— Ed Cottingham conrtibuted with this article.
The first episode of American television series “The Event” aired in the UK a couple of Fridays ago. Already a success in its native America, the political/sci-fi drama has been picked up by the NBC network for a full, 22 episode season.
Revolving around a group of non-terrestrial detainees at a secret facility in Alaska run by the American intelligence agencies, the series promises to be full of mystery, political intrigue, and plot twists.
I didn’t watch the first or the second episodes. In fact, I won’t be following the series at all. This is because I know how it all ends. Fans of the show should look away now for I am now going to reveal that “The Event”…
…will be cancelled.
Yes that’s right, cancelled. “The Event” may be “the biggest cover-up in US history” but it is no secret that the Americans know nothing when it comes to making television programmes.
Sadly, nearly all US dramas and sitcoms end up following the same formula. They enjoy a period of growing success and high viewing figures which prompts more seasons to be commissioned. In order to keep the show fresh, more characters, settings and themes are introduced until the show becomes something unrecognisable from what it started out as, usually resulting in cancellation.
Take “Heroes” for example. It was a simple yet unique concept that was instantly popular back in 2006. Each week, we met a new character blessed (or cursed) with a super power, then gradually, over the series, all the character’s stories interwove until they all came together to defeat a common enemy in the season finale. Great stuff. End it there. The viewing figures were high, the writing was decent and it showcased some promising acting talents who, on the success of the first series, can now go on to bigger and better things.
Alas, it was not to be. Instead, new seasons were demanded, countless new characters and plot lines were introduced and the writing standards dropped dramatically until it was cancelled mid way through the fourth season. I’m not even sure there was a season finale.
But there are dozens of examples. “Lost”, “3rd Rock from the Sun”, “Will & Grace”, “Ugly Betty”, “Scrubs”, “ER” and “Frasier” were all excellent at their height but fizzled out to weak finales or were cancelled, tainting any previous critical acclaim.
Nothing seems to have been learnt though. The term “jumping the shark” was first used to describe the demise of “Happy Days” in the late 1970s, but is now used far too often to explain a show’s failure.
The yanks need to take a few lessons from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. “The Office” and “Extras” are television perfection. Each ran for twelve episodes plus a Christmas special and there was an adamant refusal from Gervais and Merchant to make any more. As a result, “The Office” and “Extras” have been entrenched in television history as two of the best sitcoms ever made.
Programmes such as “Gavin and Stacey” and “The Inbetweeners” have also been hugely popular and massively successful over the past few years with relatively short runs, but this success is under threat from fans demanding more episodes. Why? Just let them be! Relish in their glory! Go back and watch all the episodes again, I can guarantee there will be things you didn’t notice the first time round.
The future of American television is bleak and the past trends will continue to run. “True Blood”, “The Big Bang Theory” and, of course, “The Event” are all headed towards the same place, the floor of their respective network’s scheduling room.
However, if we are not careful, this will spread over the Atlantic and our favourite shows will turn into tedious, poor quality, drawn out programming.
So let’s continue to produce short series sitcoms and keep commissioning quality one-off dramas. Let’s show our transatlantic cousins that quality will always prevail over quantity.Tweet