Tuesday, December 27, 2005

TV Tues - Monster vs. Mythology

With the high number of reruns that take over the tv schedule this time of year, my TV reporting is pretty limited. I did, however, manage to get some TV DVDs watched, one of which led to some TV related ramblings into my tape recorder on my drive to Miamuh. Of course, I'm having trouble finding the tape with those ramblings right now, so I'm just going to have to write from memory for now.

Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Disc 3: Only one more disc to go, and it's basically just the big finale featuring the final matches. I have to say that for once I was glad that the ending had been spoiled for me, because it meant that I didn't have to spend hours worrying that the two guys I absolutely couldn't stand would make it to the finals. Instead, I could just sit back, relax, and wait for their inevitable defeats.

Profit Disc 3: And so, yet another innovatitve series that was killed before its time draws to a close for me. I really wish this would have last longer, for two reasons: first of all, in order to watch the evolution of Lisa Darr's character, who was one of the most interesting aspects of the show; and second of all, because the behind-the-scenes documentary revealed that if they had lasted a whole season, they had planned on bumping off the female security chief to shake things up; never having liked that character, who was never as good a foil for Profit as she should have been, that would have made me very happy.

My biggest complaint about the series had to be its M.o.t.W. setup. Buffy fans will recognize this as an acronym for "Monster of the Week" which doesn't quite fit her; I guess the M could stand for "Machinations." Or, I could come up with a different leading word, like Smallville with its F.o.t.W. set-up, the F being for Freak, but I'm a bit too lazy to come up with anything else for it right now, and that's kind of straying from my initial point anyway, so I suppose I should get us back on the right track before my ramblings threaten to wash all thoughts away into strange, misty lands filled with run-on sentences, half-formed thoughts, and barrages of random stream-of-consciouness.

Sort of like that last paragraph.

Anyway, Profit's M.o.t.W. structure wore on me quite a bit. Each week there would suddenly be a new plot or plan that would threaten his rise to power, and each week he would go through insanely complicated maneuvers to thwart this latest complication. This need for an entirely new danger each and every week strained my credulity with the hoops that had to be gone through each time. It was a similar problem with the F.o.t.W. that had me give Smallville up for a time. The formulaic nature just drove me to distraction.

The X-Files had its own form of terminology for the different types of episodes they tried to do: Monster eps and Mythology eps. Monster eps would be the ones that are stand-alone, M.o.t.W. style, while the Mythology eps would focus on a grander, over-arching storyline. Applying this framework to TV shows in general, I have to say that, on the whole, I prefer shows which have a high Mythology quotient. That what I loved about Buffy and Angel; the move from Monster to Mythology eps was what got my finally hooked on Stargate SG-1. Ironically enough, the biggest example I can think of where I prefer Monster eps to Mythology eps is the show that gave me that terminology: The X-files. The problem with it being that it contradicted itself constantly; every plot reveal turned out to be a lie, every fact was made fiction, and then back into fact again; the lack of any resolution was frustrating, and the shadowy conspiracy junk grew tiresome. I include this to show that sweeping generalities don't always work; it's all in the execution.

So, what is it that makes me enjoy shows with heavy Mythology? Well, I like seeing the interconnected plot lines, seeing how all of what has gone on before actually feeds into future plots. I alsolike watching the characters grow and change over time; it's one of the reasons I've never been able to get into the Law and Order franchise all that much. A procedural has to have really strong characters that I like in order for me to devote time and energy into it. Of course, at times this growth and change can come back to bite me; one of the big draws for Buffy for me was the charcters of Willow and Xander. I enjoyed watching them slowly growing up and coming into their own, but by the time the 5th season had rolled around, it was obvious that the people they were growing into weren't necessarily people I wanted to watch every week. The progression was natural, and pretty well-executed, just not a direction I really wanted to watch. Angel, on the other hand, took characters I was rather luke-warm towards, and grew them into some of my favorite characters on TV; the darkening and redemption of Wesley is one of my all time favorite character arcs on any series.

So, in conclusion: episodic series, bad; story-arc driven series, good.