From Bonanza to Breaking Bad

[Originally posted on September 19, 2013]

This is a fifty-year-old beef for me. Television series have been retarded in so many ways, but perhaps they are now in the process of change. Here’s what they are now saying about Breaking Bad:

“Breaking Bad” exemplifies a new sort of television series, one conceived with its ending in sight. Wonderfully written, powerfully acted, gorgeously shot, its seasons serve as chapters that take on the Big Four of literary conflict: Man versus Man, Man versus Nature, Man versus Society, Man versus Himself. The ending comes not in reaction to dwindling ratings or actor fatigue but because, as with any great work of fiction, it suits the story.

I whined about the episodic nature of the storytelling on the old western series Bonanza. It just seemed as if a consistent, overall story week after week for a least one season would help bring back viewers and provide a more intellectually interesting experience. I believe viewers have always known this, and perhaps even the creators of the series did too. But they couldn’t resist the temptation to have a hit show that could go on forever. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to create a series that is loved by millions and can be a revenue creator for decades. It seems that all series up until recently hoped for this. It just became terrible television.

Notice also the emphasis on conflict, indicating both sides of it, which in fact becomes almost a premise. Even though it doesn’t deal with the nature of conflict and how it evolves, this is just really good news, and perhaps we headed for some really good television.