I used to think it would be super-cool to write for a television series. Better yet – how awesome would it be to create a new television series? I’ve even had ideas – ooh ooh ooh no one’s done something about this before! This would be freakin’ great! – but, really, haven’t we all?
But like anything that sounds all OMG THE BESTEST THING EVER! THAT WOULD BE THE SHIT! HOLY CRAP I WOULD DIE IF I GOT TO DO THAT! there’s a catch:
It’s all much easier said than done, because it has to actually start somewhere.
I just watched a premiere of a new show and ooh, I liked it, so I did that stupid thing where I went online to see what other people thought about it and got all disappointed when it seemed like so many others didn’t. Seems their main criticisms were of the feast-or-famine variety: too many characters with too much characterization, too many storylines introduced, too little depth, too little shown of x, y and z.
Okay, sure, fine. I get that. But here’s the thing: I challenge you to name ONE SHOW that had a simply OUTSTANDING premiere episode. Of course you’ve watched Episode 1 of something and thought “Hey, I like this, I will tune in next week to see what happens next.” Or maybe your reaction was even stronger: “Whoa, what the hell? Yeah, I really want to see more.” But were you also left with a bunch of unanswered questions? “Why did they mention that one thing? Is that gonna be important?” “How come they didn’t show so-and-so? I thought they were in this, too?” “Is this going to eventually suck? Because I could see this eventually sucking.”
The true test is whether you cared enough to stick around to find out the answers.
No pressure for the actors, writers, producers and network or anything. Yow.
To illustrate my point: if you’re ever bored or ill or both, watch the Very First Episode of a program you really enjoyed. If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen that episode, prepare to be surprised. Note how much the characters changed over time – not just physically (see pic below!), but developmentally. The actors haven’t quite gotten into the rhythm of the series, and the writers haven’t yet entirely fleshed out their stories, so this sometimes comes across (in retrospect) as more caricature and less character. Story and character quirks that the creators hope to emphasize later must be included upfront, and there’s not always an un-awkward way to do so without just dumping it all in that first episode and hoping the audience will be able to sort through it all as time goes on.
So I’m inclined to give the first episode a break. Unless I find it truly unwatchable (usually because it’s simply not my personal taste), I’ll allow it some time to settle in if I’m not immediately sold.
I encourage others to do the same, if for no other reason than to have mercy on the poor writers who, like me, had dreams of being part of The Next Big Thing.