A lot of ink has been spilled about the future of serial television, but even if I do not think that it is “going away” or “dying,” I’ve recently been thinking about how troubling it is to be a fan of these types of series.
As a fan of serial television, there are usually two things that happen to me. And there are two series on the air right now that embody them perfectly: FlashForward and 24.
Like I said, there are two ways the relationship between serial television and I play out in the end. In one example, I get attached to the series fairly quickly, only to see it canceled in a short time. In the other, I get invested in a series that lasts too long and by the time things are coming to an end, I’m bored and ambivalent.
Obviously with FlashForward being in its first season and 24 in its eighth, it’s apparent which of these series fits which example for me.
I don’t even LOVE FlashForward, but I’m on board with the concept and feel like there is a legitimate series in there somewhere that all the showrunner changes, delays and other external issues might be messing up. Well, that and the terrible reliance on the soap opera elements of the story. But after the two hour “event” spring premiere picked up pretty horrible numbers for ABC last week, things don’t look good for the series. The ratings have dropped massively since the beginning of the season, that sprawling cast is probably expensive and ABC is probably ready to cut the chord (because if they weren’t, they would have put it behind Lost instead of V).
And even though I don’t really, truly care about Mark Benford and his stupid god complex or all the other idiots on that show ranting about what they “saw,” I still don’t want it to be canceled for my own selfish reasons. I have invested 11 hours into this series and will end up investing at least 11 more by the time May comes around. That’s almost a whole day of my life I won’t get back. And that doesn’t even count the time I spend re-capping the episodes or writing about the show.
So it is these things external from the quality of the show itself that keep me hanging on. I see the potential and I just cannot let go. Ever.
And that’s perhaps why I end up on the other end of things when it comes to other, older series like 24. I‘ve talked about how the series should go away this May before, and I certainly haven’t changed my mind.
But there was a time when I felt even more passionate about 24 than I do right now about FlashForward, it’s just that the quality of the series has finally wore me down over time. Thus, I’ll spend less time worrying about the renewal of 24 than I will FlashForward even though I know that the former is certainly more successful and is probably still better.
Which brings me to perhaps my main and probably obvious point. It seems as if a personal connection to a series means more than quality when it comes to response or action when cancellation might be near. I guess that’s obvious when most fans of series probably are not the most objective in terms of recognizing quality, but as someone who prides themselves on trying to be at least an amateur critic, I don’t want to think that way.
But I do.
Last spring, I went through the most intense fan-related experiences I probably ever have when I pushed hard for the renewals of both Chuck on NBC and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX. I bought a slew of Subway sandwiches, changed my Twitter pictures, joined groups, wrote columns about them, etc.
Looking back on that experience, I probably wasn’t the most objective I could have been, especially when it comes to Sarah Connor.
But again, do I feel that way now only because it didn’t make it onto FOX’s schedule this season whereas Chuck did so I feel like it’s renewal validated the quality? Probably.
So I’m not sure what to think about the possible renewals of Chuck (again), 24 or FlashForward. I know how relieved I was about returning to the Buy More when I heard the news last spring, but also how dejected I was when I knew I’d be getting no more Sarah Connor. But almost a year later, I don’t really feel that bad without it on the air. And yet, I still feel like Chuck would be a more of a monumental loss, and even FlashForward, which still makes me think that I cannot separate my fan allegiances from the situation at hand.