For the first time in what seems like forever (actually, it’s only been four-and-a-half months), I’m back with a fresh edition of The Humanoids column. This week, I take a look at the sad state of TV with a couple of few TV shows I watch regularly in danger of cancellation, I examine the current state of what’s actually put in front of us on TV and who really makes network programming decisions and who influences the scripts that we see on TV every week.
Are “shippers” ruining TV for the rest of us?
I’m a regular viewer of what seems to be ABC’s only police procedural (or at least the only one that hasn’t been cancelled), Castle. It seems unusual that ABC would even have one police procedural because that’s definitely the domain of CBS who have approximately 11 hours of police procedurals out of 18 hours of new programming in primetime every week.
There’s a reason why I bring this up now. The internet is saying that Castle is in trouble and renewal not necessarily a sure thing. Castle is the most watched show at 10:00 PM on Monday, though is nip and tuck with Hawaii 5-0 for the key 18-49 demo. Castle not getting as big a ratings bump as expected from the return of Dancing With The Stars also put the show in rumoured danger (though Dancing’s ratings are down over the last few cycles as all the actual stars people have heard of who want to do the show have already been on).
So where do the “shippers” (people who champion specific character romantic relationships in TV) come into all this? If you read the comments on blogs like TV By The Numbers, you will see people in the comments who say they are abandoning the show because they’re taking too long to hook up Nathan Fillion’s Castle and Stana Katic’s Detective Beckett. (And, yes, my fondness for this show is the only reason why Stana Katic made the cut for the Hottest Canadian bracket. Turns out that was a good call because people voted her into the Elite Eight and almost to the Final Four.)
So fans of Castle say that they won’t watch the show because the writers/producers won’t hook up the male and female leads. However, given the sexual tension between the two characters, doesn’t seem that Beckett and Castle getting together is the inevitable final destination of the two characters’ plot? That seems like the sort of thing to happen at the end of the show which would make those two getting together and living happily ever after the obvious series finale.
Look at one of our favourite shows here at Lowdown HQ, Chuck. Since the show was on the verge of cancellation constantly (it was literally in danger of ending every week), at the end of each episode order (the end of seasons 2 through 5 and the midpoints of seasons 3 and 4), Fedak and Schwartz gave us a happy ending where the lead male (Zach Levi’s Chuck) and lead female (Yvonne Strahovski’s Sarah) get together and live happily ever after. Fedak and Schwartz were also able to give us plot points to keep us interested so there’s that too.
The trouble with Castle is that as a police procedural, it’s hard to have too many unique plots that can wedge in some interesting relationship development given the “Case of the Week” nature of the show. There’s a reason why the CSIs and NCISs and Law and Orders of the world avoid wedging office romances into the shows. It’s because they end the logical plot and character arcs of the two characters involved. Can Beckett and Castle work together while dating? Of course not! They’d be broken up as a team because they’re dating! So if you have to break the team up, that destroys the whole premise of the show.
In the end, the “shippers” know what they want and don’t care about the consequences of their request. The fans of Caskett (or whatever these “shipper” fans have deemed this potential relationship) are leaving the show in protest of the two’s relationship not happening fast enough for them. When Caskett eventually does happen, they’ll stop watching the show because they’ve seen the ending they want and don’t need to watch what happens afterwords.
The problem with “shippers” is that they love a show and want to watch it but only to a certain conclusion. They’ll complain and campaign to make their desired relationship happen and when it’s mission accomplished, they have no reason to watch the show any more. A show built around sexual tension has no place left to go when those two characters hook up which leads to a swift death of the show. So when it comes to writing a TV romance, it’s really a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Is Veena Sud doing a better job with The Killing than we give her credit for?
Let’s stick with ABC police shows for a second. ABC had one of the greatest shows in the history of TV on the network in the early 1990s. That show was called Twin Peaks. After the first season, the ABC brass got involved and demanded that we find out who killed Laura Palmer during the second season. Producers David Lynch and Mark Frost weren’t planning to solve the mystery until the show ended but they were overruled on this one. The show was cancelled after the second season.
My main complaint with the first season of The Killing wasn’t that Sud was jerking us around with red herrings or that most of the characters were shit (though that was one of my secondary complaints). It was that I’ve seen The Killing before. I saw the first season of The Killing as a show called TWIN PEAKS! Twin Peaks had interesting characters and the supernatural and David Lynch but the similarities are uncanny. There are red herrings, half the town are suspects, the murder victim was a member of a prostitution ring, the main suspect at the end of the first season was shot and the final scene of the first season ended with a character getting shot in a cliffhanger ending.
I guess my complaint about people complaining about The Killing isn’t to dissimilar as my problem with shippers. Solving the Rosie Larsen murder in the first season kills the show. There’s no reason for us to watch the second season because there aren’t any interesting characters or quirks to the show to make us come back. Twin Peaks had interesting characters and entertaining quirks and it got cancelled as soon as the big mystery was solved. Granted, The Killing hasn’t done anything to be nearly as endearing as Twin Peaks but the comparison is apt.
Veena Sud may be writing a generally loathed television show but she has done one thing right: She has people interested in the show. People are talking about the show, even if they’re complaining. People are committing to watching a second season, if only just to find out who the murder was. She was smart enough to continue her employment and that of her cast and crew for a second season. Creating entertaining and high quality television should be the goal of all producers (unless you’re Chuck Lorre) but more important than that for the producers is putting money in the bank. You can’t really fault Sud for being able to do that.
Long answer: Yes because the character is extremely poorly written. She’s a complete and utter moron with no redeeming qualities. When you actively cheer for a character to be eaten by a zombie not because you dislike the character because she’s a villain, like Shane, but because she irritates you through being a character who takes away from the show as a whole, the character has to go. You may hate characters and want to see them get what’s coming to them in the plot of the show but Lori Grimes needs to go so as not to continue this show with dumb and/or repetitive plots about being the most negligent parent and dumbest person on TV right now.
Any mention of Kim Kardashian is just feeding the beast, right?
Yes, even this short paragraph. Look, if we all just stop believing that she’s real, she’ll cease to exist. She feeds off of media/tabloid mentions of her. If we stop reading/watching/clicking onto stories about her and her family’s exploits, we won’t hear from her again. But as long as it’s profitable for the media to keep talking about her, they’ll keep forcing her down our throats. Can we just have a very quiet moratorium on all things Kardashian? Just don’t mention it publicly on Twitter or Facebook because the media will turn that into a story and we’ll have failed spectacularly in our efforts.