Giving a Series Time to Succeed

It’s a well known fact that I watch a fair bit of television. I like how consumable it is. How you can have a nice concise story told in under an hour, with a beginning, middle, and an end. (Typically.) Any while there are some shows out there that I’ll try for a bit and then just decide they’re not for me, I’m generally pretty forgiving for a show, at least for the first while.

A great television series is really hard to assemble. You have to get enough funding in the first place to get your series off the ground, and then you have to work with the producers (who often don’t share your exact vision) to create it the way you’d like it, and then you need to hope that enough people out there watch it and stay with it to justify a second season.

Ideally, that all works great right from the beginning. But that’s often not the case.

The first season of The Wheel of Time is a great example of this. I watched it, and I generally enjoyed it. Was it perfect? Definitely not. But it was intriguing enough that I’ll stick with it, especially since I know some of the issues I had with it were anything but self-inflicted. The finale felt especially rushed, but when you realize that the show was pitched as having 10 episodes (with a 2 hour premiere), you realize that the creators wanted to take more time with it as well. But The Powers That Be cut it short. Now that it’s been quite successful for Amazon, I’m hopeful the second season has a little more leeway to do what it’s trying to do.

People like to compare it to the already uber-successful Game of Thrones, but they forget that GoT took time to get to where it peaked. (I’m not going to argue about the last two seasons. I enjoyed them, though I felt they were rushed once again, this time apparently by an unfathomable desire by the creators to just finish the show and be done with it.) The show wasn’t nearly as well funded to begin with, and it ended up cutting corner as a result. It’s not like it started off able to show a fully rendered dragon attacking a wagon train, with all the special effects bells and whistles. It earned that by working up to it.

Evaluating the first season of a show by comparing it to a different show you loved might be somewhat useful, but ultimately it’s an unfair comparison. It’s sort of like saying a recent college graduate being told they really ought to get a better job because they aren’t making as much money as a forty year old.

So what would make me decide to give up on a show, and what would make me stick with one? The characters would be a big factor. If they’re relatable or intriguing, that goes a long way. The writing is huge: are the characters making decisions that are consistent with who they are? How is the dialogue? Are there people I can root for? The general conceit of the show is also a big factor. As long as the basic structure of the show is in place and sound, then I’m willing to forgive some fumbling along the way.

It was easier to do that when shows came out once a week, and bingeing wasn’t a thing. Now, it feels like people sometimes demand perfection right from the get go. Some of the shows that I’ve ended up loving, I didn’t love right off. The Wire is an excellent example. It took half the first season for me to really be intrigued, and then I was really turned off by the first few episodes of the second season. But there was enough there to keep me going, and I ended up loving the whole thing.

Right now, I just finished the second season of the Witcher. I’ve had issues with some of what it’s been doing. The timey-wimey-ness of the first season, and the seeming glee in reveling in obscure references and confusing plots are definite problems. But by the end, I felt like it had really found its footing and was some excellent television.

How about you? What makes you stick with (or abandon) a TV show?

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