TV Musicals

19 April 2016

Deja View: You Know A TV Show Has Run Out Of Ideas When…

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Hardcore Binge Watcher…

You can sense it: you’re binge watching some show, and along comes a story line that makes you say, “I’ve seen this before…”

Because you have… in a half-dozen other series… in the past year. They’re plot twists relied on by TV writers since televisions actually had dials. They usually appear in seasons 2 or 3, but in shows without strong concepts (i.e., family sitcoms), they can appear midway through season 1.

Let’s rattle off a few of these trite and tired plot twists, shall we?

  1. Sing It Now: The characters in a non-musical series decide to “put on a show” or perform in a “special musical episode.”
  2. Coupling: Two characters who never expressed romantic interest in each other before suddenly hook up.
  3. Parental Guidance: Mom and/or Dad show up, and lifelong conflicts boil to the surface.
  4. Old Flames: An ex shows up, and lifelong conflicts boil to the surface.
  5. Off Off Offspring: A child (often now an adult) shows up, claiming to be some lead character’s kid. Conflicts from being ignored for a lifetime boil to the surface.
  6. Crossover: Characters from another series pay a visit. Conflicts between the writers of the different shows boil to the surface.
  7. Freak O’ The Week: Strange characters (often played by celebs) appear for exactly one episode.
  8. Self Promo O’ The Week: A celeb playing himself/herself appears for exactly one episode — especially if he’s a professional athlete who can’t act.
  9. Obsession O’ The Week: A regular character develops an offbeat new hobby or business for exactly one episode.
  10. Deathwatch: A healthy character contracts a terminal disease. This story line runs for many many many many many many many many episodes, until you overcome your guilt and plead, “Oh, come on, die already.”
  11. Death Question: A character apparently dies… but did he really?
  12. Getaway: In crime and superhero shows, the villain who took forever to capture manages to escape. Here we go again…
  13. Getaway, Main Characters Edition: Characters move to another city. Episodes ensue of them trying to adapt to stereotypical locals.
  14. Getaway, Main Characters Edition, Part Deux: Characters take a vacation, with obvious plugs from some sponsoring tourism bureau, airline, cruise line, hotel…
  15. Getaway, Main Characters Edition, Part Three’s Company: A leading actor is replaced by another actor, likely because of a contract dispute. Although casting isn’t the writers’ doing, since this is a new face, they can run the same plot twists all over again.

Now these twists aren’t the end of the world — or even of your bingeing. They’re not quite “jumping the shark,” when the show does something so ridiculous that you’re embarrassed to watch further. With these prehistoric plot props, you might still persist — or at least start hate watching.

But one day you find yourself too busy to watch, or you accidentally fail to record an episode, and suddenly giving up on that show becomes easy. Too easy. After all, there are so many more shows out there to start bingeing on…

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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