Tired of Arcs

Decided not to watch Heroes last night, and found that I really didn’t miss it. I came to the realization that I haven’t really enjoyed it since the first season — too many subplots, too many episodes spent doing nothing but moving incrementally along some story-arc, that ends up getting dropped at the end of the volume. Scrub, rinse, repeat.

Hell — only really watching Battlestar Galactica at this point because it’s the end, and there are only a few episodes left. But really — after last week’s infodump exposition episode, can there really be any doubt that they were just making it all up as they went along? “They have a plan”, indeed.

I’m tired of “arc shows.”

TV used to be about a story — an hour’s worth of fiction. I mean sure, there was continuity of setting and character — and sometimes, there even was an arc to the development of the characters. That’s cool. But it seems like after Babylon 5, more and more genre shows became focused on the Story Arc (capitals intended, of course). Episodes stopped being self-contained tales, and became another shuffling step along the arc. This is fiction that only rewards obsessive viewing, DVRs or eventual DVD release. And, frankly, it’s gotten pretty awful. Show creators seem only intent on coming up with “cool” twists or developments that are only intended to keep people coming back, to find out what the next development or twist will be. In the end, though, you realize that they have no idea where they’re headed. I’m looking at you, Lost… or Twin Peaks… or X-Files

X-Files is a great example, in fact. You know what I’ve discovered? The non-arc standalone episodes of the show are really the only ones that stand up just as well now as they did on original broadcast. The ones where all you really needed to know (as said in our discussion about this last night) was “Here are two FBI agents who investigate weird shit. Mulder’s a believer. Scully is a skeptic. GO.”

Let’s be blunt — a show with a meandering, never-ending and often self-contradictory “arc” already has a genre — it’s called a Soap Opera. If I wanted that, I’d be watching Passions or Days of Our Lives.

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