Theory: How to make shows Last

Instead of my brain cells being active during school, I have the pleasure of my thoughts not being able to shut up at 2 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. It’s not all bad though, I did come up with a theory about some of the shows I watch and would like to share it with you. I’m sure what I’m going to say is nothing new, but it’s just one of those things where I opened my eyes and noticed something I didn’t see before.

What sparked this thought was reading the tweet that stated Nikita and/or Hart of Dixie will be canceled. These are shows in their first/second seasons and already facing cancellation. Lots of shows do, but it hurts more when it’s a show you actually watch. It’s just been bugging me lately because I feel like it’s much harder for a show to reach four/five seasons and more. Once you’ve got four seasons, I’d say that’s really swell and you’ve made your mark. Excluding shows that focus on solving crimes (CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, Psych) and half-an-hour comedies, the shows that have really been there from my childhood to now is Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, House, and One Tree Hill. Yes, 3 out of 4 shows mentioned are wrapping up this year, but I would just like to say that they didn’t get axed – they are all getting fitting goodbyes to tie up loose ends and give the fans something special because they have been around for so long.  My point being is that I think shows that last this long are becoming extinct. And it’s a bit sad. You could argue to why a show shouldn’t stay around for so long, but if the fans are willing to fight for a show then you really can’t say anything (made evident by Chuck which ended on its fifth season after fans fought to keep it going for as long as it could).

You could also say that content is way more important than length. And I agree with that completely. I’m just looking to see if shows nowadays can reach a legendary length like shows conceived years ago that are still going on now. This slight fascination for shows to go the distance is a combination of curiosity to see if it’s possible and just me wanting a kid to watch a show now and still watch the same show when they are teens.

A show starts on its first season with no way to know where it could go, only with an idea. Maybe this theory could give it a fighting chance to last longer:

“Focus on a place, not a plot”

A place: Seattle Grace Hospital, Wisteria Lane, Tree Hill, the Upper East Side

A plot: putting on a Broadway musical (Smash won’t last that long), taking down an evil organization like Division (it won’t last that long like the ones I’ve mentioned above, but CW PLEASE DO NOT CANCEL THIS SHOW TOO EARLY), seeking revenge against the people who destroyed your father’s life (Revenge is the best show ever, but again, won’t last long like I’m looking for a show to), 

Everybody out there: get a general sense of what you want your show to be about, remember DO NOT CREATE AN ENDGAME. Pick a place, put some people in it, and create some good drama.

All of this made evident by Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, One Tree Hill, and Gossip Girl. I don’t think these shows necessarily picked a place first, but as the show runs for years and years, isn’t that what you know the show to be? When shows were being conceived, there was an overview plot and it could be easily explained to anybody. Then as these shows get older and older, I am not going to explain every plotline to someone who asks. For Grey’s Anatomy I would simply say “it’s a show about a bunch of doctors in seattle grace hospital, from interns to residents and all the drama that surrounds them” and Wikipedia agrees with me on this.

In all of these shows, the drama revolves around the setting instead of the other way around. And along the way, viewers are able to identify specific places in the main setting that are imprinted onto their brains. It helps us visualize specific moments or scenes in the shows that will help create an overall positive impact. For instance, most fans of One Tree Hill will jump to the Rivercourt. Once you got the Rivercourt in your brain, all the memories come flooding in. They bring you back without having to think extremely hard about, its association at its best. What these places also do is create a map, and that makes you confident about Tree Hill; it makes you a part of it.

Mark Schwahn (One Tree Hill) and J.J. Abrams (Lost) are currently working together to bring us a new show called Shelter. “Shelter is set at historic New England summer resort Shelter Bay where the new and returning staff attend to the practical, emotional and often comical needs of the guests while navigating friendships, rivalries and romances of their own.” If i’m following the theory, this is a smart idea. They got a place, they got people, and they got drama. Perfect. Who really knows where this show will go, but I have faith in it, and it definitely does not hurt that Schwahn & Abrams are working together.

So there you have it! The setting is the big picture. And that picture will not crumple up and die, it will withstand time people.

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