Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Reading: The Building Blocks of Prime Time

remote-hdtv-television It’s Fall premiere season!  Each major television network is rolling out its Fall lineups in attempts to grab a slice of the ever-shifting ratings pie. 

Viewed as a whole, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff coming to the small screen this season.  Viewed up close, it’s easy to be underwhelmed by the recycled ideas and convoluted conceits.

However, Wired’s Scott Brown urges us not to be bothered by cliché.  “After all,” he writes in a recent issue of the magazine, “it’s often said (with varying degrees of seriousness) that there are only 10 stories total in the whole history of smoke-blowing, from Beowulf to Baywatch.”  He’s got a point.  Christopher Booker wrote an excellent book on the topic – though his magic number is a little different.

He even encourages a deep dive into TV Tropes.  Sure, it’s a slightly pretentious, super-nerdy wiki bursting at the seams with useless information, but where else are you going to read about how Captain Kirk never actually said “Beam Me Up, Scotty” and then learn about all other sorts of classic misquotations?

Brown believes we should embrace excessive tropes because we simply can’t escape them.  In the Age of the Internet, every reference ever is just a mouse-click away.  He credits the success of showrunners like Whedon, Abrams, MacFarlane, and Groening to their ability to meld fresh content with the familiar:  “They do so,” Brown argues, “in recognition of an incontrovertible fact: We all speak Trope now.”

Please excuse me while I go waste an afternoon on TV Tropes.