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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Problem of the Five Year Plan

Flash-Forward apparently didn't see it's own future...it got canned, with its season finale now a series finale. Those looking for closure need only find the book it was based. FF was supposed to be the next Lost, one of the half-dozen next Losts that have failed on ABC. But this had former Lost actors, and the creators had a 5 year story arc already on the books to show ABC. They knew where it was going, and all the details.

Now, of course this made me think of another show; a show about a man in black, a battle between destiny and free will, where a bunch of odd characters were thrust together in a strange place with apparitions, visions of the future, to prevent the end of the world. Of course I'm talking about Carnivale (did I get you? Did you think I was talking about Lost?). In fact, Carnivale predated Lost, and stared Clancy Brown (Lost's Kelvin Inman and Spongebob's Mr. Krabs, as the man in black, an evil pastor who was the usher of the apocalypse). Carnivale was an ambitious series, co-produced by Ronald (BSG) Moore. And it had a 6 year story arc planned out in advance. It's also about the only show ever canceled by HBO. After it's second season HBO, known for patience regarding their series, abruptly pulled the plug. Carnivale had some brilliant moments, and a fascinating premise based on magic, Masonic lore, and the great depression.

But it didn't work, in many of the same ways FF didn't work. I can't really put my finger on it, but both shows didn't really feel like they were living, breathing things. Sort of self-sufficient narratives. The problem with Carnivale was that it didn't fully flesh out Brother Justin. In part because, in the long run, while he was the antagonist, he didn't fit into the long term plans as much. Even though he was the most compelling character, he felt rushed and two-dimensional.

Similarly, FF, had this problem doubly compounded because it was about people who were seeing what they would do in the future. Which, is troublesome because people watch shows to see what the characters will do. Now, FF was about how these people reacted, but they all, for the most part, ended up right where we saw them. Now, there's a power in the tragedy, where we know what happens in the end, but its the journey in between, the ways in which these characters existentially approach their fates.

For everyone who was ticked off at the biggest revelation in Lost: that the about the only thing the writers knew for sure at the beginning of the show was that Jack would die saving the Island and the final image would be his eye closing.

Here's the EW article that inspired this one, and from that one here's a quote from Damon Lindelof:

“Speaking from personal experience, the more terrified and assured of cancellation you are, the more likely you are to get through the next episode,” adds Damon Lindelof, the executive producer of Lost. “There’s a certain burden in the first year of a TV show that the audience and network put on you to explain what your plan many months (if not years) down the line is… but the more you think about what you’re going to write in six months, the less you’re thinking about writing the script that’s due tomorrow. The plan comes in time, but in that first season, the plan is completely moot if you don’t take the time to listen to what the show is telling you it wants to be.”

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Yesterday's season/series finale of FF ticked me off. Almost as terrible as the finale of ALF. Stupid. That's all I have to say.