Friday, September 6, 2013

Books, Movies, Movies, Books: What American Television Can Learn from British Television

One of the things I really used to enjoy about British television was that they knew how to end a story.

The reason stories end with "...and they all lived happily ever after" is because the rest of their lives will be fraught with conflict and those stories - of those characters overcoming those other conflicts - those are all separate stories. Chances are, you turned the show on and kept watching because of the promise of a romantic arc.

American television in particular loves creating a boy horse that falls in love with the girl horse despite the obstacles, but we also like to beat the horse long after it's dead.

MOONLIGHTING, REMINGTON STEEL, (I'm beginning to date myself), MORK AND MINDY, FRIENDS.... all sort of ended on a whimper, because its viewership was hanging on, waiting for the romantic arc to find completion. Once it's complete though, it's done.

Take note, Perry Mason NEVER "got together" with Della Street. Coincidence? I think not.

And we see this trend in novels today. Readers enjoy an author and so often we want to give them more of what they fell in love with the first time. But hold on to your boot straps. This might involve writing a different story - different characters - a different romantic arc fraught with challenges.

I'm no different. I would be the first person in line if I heard there was another book in the Harry Potter series featuring another beloved character and their romantic arc - with or without a snakey villain. Go ahead. Ruin that series for me. I would totally buy it, then gripe about the sell-out after I read the last page.


  1. I was talking about a version of this topic this morning, how shows like 'burn notice' become so implausible after a while, with all the ratcheting up the writers seem to think they have to do. But it's all story arc, isn't it? I was complaining that I didn't like the show anymore, because the plot line seemed ridiculous to me.
    But it must just be me, my husband pointed out burn notice's viewership ratings are at the top, and he's one of them. (I might have stepped on some toes around here).

  2. Excellent points, Sofie. I was one of those "Moonlighting" fans begging for a romantic conclusion, and it just never panned out. Same with "Remington Steele." (Great concept, though, wasn't it?) I'm beginning to worry about Castle!

  3. It's a delicate balance to give viewers the HEA they want with characters and still tell compelling stories. There seems to be a belief that conflict between a couple is all sexual tension and once that's figured out, life is smooth sailing. Those of us who are married know THAT's not true. LOL It can be done; the focus shifts to problems couples face and external conflicts. That's why it probably works better on shows where the romantic relationship is not the focus of the show.