Monday, August 20, 2012

Oh, Drama


With daytime dramas (or soaps, as some call them) dropping faster than fleas off a dog in winter, the network heads who’ve pulled these shows off the air say it’s because viewers don’t want scripted, serialized drama.

 Say what now?

If audiences don’t want serialized drama, how to explain the success of the INSANELY addictive reboot of the classic “Dallas?” If you didn’t catch the first season on TNT this summer, HULU it, stalk your program guide for reruns, pre-order the inevitable DVD from Amazon – whatever – do what you have to in order to get caught up before the show returns in January.  You will find yourself hooked on this soapy, sexy drama before Larry Hagman can wriggle his scraggly eyebrows.

What about the shenanigans of that Emily girl on “Revenge?”  The continuing sagas of “Game of Thrones,”  “Mad Men,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pretty Little Liars,” the forthcoming “666 Park Avenue?”

“DeGrassi?”

I could go on, but these shows differ from procedural dramas like “Law and Order” and “Criminal Minds,” in that the characters lives take center stage and feature continuing storylines.  These are critically acclaimed, award-winning dramas with loyal viewers who always wonder “what will happen next?”  (You pretty much don’t wonder what will happen next on “Law and Order,” because it’s the same each week; someone will be murdered, the detectives will collar someone who may or may not be the culprit and there may or may not be a trial.  Lather, rinse, repeat.)

Cablers like AMC, HBO, VH-1 and ABC Family continue to order scripted dramas for their primetime lineups, so clearly, they see the merits in offering this type of programming to their audiences.  Reality TV and crappy talk shows (seriously, enough with the talk shows) aren’t enough to sustain a network.

So why are primetime serialized dramas thriving, while their daytime counterparts have been slashed to a mere four shows?

The writing, the writing, the writing. 

“The Young and The Restless,” long the No. 1 daytime drama and once the symbol of masterful, character-driven drama, has suffered mightily over the last few years from moronic writing.  Dreary counterfeit painting heists, convoluted and uninspired murder mysteries, bank-robbing chipmunks, dual doppelgangers, a 70+ year-old man bedding his 30-something twit of a former daughter-in-law two times over and is the mother of his grandchildren, are but a small sampling of the drivel that has been allowed to run amok in Genoa City the past few years.  Stuff like this is why daytime has a bad name.  Perhaps recognizing it’d had been asleep at the wheel for far too long, the show’s owner, Sony, cleaned house and finally replaced the head writer who’d been allowed to trash this show’s legacy.  Time will tell if the new head writer can right the ship before it too goes the way of so many daytime dramas before it.

It’s not that audiences don’t want scripted, serialized drama.  We want GOOD, scripted serialized drama – not the work of uncreative hacks who think the audience is too stupid to realize they’re trying to pull the wool over our eyes by spoon-feeding us one stupid storyline after another.

The desire for serialized, watercooler drama is why we watch mini-series, read trilogies/series by our favorite authors and save a month’s worth of “Downton Abbey” and “True Blood” on our DVR.   We DO want intelligent characters, absorbing drama and stories that aren’t dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.  We want to be entertained, maybe even little shocked a little along the way, but we want to be HOOKED (writers should want this, too). But to say we don’t want to follow the trials and tribulations of our favorite characters each week or each day is just silly.

We want to know what happens next.

 

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