Today, I’m going to skip the obvious big story about the iPad and head off in my own direction. I mean, yes, the iPad is cool (even though everyone’s now embarrassed about getting their undies in a wad over it and are all claiming it’s not as cool as they thought it would be). And I would like one, but that won’t be happening anytime soon, so I’m not allowing myself to care. It would just hurt too much. And yeah, the name sounds like a feminine hygiene product. But you know what? A lot of things do. So, best of luck to those luckier than myself. I hope that 10 hours of battery life really works out for you.
While I will admit that I’d really like to teach a class Steve Jobs presentation-style, it’s time to get to matters I found more pressing. I just read this really nice piece on Gawker, “Ugly Betty Got Canceled Because American Television is Broken,” by Brian Moylan that discusses how good shows tend to outlive their goodness. And I have to agree, especially in the case of a show like Ugly Betty that was interesting and creative (and even worth writing an academic paper about) in its first season, but then sort of lost the thing that made it special as material and creativity ran thin. Last week’s clip show for The Office made me wonder about what’s going on with that show and whether or not we’ve moved beyond the point where we can mine characters in an American office for humor.
I started to think, like Moylan, that something needs to change. And, in the case of a show like The Office, there is a perfect contrast between the way American and British television are produced and structured. While the American version of The Office has been on the air since 2004 (I won’t do the actual math to figure out how much of The Office there actually is), there are only 12 episodes and 1 special produced under the title of The Office in England. That version of the show never gets old because there’s never too much of it. Another good example of the right balance of television (or, at least, an alternate model to consider in some circumstances*) is Canada’s Slings and Arrows**. Some Canadian television runs on the same model as British television, so every season is only 6 episodes long, which you wouldn’t think is enough, but it’s just right. And the whole show is carefully plotted out, so the whole series maintains a steady rhythm. And, at the end of the run of Slings and Arrows, things feel like they should end and not like someone’s trying desperately to tie all the loose ends together. Here’s a little for fun.
The thing to remember is that when shows go on too long, bad things can happen. We can have fun shows like Scrubs, with fun moments like this one turn into that terrible thing that’s on ABC these days.
*But not all circumstances, because I want 30 Rock to go on forever. Actually, I want Tina Fey to Skype into my house every day. She wouldn’t even have to be funny. She could just tell me how things are going.
**I believe IFC runs it on a semi-regular basis. You can always tell when they do because The New York Times does a review of the reruns like they’ve just discovered it.