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Listen to Kenny Rogers, storytellers. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Listen to Kenny Rogers, storytellers. [Feb. 23rd, 2016|09:34 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Know when to walk away. Know when to run.


I am a big fan of the TV show The Good Wife, and by “a big fan” I mean “a person who is behind by a full season at this point,” but that doesn’t make my enthusiasm less strong, it just means that I am physically incapable of watching broadcast and, eh, life. But I really do love this show. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. I’m looking forward to watching every episode, and when Alec visits, I am now watching every episode a second time so that I can enjoy them with him.


The network confirmed a few weeks ago what those of us who pay attention to title structure* already know: that this season, season seven, is the last season of The Good Wife. And I am glad. Because I used to be a fan of Criminal Minds, and I’m currently watching S10 of it with my workout. And uff da. Uff da. It is the shambling corpse of the show I used to love.


One of the episodes I watched yesterday tied up a plot thread that had been left from season two. And it did so in the most inane and simplistic way possible, taking all emotional complexity out of the equation, just: yep, this thing happened. We were sad. There was another person sad too. We tried to comfort him. People knew each other in the past. The end.


So it’s clearly not that people run out of plot, because there was some plot, just sitting around right there unused, and they used it. It’s something else that happens. The momentum runs out. The elastic wears out, the story needs a belt and suspenders to keep going. A lot of shows that get to be a train wreck as time goes on, it’s clear that there was plot yet to happen, they just…couldn’t wrangle it all as they tried to go and go and go.


So get in. Tell your story. And for the love of little green turtles get out again. And when a story you love ends–not when it’s cut off, but when it comes to an actual ending–be glad that it had the grace to do so, instead of becoming its own self-parody.


(I refer to the fourth Brunette Agent on Criminal Minds as O. If you name the first two Elle and Em, you cannot blame me for calling the next two N and O. Brunette women: not interchangeable! Come on, show! I hear tell that O is not long for this show. I do not look forward to P. Why am I still watching this show about how you are not safe in your home, or also if you leave your home you are not safe, and especially on the internet you are not safe? Because for as terrible as it is now, it’s still the right pace for my workouts. Sigh.)


What if people don’t like the next thing you do as well as this thing? Well. Then they don’t. That’s a risk. They also might not like this thing as well as this thing.


What if you can’t think of a next thing? Eat some strawberries (or an orange if you are allergic to strawberries; whatever). Take a walk where there are trees. Breathe.


What if people nag you and nag you and they spend the rest of your life nagging you about the thing you did that they liked so much? Remember that it is great when people like things you make, but it does not make them the boss of you, and it does not excuse them from polite behavior. And it is far better to be begged for more of your art than to be begged to stop.


Now go on. Know when to hold ’em, but err on the side of folding ’em.


*Season one of The Good Wife had one-word episode titles. Season two, two-word episode titles. And so on until season five, which had three-word episode title again, and Tim and I turned to each other and said, “Well, guess it’s a seven-season show, then. Cool.”




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2016-02-23 06:30 pm (UTC)
I'm watching Season 7 in chunks about once a month. And, yes, it's time for them to finish. It is one of the very few shows which I found by myself, sampling premieres on a network website one autumn, and not reading anything about it or talking to my tv-connoisseur friends until I was already drawn in. (Flashpoint was another one like that - a Canadian police drama which was shown in the US as well).

In some ways it's realistic, showing people moving on and having troubles-but-different-troubles because they have changed and life has changed. But I think it must be really really hard to keep it the same kind of story, or a different kind of story equally compelling ... and that makes it a pretty good metaphor for middle age anyway.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 06:39 pm (UTC)
I love Flashpoint, but in some ways I'm glad that they're not dragging us through 12 seasons of Spike and Wordy getting increasingly stale. Much though Spike is THE BEST.

I think actually my complaint about Criminal Minds s10 is that they aren't having the same-but-different enough troubles. They're having more the rehash--and not kicking enough against the rehash. In middle age when people find themselves doing same-old, it frustrates them.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 06:40 pm (UTC)
PS Spike is not actually the best. He is only the best in Flashpoint.
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[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2016-02-23 07:13 pm (UTC)
Yes.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-23 07:20 pm (UTC)
I'll have to give Good Wife another try. I really liked the first couple seasons, but something in the third felt like retread city, and she began seeming more smug than determined.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 07:24 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I don't watch for Alicia. I watch for the characters not named Florick.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-23 07:25 pm (UTC)
I heard my favorite of all left the show, which I guess contributed.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 07:26 pm (UTC)
Knox Overstreet? Er, sorry, I mean Will Gardner? If so, that's true, but they handled it quite well.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-23 07:27 pm (UTC)
No, I thought he was nice eye candy but a boring character. I watched for Kalinda.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 07:35 pm (UTC)
She's still there as of mid-season 6. May depart shortly thereafter, though.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2016-02-23 07:40 pm (UTC)
Ah! Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-23 07:40 pm (UTC)
And it is far better to be begged for more of your art than to be begged to stop.

Preach it.

As much as I feel for all the readers who are sad that I'm only writing five Memoirs, I would FAR rather wrap things up when people are still going "oh, but I want more!" than after they've wandered away. I have followed any number of series, in books or TV or movies, that were great for a while and then they weren't so great and then I was only in there because I wanted to see how the story ended but I'd really lost all attachment to how it got there. Sometimes they pull out of that death spiral (or at least pull up on it), but not always. I don't want to be the one at the helm of a ship like that, trying to figure out how to get the magic back. If I end a series and then later on go "wait, not really done," then that's fine; I'll do that, rather than hanging in there to see if I think up more stuff in time.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 07:42 pm (UTC)
Well, and think how much happier people are when there's more of something after decades. Giving it a good long think is sometimes even better.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-23 07:47 pm (UTC)
I wrapped up the Onyx Court series where I did because I knew that, while I do still have more story to tell, it really needs some downtime before I attempt to tell it. I may get back there someday; I may not. We'll see. But nobody would have been well-served by me trying to crank it out right then.

I have also found myself pondering the comparison between this and series that go downhill because their writer went off in a direction the audience didn't care about. As a gut instinct thing, I feel like I can tell the difference between those two failure modes . . . but of course I am not a mind reader. So I don't really know whether the story got bad because the writer was desperately grasping for new material, or got excited about the "wrong" things.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-23 08:00 pm (UTC)
Mm. Well, and.

I think it's possible to overthink what the audience will and won't care about. I have heard one of the most august authors of a previous generation talk about how they "can't" tell the stories they want to tell because "nobody" wants to hear them, and the panel audience they were talking to moaned in frustration.

So it's a tough balance to strike. I would rather have had that person write what they were excited about, and in general I incline toward excited as a motivator.

And the counterexample seems to be "but what if the author gets excited about their characters picking out furniture," and I hold up the latest few atevi books to say: okay, I'm down with that, if you do it right.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-23 08:28 pm (UTC)
And the counterexample seems to be "but what if the author gets excited about their characters picking out furniture," and I hold up the latest few atevi books to say: okay, I'm down with that, if you do it right.

<lol>

Of course, you can get away with just about anything if you do it right. There's probably some clever "So-and-So's Law" name for that.

I was thinking more of, say, George Lucas and the Star Wars prequels. I don't think he'd run out of ideas but was contractually obligated to make three more movies, or was just really jonesing for a fat paycheck; I think he was super excited about Jar-Jar Binks and midichlorians and all the rest of it, and a very large portion of his audience went ehhhhhhhhhh, not so much. Or Alias, which for my money was a season and a half of pretty excellent TV followed by "wait, apparently the story Abrams wants to tell is not at all the story I thought I had signed on for." I agree that generally I'd rather have somebody write what they're excited about; I'm just musing on how "this went off a cliff" can have very different causes, and whether you can reliably tell the difference between "ran out of steam" and "went the wrong way for their audience."

I have heard one of the most august authors of a previous generation talk about how they "can't" tell the stories they want to tell because "nobody" wants to hear them, and the panel audience they were talking to moaned in frustration.

Especially when the stories they want to tell . . . are indeed being told. "I can't sell this book because nobody wants a fantasy that isn't about fighting the armies of the Dark One!"* Really? Where have you been for the last twenty years? I will totally grant that some things are still a harder sell than they should be (e.g. books with protagonists who are not straight white able-bodied men, or occasionally straight white able-bodied women), but sometimes the market is not as biased as those authors want to think.

*Example not made up for this discussion; I have genuinely heard someone say that, though I can't remember who it was.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-24 12:38 am (UTC)
Yeah, I agree that George Lucas was very excited about stuff that...well, I think the problem there was probably one or more of two things. I think that he was insulated from honest feedback. So I think he was either not getting feedback that he was not communicating clearly what he was excited about, or he was not getting feedback about the GAPING HOLES in his vision.

We all need to hear about the gaping holes. Excitement can blind us, and we really need the person who tugs on our sleeve and says, "But why doesn't she just shoot him?" (I wish I was only talking about one plot with that.)

I actually find it more frustrating when the stories august author wants to tell aren't being told--and august author is in a better position to push them through than J. Random Newbie. Ah well.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-02-27 09:59 pm (UTC)
Agreed about Lucas. And I think we could all name an author or two who seems to have gotten major enough that either nobody was really pushing them anymore, or they ignored the pushing.

I actually find it more frustrating when the stories august author wants to tell aren't being told--and august author is in a better position to push them through than J. Random Newbie.

Yes, that too. Of course it gets complicated when you're talking about something like ethnic representation, and the problems of August White Author being able to tell a story about Non-White Protagonist when J. Random Newbie of that same ethnicity can't sell their book to anybody.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-27 11:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the example I was thinking of was more along the lines of "people want traditional action plots and I want to do something more weird than that," which is far less fraught.
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[User Picture]From: klwilliams
2016-02-23 11:52 pm (UTC)
It's also very telling that the Criminal Minds women appear on the far edge of the opening credits cast shot, and only after the four men appear together. What an excellent example of making characters second class.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-24 12:42 am (UTC)
I wish I could say, oh, Karen, you're overinterpreting, that doesn't mean anything, it's an accident. But the way they've replaced Elle, Em, N, and O and tried to get rid of JJ--the way they didn't even want to recognize Garcia as a major character for the first season...well. Eloquent, isn't it.
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[User Picture]From: jenfullmoon
2016-02-26 02:59 am (UTC)
I started watching the show because a friend of mine used to live in SoCal and she met some dude who was a friend of the actress who played Garcia IRL. Never met her, but it was twue wuv for her and me (both nerd girls) seeing Garcia on that show. I still really like the cast of it--Reid's nerdery is also adorable and I like everyone else too.

However, I will admit that the last few seasons have felt like they ran out of creepy serial killers and had to progressively make up worse and worse crap (like that episode with the human puppets), and the actual gore is harder and harder to watch. At this point I'm mostly on "watch it on Netflix and hit fast forward on the really creepy shit" mode, though I have caught the occasional episode this season and coincidentally, the ones I saw weren't bad. I like Aisha Tyler and I did enjoy the one where Reid and Audrey Plaza were squaring off. But since that stuff is kinda few and far between...that's why I don't watch too often any more.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-02-26 03:10 am (UTC)
I am in late S10 because I'm watching on Netflix, and I really liked it that they gave Greg Hotchner a really embittered father-in-law who had never forgiven him for the death of Hotch's wife and now had Alzheimer's. And was not having any with Hotch's calm psychobabble speak. That was one of my favorite developments in a long time. I mean, it was horrible, but it was the kind of horrible they should do.
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