Lifecycle of a TV Show

I write this as a guide as homage to the shows I once cared about watching. I have seen so many I admired become irrelevant and pointless. I speak mostly of animation, sci-fi, and comedies as well as certain dramas, but many other show types follow this law. Many of these show never make it past stages one or two. Those that do are special and seemed to be put on a pedestal, closely followed by it cohorts of loyal fans until all worthiness is wrung from the plot.

What isn’t in the scope of this article are reality shows, docudramas, nature and cop shows. These are mostly immune to this law due to the episodic nature of their shows and the fact that they are already garbage, in the case of reality shows.

1. Quaintness
The first few episodes of a show are quaint when you look back after a few seasons, yet somehow we became captivated by it in some way back then. Sometime this is because society changed. Take for example The Simpsons first season, it is hard to imagine that advertisers where pulling ads because of the content.

When watching the show, it is typical for the actors to fee out their rolls. Some shows even have the aura much like a high school play. What makes the show is the uneasy chemistry between the people on camera and in the background, solid writing and plot. Star Trek: The Next Generation comes to mind. Man was was William Riker young in looking before he got a beard!

Newly created great shows have good plots to overcome the newness. However, I often wonder how any show makes it out of this stage, but mos of the greats went through this stage.

2. Trial and error
As the actors start grow accustomed to their roles, writers to start firing up their creative juices as they see the actors fill their roles. Main themes start coming to life with the entire cast adding what works and filtering the flops. Great shows often push the boundaries constantly, coming back to this stage repeatedly. MASH comes to mind. It traverses many levels starting as a comedy and ending as a commentary on conflict.

This stage is where the show gets its identity, where side characters make their first appearance and catch phrases start enter the show’s arsenal. Again the Simpsons is a classic example.

A show goes into this stage about mid-first season and can continue indefinitely to the producers like to change the show around a lot. Most get through this by the start of the second season.

3. All engines go
If a show lasts into season two, it may enter into the golden age. The actors are hitting on all cylinders, comfortable with their characters by now. The writers start filling in the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.

The main story lines themes develop and become engaging. The producers and writers are in the groove, having plotted the show’s direction for the next few seasons. Often the show is at its riskiest, as the audience will let them take risks.

4. The crossroad
After a while, the stories become similar, the actors start to be type cast and the show, while still good becomes bland. This is inevitable fact of all good story lines; the writers have used all their ‘A’ material. The very nature of V makes this an inevitability. Unlike, musicians or book writer, they don’t the luxury of waiting a few years to refine their talents. cannot go Until now, they knew where the direction of the show lies. Now writers struggle with new plot lines. Everyone is faced with a choice, revamp or go into irrelevancy.

The roads are not apparent. As with most human endeavors, it happens gradually. A few people start having problems coming up with new material, and gradually it spreads. When the majority of people working on the show get to this point, it is too late to change, old age has occurred. Occasionally, something does happen to accelerate the decline, such as the loss of a key actor who leaves to pursue a movie career or writer moving onto better opportunities.

This is a crucial moment. People have to change for the show to be a classic. The show needs to move in new directions. Shows change in a number of ways, by getting darker or edgier, by adding or removing characters, changing the writers, or exploring different aspects of the characters.

Once the path has been chosen, the show moves in one of three directions. If they do not change, they grow into old age, if they do change, they could be successful, or are canned if the audience abandons them. Being canned is not bad as old age as like people, it has to takes risks throughout the shows run to continue to be good.

There are many examples of shows changing for the better, but a classic example of changing and failing occurred with the X-Files. From seasons 2-4 they enjoyed a golden age, the with a sudden change of direction with the movie, the story line fell apart. They gave away too much of the plot with the spaceship. The stories after were hokey with the death stroke being when David Duchovny left.

5.Old age
This is where to show starts to suffer, trapped by it own success. Plots is rehashed, characters are so type case that even the actors cannot use their skill to change. The same old tired dialog are dredged up. If the show is still popular, it goes into a slow, inevitable decline. Some loyal viewers will start watching the reruns and tune out on the new shows. By the time a show gets to this stage, there are slim hopes for its revival.

The problem could be contributed to complacency or even cynicism to think that people will tune in to watch do to familiarity. This is a catch 22 since those with varied tastes have left, arguably the very same people who advertisers want to woo. This is not to say the particular episodes cannot be good, but for the most part, the fall into mediocrity is complete.

6.Cashing in the life policy
When hope is lost, the show implodes, but fails to die. The creators turn to the tried a true; cashing in on its former popularity. Here come the spin-offs, movies, specials or commercials. It has been bland and stale for some time now, but refuses to die because the fan base has grown accustomed to turning in.

The Simpsons is a classic example. All of the originality has been drained from he show long ago. Now they sell their franchise through the use of a movie. This would have been great a few years ago, but now, it will pretty lame.