Daybreak's Demise - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm wondering what the effect of Daybreak's demise -- and the demise of other serial dramas -- will have on the trend towards serial drama. Lost, Desperate, Prison Break and 24 were all big hits and got renewed, so any audience member who got hooked in was rewarded. But this season came out with a whole slew of serial dramas that were all about slowly building to revelations. I'm not keeping track, so I don't know where Six Degrees or The Nine or that kidnapping drama went. But it's tough to get emotionally involved in a serial drama when you know you might get off from your fix -- forever. While an episodic drama like Medium doesn't require you to trust so much. You're getting satisfaction at the end of every episode; you tune back because you like the heroine and the premise. Rogers has blogged about how Jericho is very good at resolving something at the end of each episode, even if you're still dying to know what Robert Hawkins is up to and so forth.

Is the audience going to start feeling burned if a whole bunch of these brand new serials dies off? Will episodics go back into vogue? Or is it all about random reinforcement: we hope this one will be the one that gets renewed, so we let ourselves fall in love, and never mind the heartbreak?

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16 Comments:

I think they can work if they follow the lead set by 24 and swear to resolve most of the matters by the end of the season. I think if they treated them more like novels and each episode as a chapter then things will shake out just fine.

The problem with Six Degrees was it sucked. The problem with The Nine was we knew who got out - a major pin into the balloon of the series.

I think the network should air the rest of the DAYBREAK episodes, resolve this storyline and then leave it where the Hopper character finds himself faced with a new challenge which he relives over and over...

But that's not going to happen as they don't want to resolve things -- meaning they don't want to make a decision. Hopefully the last two episodes wrap things up and we'll see those on a disc set or online.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:47 PM  

On the other hand, the two big hits of the new season: Heroes, and Ugly Betty, are serialized.

I think there are competing things at work here. People don't want episodic, unless it's procedural, and we're at saturation point there.

But exactly the same thing that makes you able to jump into a serial show at any point makes it way easier for you to jump out, and not become an appointment viewer, and I'm not sure that's what the networks want, either.

I just think it's luck of the draw, how many serial shows can people be expected to add?

Maybe serials need to hit right away. I don't know. But then again, I think Heroes built in its first four airings, so that's not hard and fast either.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:47 PM  

So we're looking for cliffhangers (to keep the audience for next week) and resolutions (so they don't think we're stringing them along with no end in sight)?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:12 PM  

I think some of the biggest successes are hybrids of episodic and serial - what Rogers was talking about, having something resolved at the end of each episode. Ugly Betty is serialized but not too much - each episode is fairly self contained. Grey's Anatomy, House to a lesser serialized degree, etc. can all be watched out of the blue and while you'll lose something in the watching, you can still hang your hat on an hour that will leave you satisfied. (Um, assuming you like the show.)

With the networks burning off unaired episodes online, it helps with the viewer heartbreak - though not if you're not in the US, or if they haven't produced enough episodes to resolve anything. I've heard Day Break was intended to be a 13 episode arc and will be resolved online. I also heard ... oh, what show was it? Vanished or that other kidnapping show ... that was recently burned off online and people complained they actually didn't resolve the ongoing story as promised.

But in general, I think networks are getting more sensitive to the need to satisfy viewers who choose take the leap of faith in a serialized show. I don't have a clue if that means they'll keep producing them at the same rate - the big story for the fall season was how many there were and how on earth were viewers expected to keep up with all of them. And of course, they didn't.

And I wrote all of that, hit preview, and Bill said it in a sentence. Sigh.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 PM  

What about 'Dexter'? It was certainly more about the bigger season arc mystery than the wrapup of individual episode storylines (though it did do a little bit of that...but not to appease the casual viewer).

I think it was just about volume - I mean I liked quite a few of them but my brain could only handle a few. Imagine if you weren't really keen on tv...very easy to get 'Lost' and look for something in the middle (or Medium).

By Blogger wcdixon, at 11:57 PM  

But isn't that cable? Cable's a diff model. They have your money..it's less important that you tune in to every ep than if you think it was worth paying to do it.

Network tv's different.

Them bats use radar.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 AM  

lets not over-analyze this stuff; daybreak was a terrible idea - sure maybe it worked once for 'groundhog day,' but when my girlfriend and i heard of this we were astonished - who the hell wants to tune in and see the same day over and over?

the nine was boring - literally nothing was happening - and everything new you were learning had already happened.

i never watched kidnapped so i can't comment on that, except to say there where already a ton of fbi/missing people shows on tv, so it may have just gotten lost in the shuffle.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 AM  

Groundhog Memento got to be too boring and repetitive after repeated swallowing... I figured I could miss an episode or two and still know what is basically happening when I came back to it... and them all of a sudden I found myself not going back to it (as did millions of others.) Great idea for a two hour flic but not a series

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:13 AM  

Deepstructure's right and wrong. "Daybreak" obviously didn't catch on -- right away -- the numbers were low.

Despite the fact that it was the best of all the serials, save maybe Heroes. The execution of the show was great, but no one thought it was going to be, so no one tuned in.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:19 AM  

Personally I didn't stay with Daybreak because I just didn't want to go into a world that dark. Same reason I couldn't get into Deadwood, in spite of its obvious attractions. I'm just not that much of a masochist.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 9:50 AM  

The only dark thing about Daybreak was Taye Diggs. It really was just a so/so show. Not bad, per se. But not particularly good either.

24 continues to grow because the show is excellent. The Nine went bye bye because it was insanely boring. Just imagine if some genius figured out that the most interesting part of the show was what happened inside of the bank instead of their boring home lives. Duh, the show would still be on if the whole season was inside the bank.

Oh well...

By Blogger Tenspeed & Brownshoe, at 10:00 AM  

whoa. I can't say I agree with your police work there, Marge.

I love 24, but let's face it, at this point it's lather rinse repeat. The truth is that Daybreak got REALLY interesting, but only around the last 3 eps where the shape of the universe took shape, and the rules became clearer. The existential overlay, should it have been intro'd earlier? I guess in hindsight, yeah. But in Action beats, it was pretty much 24's equal.

And Taye Diggs was not the only good thing about it. The supporting cast was uniformly excellent.

Alex, you and the dark, you and the dark. One of these days we're going to get you hooked on the darkest, freakiest shit anyone's ever seen. And you won't come out of your bedroom for a week. And then we shall all laugh, because we're petty that way.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:58 AM  

Denis, you and the dark ... one of these days you will fall in love with a beautiful woman who'll treat you better than you think you deserve, and you'll have kids, and you simply won't see the need to go into the cave of despond. There is as much interesting in the sunlight as there is Under Hill.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:25 AM  

Dark is good, sometimes. You have to walk in the dark to appreciate the light and the shades of grey, no?

I dunno, I didn't find Daybreak that dark, actually (not sure what that says about me).

I think shows coming out of pay cable like Dexter do better because the audience is expecting edgier because of the source and because if you miss an episode, you get like 50 chances to see it and stay caught up.

The problem with a serialized show on terrestrial is if you miss one episode and it is a key one, you feel like you missed dessert and start to resent the show.

I am also really starting to resent living here, only in that when they do cancel a show liked Kidnapped and the US net has the decency to put the last four episdoes up to download, we get frozen out of their websites and their Canadian counterparts are either too cheap or too arrogant to make them available to us here.

I agree with Bill, Six Degrees sucked from the get go. The Nine I liked, and am still hoping it may turn back up (Hank Steinberg claims neither he nor the network have written it off entirely). I could take or leave Daybreak, but probably stuck with it because Taye Diggs was so great in it. Somebody find him the right show ... he's ready! And I agree with DMc, 24's been on auto pilot for a while. Still satisfying but highly predictible.

So, the big question is, where's the money at? I'd say if you were developing inexpensive episodics right now, you'd hit the curve about right. The unrepeatability of serialized dramas is starting to make them financially less attractive.

By Blogger Caroline, at 12:06 PM  

I think the problem with the likes of The Nine, Six Degrees, Kidnapped ect., is that when you serialize something that has no 'extra', value added aspect to the plot beyond the every day lives of people, you have nothing more, really, than a night time soap.

Jericho, Heroes, 24, Lost, Day Break, all have a clear 'bigger' picture as the back drop. The degree to which people value the potential payoff to sticking around determines their willingness to keep watching.

24 works because people know that by the end of the season the story will pay out. Whether viewers are pleased by the payoff really is a moot point as far as the 'success' of the season goes as long as enough people are tuning in to keep the ratings up. Less than happy with the outcome? Well, next season is a whole new story and maybe that will have an ending you like...

Lost has not really paid out at all over it's course. The 'potential' could be worth the continued investment, but I suspect that if they don't tighten up the ship and focus the stories in one direction the future will be gloomy for them.

Jericho and Heroes have great potential so far... it's too soon to be sure if they will repay the committment of their viewers.

By Blogger Teresa, at 8:08 PM  

A couple of years ago, I accidentally erased the first episode of the season of "24" before my then-girlfriend (now wife) could see it. Because she missed that episode, she didn't feel like trying to jump in during the next episode and hasn't watched "24" at all since.

So yeah, I could see a sort-of all-or-nothing attitude on the part of television watchers. And, honestly, if I know I'm going to have to watch a show religiously because it is a serialized show, it had better hook me big time in that first episode.

Whereas, adding "Numbers" or another show like that that doesn't require quite as big a commitment can be an easier decision.

By Blogger Ryan, at 11:35 PM  

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