I have a story to tell. Bear with me, here. Because for a moment it may seem like a pointless rant, but indeed, it has a point.
I’m not much of a TV watcher. I just don’t have the concentration. As soon as something boring happens or a commercial comes on, I’m gone. The last time I loved a show deeply was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that was 1996. Although I was quite fond of Veronica Mars, it didn’t reach obsession level. So, via Netflix, for the first time in almost 20 years I developed an obsession level love for a show. I don’t want to give a name, because if I do the following story will contain a MAJOR spoiler. So I’ll just say it’s a British Sci-Fi show and leave it at that.
So my love for this show was deep and devoted. The kind of love reserved by geek boys for Star Wars. So season three ended on a cliff hanger. Three characters were trapped somewhere, I can’t say where or the show would likely be obvious to those in the midst of potentially watching this show. Another two characters were left behind. One of them ended the show by saying that she had an idea. End of season three.
I started season four and discovered, to my absolute horror, that the entire cast had changed. Almost everyone. There are exactly three characters, of a large ensemble cast, that came back. Seriously? WTH? I’m talking that maybe ten characters changed in the space between one season and another. It was like a slap in the face. I had to watch the show twice to wrap my mind around it.
And to add insult to injury, they didn’t even bother to explain what had happened to anyone else. The girl who said she had an idea is apparently dead though it is never explained how or when she died. The man who was lost and trapped (in a separate place than the other two lost and trapped people) is just never mentioned again. Oh, he’s lost. Well, never mind about him, then. And, this didn’t bother my husband, though it really bothered me, two of the characters who were flirting, kind of teasing around a relationship…now they’re together. I mean, like, really together. I hate it when shows do this to me. X-Files did the same thing. Flirt, flirt, flirt, come back a year later and now we’re married. What?! What happened to the relationship? Why am I not privy to this? You can’t do this to me!
It’s utterly bizarre. Now, there’s a reason why I tell this story. Well, a reason beyond my desire to complain extensively about this. I don’t know about you guys, but to me, characters count. I don’t care if it’s the same plot. If you drop in a new cast, it’s a different show. You just spent three seasons building up a show and now you’ve dropped me into a different show. One I have to decide if I love now. That isn’t fair to me as a watcher, and when I read a book, if people don’t really show me a character it isn’t fair to me as a reader.
And when it comes to this man and woman I’ve been rooting for over the course of three seasons, I’ve invested myself in this relationship. I’ve watched it develop and I’ve hoped for them. And you’ve cheated me of my expectations by making this relationship change without letting me be privy to it. And that isn’t fair. As a writer, this just reminds me one more time that characters are what makes a novel work. For me as a reader, a book has little worth, no matter how good the plot is, if I can’t bring myself to care about the action because I can’t see it through sympathetic eyes.
The secret a lot of people don’t realize when reading a book or watching a show or movie, is that you’ve unconsciously made a contract with the person who created it. You have agreed to give your time and your emotional energy investing yourself in their story. As a result they set forth expectations based on genre and topic. If they don’t meet those expectations, they’ve broken the contract and you’re dissatisfied, even though you may not realize why.
Have you guys ever experienced this before? Has a book or show ever done this to you? Which show or book was it? Were you able to get past it and continue enjoying or was it just the end of the end? I’m struggling to learn to enjoy this show with a new cast, but so far it’s not easy. It just makes me realize how much that people are really the center of the entertainment world. If not for characters nothing would be worth watching or reading.
And then imagine how bored we’d all be.