RJDiogenes, on 16 December 2013 - 08:15 PM, said:
Being a professional writer, I do know something about writing.
I was asking for examples or at least some clarification in context. If there is a risk, that means there is something to be lost or gained. In a social climate where it's fashionable to have highly serialized stories populated by corrupt, unlikeable characters, SHIELD
is taking a risk by being more episodic and using likeable characters that manage to work together and respect each other despite their differences. So what exactly do people mean when they say SHIELD
should be risky? What exactly should SHIELD
Agents of SHIELD has a huge opportunity to explore the organization they're a part of and a part of the MCU we haven't seen much of (i.e., the non-superpowered people having to deal with the sudden shift in the world). It has done a rather poor job doing that so far. It's setup multiple story arcs and has sat on all of them for half of a season. There are mysteries that have been introduced that also haven't advanced. At the very least the show should be slowly advancing those storylines while telling its standalone stories. Supernatural managed to do that. Farscape did it.
There's no reason why SHIELD can't satisfy both types of viewers. Instead they only seem interested in catering to people that need to be hand held through every story. While I'm not judging people that like that sort of thing, it is
playing it safe. And it definitely isn't for me.
None of the examples given here strike me as risky. How was killing Tasha risky? How was "Conspiracy" risky? They were good stories, which is what I'm looking for, but I don't see any risk involved.
Those weren't my examples. I think DWF was the one that offered them as being risky. I personally don't think those were particularly risky moves. Killing Tasha Yar couldn't have been handled more poorly if they had tried. It was only risky in the sense that it was done so suddenly and in such a poor manner. Seriously. A sentient oil slick? "Conspiracy" was largely all about shock value and a "risky" exploding head. It could have been an interesting story arc if they had actually followed up on it. Unfortunately, that never happened. (The introduction of the Borg doesn't count since in-universe they were a completely different threat even if those aliens were effectively replaced by them.)
You use Monk as an example of "safe" storytelling. Monk was an episodic series whose purpose was to tell a mystery story in each episode. What should have been different? Episodic storytelling is as old as the Human race. Are you telling me Sherlock Holmes sucked because Conan Doyle told a different story in every story?
I don't have a problem with episodic storytelling. I have never stated that I do. Please stop making that assumption.
What I have a problem with is an episodic story that introduces major, sweeping changes that would completely change the premise of an overall series...and then discards them at the end of the episode only to return to the status quo with no explanation other than the fact that the formula must be maintained at all costs. I find that boring, unrealistic writing that takes me right out of the story. Monk's "case of the week" format was fine. It was repetitive and probably should have had a few shakeups along the way to keep things fresh as it burnt itself out rather fast. But conceptually it was ok for those that like that kind of thing. The few times that it did episodes that shook things up (like, major
changes to Monk and his outlook), everything was forgotten the following week. It set up a storyline and then just discarded it like it never happened. You're setting up the viewer with certain expectations and then taking them away for no apparent reason. That's just bad storytelling.
So when you say risk you mean changing the status quo. Lois Lane discovering Clark Kent's identity does that, although killing Superman did not. There was never a chance he wouldn't come back. I suppose the John Crichton example is probably accurate, too, but I'm unfamiliar with the show. So it comes down to a question of episodic versus serialized storytelling. I like both, but I'm rather sick of serialized storytelling on TV, since it usually amounts to gimmickry and pointless character deaths.
Again, it isn't just about episodic versus serialized storytelling. There are plenty of shows that do both. Farscape was largely an episodic series for about half of its run. It wasn't until seasons 3 and 4 that it took a more serialized approach. In that case it was out of necessity simply because of the story they wanted to tell (the show was split between episodes on Moya and episodes on Talyn). The format before that was very similar to Supernatural's format early on. Episodic stories that slowly advanced the main plot with larger arc episodes that dealt exclusively with the main story.
Character deaths can and are important in certain storylines. It would be unrealistic to tell a serious story about war, for example, and have all of your main character miraculously survive. Sometimes a story demands for the death of a certain character to act as a catalyst for bigger events. Ned Stark's death in "A Song of Ice and Fire" (and likewise, Game of Thrones) serves such a purpose. It starts the War of Five Kings, creates a power vacuum in the north, and causes major repercussions throughout Westeros. It sets the stage for the larger story and the game of thrones the high lords start to play. That's only one example of course.
I agree that some shows use character deaths as a pointless gimmick. Torchwood was really bad for this. That show just killed off characters for the hell of it and there weren't usually any good reasons as to why. My counterpoint is that there are many shows that don't use character deaths that way and actually deal with the fallout of the character's death. The deaths have an impact on the story moving forward.
The bottom line is that serialized storytelling doesn't automatically mean that character deaths will be treated as a pointless gimmick. I don't think equating makes a tremendous amount of sense in most cases.
I like SHIELD because it focuses on the characters and tells a good, solid story in one episode.
Conceptually that's fine. The problem is Agents of SHIELD isn't telling good, solid stories. It's telling bland, tired stories that have been told many times over (and often better) on other shows. Its characters are largely walking cliches that also spout cliched, predictable dialogue. There's a serious problem when you can jump around in an episode and know exactly how every scene is likely to play out.
This problem is made worse by their introduction of a larger story arc and character arcs. If they just had the case of the week, then I probably would have just given up early on and moved on to other shows. But they introduced multiple mysteries as a way to hook viewers...and then they did nothing remotely interesting with them. The story is just moving way too slow. It's slower than Lost. Now that's a feat and a half...
Edited by NeuralClone, 18 December 2013 - 06:55 PM.