Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Death of the Cliff-Hanger

‘Emmerdale’ fans were up in arms this week after a TV listings magazine spoiled the outcome of the fire storyline by printing the names of the characters who perished in the blaze.
While this incident does appear to have been a mistake, it is becoming increasingly difficult – or should that be impossible? – to avoid finding out what’s going to happen in the soaps in advance'. 
So writes Soap Insider.

When you pick up a book, do you flip to the end and read the last page? Actually, to properly know who, what. when, where and why you'd probably have to read the last chapter and I don't think people do that. Do they? Really? And armed with this information do they then settle down to read from the beginning?

Perhaps such people exist but why ruin a good story? I am not a big soap watcher. Once upon a time I made it a point never to miss Coronation Street and of them all it is the one I dip in and out of occasionally - it's always good - but as a regular, strapped to the chair, gotta know what's going on soap addict I fail miserably. It's the time and dedication they demand, I fall short. But were I to plunge in and make the necessary commitment I would hate, loathe and detest to know what was going to happen. What is the point?
And yet, storylines are leaked to the press, whole magazines exist purely to tell you what is coming up. If the show isn't gripping viewers enough the promise of what is to come shouldn't make one iota of difference.

I have two particular pet hates where this practice is concerned.

ONE  I do not want to watch a movie trailer that lasts four minutes and gives me every major plot point and twist in the story three weeks before I see the film. But if you regularly go to the cinema you cannot help but expose yourself to these aberrations of marketing.

TWO TV series that trail the next episode at the end. We've just watched a gripping, taught, high-stakes episode of, lets say, Dexter. He is on the point of being exposed as the serial killer he is and then CUT TO scenes from the next episode that make it abundantly clear this aint gonna happen. So why did I bother investing 50 minutes of my life watching. I'll tell you why - I like the show. The bit stuck on the end is nothing to do with it. It is the monster child of some ad man. I want my cliff-hanger to be a cliff-hanger. I don't want the bubble burst by some little shit who decreed 'thou shalt trail ahead at the end of thy show'. Sorry, Mister, I turn off before I find out. Ha! Gotcha.

Both come down to the same thing. Terror.

Terror that they've spent all this money making this movie and no-one will come unless we make it pretty obvious that this is their kind of movie and to do that let's show them how much their kind of movie it is.

Terror that you will not return to see the next exciting episode of this TV show that cost millions and will be axed unless we get really good numbers week on week.

Writers hate it. Why would you spend all that time in your pit desperately trying to hide all the plot points only for some ejit in marketing to destroy the suspense. Why not put up a placard at the start of the show that says some thing like: it doesn't matter what happens in this episode everything will be fine, none of your favourite characters die. It's like going on a roller coaster that stops every thirty seconds while somebody tells you about the next part of the ride. How does that make the experience better.

Which is why when people ask if I have any inside knowledge on plotlines I always say yes and then spin them a yarn about how so-and-so gets a sex change and then dies in a horrible umbrella accident and how everyone who goes to his/her funeral picks up e-coli poisoning from the sausages at the wake, meanwhile a drugs baron goes on the warpath when he accidentally picks up the wrong puffa jacket in the laundrette....

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