lost" is a good show but it's heavily padded. Some scenes just lay there, bereft of plot or meaning, but they help stretch the series out.

The last example I'll share is local TV News. Some nights there is truly not enough news to fill the 30 minutes. This means we get fluff stories about colorful senior citizens and pets that can sing. How about we make a rule that local TV news is as long as it has to be. No more real news 15 minutes into the broadcast? Well, then sign off and let's move on to the next thing.

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