Minis No More?
At the recommendation of dang near everybody, I clicked on episode one of The Man In The High Castle, the Amazon Prime series based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, produced by Ridley Scott.
It was, as promised, superbly mounted, well written, well acted, expertly told, and judicious in its use of art design and special effects, creating a wholly believable alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War Two.
A thoroughly entertaining show…
…and I bailed at the 15 minute mark,
and won’t bother finishing it.
It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t boring, it was just too long.
There are two seasons worth of The Man In The High Castle and even if I watched it in fast forward, reading the sub-titles (my preferred manner of watching most long form TV nowadays), it’s still a ten hour commitment.
I just don’t have the time for it.
Mind you, I will -- and I have -- watched mini-series in their entireties.
Loved the first season of Daredevil, don’t need to see season two.
Loved the first season of Luke Cage, ditto.
Loved True Detective and Mindhunter and anime like Princess Tutu and Kill La Kill…
…but I bailed on Stranger Things and Black Mirror and Sherlock.
Nowadays Lost (which I’ve never seen…and count myself fortunate) is the go-to example of a long meandering story line that ultimately goes nowhere to nobody’s satisfaction, but The Sopranos was the show that kept me subscribing to HBO long after I’d given up on the rest of their programming.
It started strong, very compelling, but after they lost Nancy Marchand they lost the show's raison d’etre.
The ending of the series, while logical and consistent, was oddly anti-climactic (I saw it long after it aired, long after I bailed on the series…and HBOI).
Despite its initial strengths, The Sopranos faded and faded fast (though arguable through no fault of its own, viz Marchand’s death). I felt I had wasted much time (and some money) on a story that failed to fulfill me.
Since then I’ve become somewhat ruthless regarding long form multi-part stories (ironically, I’m a big fan of movie serials). I’m loath to invest a considerable amount of time into watching a long run show unless it’s truly compelling.
Part of it is that, having worked so long as a writer and an editor, I see the gears turning and can anticipate where a story will be heading in just a few scenes.
I “get the joke” and become impatient for the denouement (“punchline” for you non-French speakers).
Ironically (again!), my wife and I are watching (re-watching, in my case) The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix.
The stories, despite being occasionally linked, are standalones: You don’t need to see anything before or after to get a complete tale.
While there is a lot of repetition (after all, this is a 1960s TV series), each episode is well enough constructed to be entertaining on its own.
Short, too; half-hour length.
But more importantly, if Netflix cancelled the show tomorrow and yanked it off their service, my wife and I wouldn’t be left hanging: The Andy Griffith Show is what it is. If it were to suddenly vanish, we’d miss it, but their wouldn’t be a nagging gap left behind.
I think this is where anime and old form TV is more fulfilling for me, and why it’s so hard for me to commit to long running programs.
Add to this the fact I’ve already read Dick’s novel, The Man In The High Castle (good, but not primo PKDick; everyone agrees Dick was the best novelist to work in the sci-fi genre but nobody can agree on how to rank his 30+ novels) and it’s scant wonder I’m increasingly alienated by long form TV, especially mini-series.
If 65 year old Buzzy-boy is to be entertained by new media, it either has to come in self-contained animated features or bite size short form.
© Buzz Dixon