Long-tail story arcs

A year or two ago I was analyzing the television shows I loved, attempting to discern why I liked those more than others. While there are many factors — characters, setting, themes, type of show, to name just a few — the shows that stuck with me were (and are) the ones that didn’t completely wrap up everything neatly at the end of every episode.

  • Alias
  • Bones
  • Buffy
  • Angel
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Veronica Mars
  • Chuck
  • The Office
  • NCIS
  • Monk

Obviously, there are others; Lost is quite involved, and 24 has always had season-long story arcs. (But for my purposes today, 24 isn’t the best example.) And just because a show has these more involved story lines doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll love it.

All of these shows have had story lines that last many episodes — often a full season or longer. And I postulate that this is the same reason I like to read book series. I get to spend more time with these characters, yes, and get to see them grow and change over a longer period of time and pages. But it also allows space for the characters to breath. I feel like I’m not explaining this very well; do you understand what I mean?

Note: I was inspired to write this post by My Friend Amy‘s post defending television.


3 responses to “Long-tail story arcs

  1. I’ll have to check out Amy’s post. I’ve noticed that quite a few of my favorite book bloggers enjoy t.v., too. I am pretty lukewarm on t.v., choosing, often, to leave it, rather than take it. I think I’m just too selfish and need a story to move at a faster pace. A book, I can read at my own speed but a show or movie, well…meh. ;O)

  2. I think the best TV shows are the ones (like many of the ones listed above) where they can have season-long arcs and simultaneously have each episode have a satisfying complete story.

    Battlestar Galactica is another one of my favorites for season-long and longer arcs.

  3. I’m a sucker for all story which is why I love pretty much every form of telling it. Books, film, TV, theatre, music, etc. One of the reasons, I think certain shows work, like say Mad Men, is that the show has a memory. Character actions affect future actions–some shows would like to forget what happened to the characters previously or brush them off (Gossip Girl I’m looking at you) but it takes, I think, incredible skill as a writer to absorb each event in the narrative into the character while also making it compelling. Also, I don’t need for something dramatic to happen every week–I can handle slow burn shows like Rubicon was–what with all the shady glances and long gazes because when the surprises came they were ever so worth it.
    the surprise and drama is fun, but I care more about the integrity of the show and the characters.
    These are probably all reasons as well that I loved LOST–it was just one big story with some of the best characterization on TV ever. Also lots of mysteries and surprises! They really figured out it’s in how you tell a story, not necessarily the story you tell. 🙂

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