Show-slowmo


#1

Just did a bit of reading up on where The Walking Dead went after stopping at the point Negan does his thing with the bat and the doods and have just finished the latest ‘The Expanse’ episode and I’ve come up against what I find to be the most frustrating part of TV series watching yet again: The slow-down.

It happened in TWD season 2, The Expanse season 2, about half way in to Star Trek: Discovery season 1, by season 3 of Dexter, towards the end of Breaking Bad season 2, mid season 2 of Silicon Valley…

What the hell is the deal? Is it budget? Writers block? Too many episodes to fulfill in a given season? Stagnation?

I really don’t get the slow down, especially with series based on existing books or lore where the pace just doesn’t match up with the mirrored archs in the books/lore - The Expanse has taken 3 series to cover a book and a bit, really slowing things down and drawing them out like it’s Harry Potter and they’re trying to stretch out the gravy train ride.

It seems to often be explained away as ‘character building’, and it could well be since I’m really, really touchy about how character development is done - The Expanse being a prime example of annoyance for me: I do not want to spend four pages reading about the backstory of a character mid way through an arch/story sequence. I want to learn about a character as part of the story I’m reading, not by reading paragraphs of exposition or mini-prologues spliced in to the main story.

Is it really just my impatience or my attention span or general dislike of most character building methods or is it something else that causes this seasonal slow down?

Does it bother anyone else how frequently great shows are slowed down by chaff episodes?


#2

it’s just done to get more episodes out. I feel like it’s more that they cram stuff into the start and end to get you hooked, and then to give something to ramp up to, or some kind of climax that’ll be what you think about when you decide to watch the next series, and the middle is just the regular pace they can maintain. Lots of stuff depends on how the season starts and ends; start poorly and you may get dumped in a weaker timeslot, trail off at the end and you may not get renewed, while the middle of most seasons all anyone’s going to look at is whether viewing figures went up or down from the start, and at what rate.

I think adapting existing material has a tendency to do this, as someone has paid for rights, a network may demand 20, 22, 24 episodes to fit scheduling, there are 12 writers, and an ensemble cast of people who all want some screen time, a monologue maybe, or some kind of set piece to demonstrate the skills they learned at drama school. The idea of telling you the story they’ve bought has to balance out with all this other ego driven bullshit.

Sometimes it is for character building (earlier seasons of TWD with the flashback backstory for new characters), but others it’s just trying to create extra content without developing the characters or furthering the plot. And sometimes it’s just for fun (like the Buffy musical episode, the Supernatural/Scooby-Doo crossover, or seasons 4 to 7 of deep space nine).

Ever watched Naruto? Maybe half of it is ‘filler’, not related to the ongoing plot, and typically with increasingly stupid storylines being tacked on (fuckin magic soup). In its case, it caught up with the manga that was it’s source, and animation takes sufficient time that every so often they had to stop furthering the plot and do something else while the guys doing the plot could catch up. So i guess it could be worse.

If you haven’t, watch Search Party. It has none of that shit (10 episodes a season), it’s a dark comedy that presents itself as a mystery, and it’s well paced from start to finish with a solid twist at the end of season 1, and decent enough script and performances that you can both love and hate the characters as though they’re actual human beings and not one dimensional characterised plot devices.


#3

I never need an excuse to be cynical, but that is what I usually default to in my mind and wish they’d just skip the filler but I circle back to the point you made about the ‘execs’ making key decisions like number of episodes, etc. “We need 24 episodes - why? because we’ve sold ad slots for a 24 episode season that we need to fill!”

I’ve never watched Naruto but I find that a lot of anime is the same to the point I completely gave up on Attack on Titan and nearly packed in Deathnote. Attack on Titan just became 75% whining teenagers and 25% actual story progression or action or anything other than whining.

I don’t mind this sort of device so much but it really grates if there are multiple flashbacks in a ‘serious’ show or if an episode is more than say a third flashbacks. When it works it really works well but so many flashback episodes are used to establish a character’s moral standing and are so on the nose they may as well have just had a member of the crew walk through the episode before the moral choice is made with a sign saying “THIS CHARACTER SEEMS LIKE A BAD DUDE BUT THEY’RE BAD FOR REASONS BUT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD”.

I feel a bit of a hypocrite for this but I usually don’t mind when it’s a comedy or less serious show, but that might be because comedies are usually super formulaic and mixing up the formula is a nice break. There were some fun flashback episodes in Scrubs and the ‘what if’ flashbacks from Friends gave me a chuckle.

I think the reason I got irritated last night with The Expanse was more to do with having saved it as a treat for myself for when the coursework/exams are finished and then finding they dragged the cliff hanger from season 2 out for so long and then put the breaks on even further when they resolved it…frustrating.


#4

Totally with you on the expanse; haven’t watched this weeks but this season feels like it just suddenly hit a brick wall.

On the first point, there’s an increasing trend in trying to keep a small plot point in all the ‘filler’ episodes; the CW shows are particularly bad for this. They’re not fooling anyone, we can tell when the episode is unrelated to the really serious shit that we were right in the middle of last week, but this episode is written by a junior member of the writing team and is being used a a vehicle to give a certain actor their contractually obliged recurring guest role.

And I agree with you on comedies. There’s probably a decent discussion in the difference between sitcoms and other forms of comedy where comedy can come from the plot, or be physical, and how some of the most successful comedies successfully combine all of these, but overall they rarely seem to struggle with the same issues of pacing through a season unless they go particularly plot heavy.