I grew up watching TV at my grandmother’s house. We didn’t have a set, so it was quite a treat when we visited her. In those days, if you watched any show, whether it was a kid’s show like Sky King, Roy Rogers, Zorro, or the ones my parents watched like I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, or my grandmother’s favorite – December Bride – the episodes were character driven. The stories rarely carried a plot element from one episode to the next. The hero or heroine would stop the bad guy, or solve the big mystery, and end each installment with a complete resolution.
With the advent of daytime soap operas, another element was introduced – the serial story thread. Certain elements of the story might resolve, but there was always a thread that carried through the entire series, even to the extent of persisting for years unresolved. Various techniques were introduced to ensure the audience would watch the next show, and the most effective of those was the called a “cliff hanger”. That term, but not the use of the plot device, originated in an 1873 novel, in which a main character was literally left hanging from a cliff at some point. However, that plot device used in story telling is actually far older.
It seems that, over the years, television producers latched onto the cliffhanger device as a way to ensure people would become so addicted to a series, they would rarely drop out. Producers can become addicted to their own success, and when desperate writers fail to come up with fresh new ideas, the series can become less satisfying for a viewer, like any addiction.
While watching some shows, I saw the perfect stopping point, and the series went well past that, to my dismay. I’ve learned to recognize that point and stop watching. As with any addiction, though, I’ve felt a tug I’ve had to resist. Turn it off and walk away!
I’ve noticed a new trend recently – the making of vast episodes for a first season, to see whether it sticks when thrown at the public. Now, I’ve learned to refrain from watching any series until it has established a run of more than one season. If it doesn’t renew, I figure maybe it just wasn’t worth watching.
What shenanigans they will come up with next to keep us watching is anybody’s guess, but the show makers trying something new is a given. The single goal is to grab our continued attention, resulting in dollars in the bank. Creating shows beneficial to society is usually far down the list with some of these folks, it seems.
When will it ever end? Maybe when the catastrophic zombie apocalypse takes over earth. Oh, wait! That is a TV series too.