Happy endings

I was planning on writing a woefully self-indulgent post about feeling old and past it but after returning from running club with endorphins pumping through my ancient veins I’ve had a change of heart – which means that you, dear reader, will be spared (on this occasion at least). Instead, I’d like to discuss the phenomenon of the TV drama – or, to be more specific, the TV drama with no definitive ending.

What do I mean by ‘no definitive ending’? Let me take you back in time…Remember Lost? The first series had everyone rapt. What would happen to the plane crash survivors and just what was the secret of the spooky island that they’d crash landed onto? The second series toyed with our sense of credibility and stretched the boundaries of our imaginations but, like true fans, we stuck with it. Then came the third series, and with it events so random and ridiculous it made it hard to persevere – which is why I didn’t. Soon after I discovered the scriptwriters had no idea how the story was going to end, and suddenly it fell into place why my faith had deserted me faster than the inhabitants of Lost’s fictional island.

So now we’ve got to the crux of the matter: Do even the best TV dramas suffer when the people writing them don’t know where they’re heading any more than the viewers? My instinctive reaction is yes, because I like to be able to place my faith in the writers for a dramatic and exciting conclusion. If they don’t know what that conclusion’s going to be it takes something away from that trust, even if they’re the best scriptwriters in the world.

Another example is the recent French TV drama, The Returned. I watched every episode avidly and was gutted when the series came to an end. When I went online to find out when the second series would air, however, I stumbled across an interview with the scriptwriters who confessed that they, like the writers of Lost, weren’t actually sure what the next series would hold, or how the story would ultimately end. I felt let down, and whilst I will still watch the second series in the hope it will be just as strong as the first, I can’t deny I’ll watch it with a more cynical eye.

It should perhaps then follow that I would feel equally as disappointed to learn that authors of books don’t know how they’re going to end. Only I don’t, because as a writer I know that sometimes even the best planned stories can take crazy and unforeseen turns, with the final outcome a million miles away from the initial concept. So why does it bother me in TV dramas? I just can’t answer that. I just know it does. And it makes makes me feel, well, a bit…

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