Are we hardwired to like serial narratives? With Rocky 5 and its ilk clogging our cultural bandwidth, why wasn't there a Hamlet 2? But a fellow blogger remembers Richard II and III and Henry IV, V, and VI, so it would seem even ol' Bill was hip to the jive. O erudite reader, point out even earlier serials if ye can.
These thoughts came to mind as I wonder why I have lost my interest in episodic television. I'm hardly a TV snob. I ingested weekly doses of countless half-sitcoms and hour-long dramatic series over the years, from Gilligan's Island to West Wing and House. But a few years ago my serial-attention span dwindled and seems to have gone away for good. Hmm...
Let's see, in the 70s Mash and All in the Family and Mary Tyler Moore, check. In the 80s, uh, I'll get back to you but I know I watched a lot of stuff even if I can't bring it as readily to mind. By the 90s I'm still there but getting fragmented. Law and Order, CSI, lots of cops and action but also Picket Fences, Northern Exposure, quirky comedies making my day and my week.
The HBO original series make a better test case even if this will leave behind those who don't subscribe. Maybe the point will come through regardless. Oz was gripping and horrific and I watched it every week even when I thought it would make me sick. Sort of the "horror film" effect, I guess, no regrets. By the time of Six Feet Under I was still riveted by several seasons worth but finally drifted away near the bitter end. This was also pretty hard to take, set in a funeral home with lots of gay love and dysfunctional family stuff, but that's all okay with me. Something else was happening to my viewing radar.
Came the Sopranos and baby, I was there! I agree with those who called it the best thing on television, maybe ever, and despite (or maybe because of) the brutal violence and the psychological suspense I watched it every week. I even loved the bringdown finale.
Then came Big Love. Watched two episodes, recognized yet another series of extremely high quality, and simply tuned out. Boardwalk Empire - only managed three episodes even though I am a huge fan of its star, Steve Buscemi. I've even watched the lesser-known movie in which he directed himself. It's called Trees Lounge, if you'd like to check it out.
The final straw, the newest HBO series, Game of Thrones. Watched the sneak preview, then avidly stayed with the first episode the following Sunday, right to the shocking ending, which I won't spoil here. It appears to be everything I would hope for from another stellar HBO original production...and yet the following week I simply didn't want to see what happens next.
Is this happening to you too? Is it our age? Or the age in which we are living? Thoughts about what the heck is going on in our next installment. So...don't touch that dial!