An Open Letter to TV from Comics

Hey Television,

Look, I know I’m not that much older than you, so don’t think I’m being condescending, but I’ve been through what you’re going through, and I thought you could use some advice.

I remember when I did “serialization” and “decompression” or whatever you kids are calling it these days. The idea’s the same: instead of treating an installment as its own piece of story, each installment becomes part of a bigger story. Hell, the idea is older than either of us, but it’s taking off for you, just like it did for me.

I remember those first few series that did it for me, just like you had your first few. Those were the days. People talk about how you’ve finally grown up, you’re telling stories that are complex, rich, and rewarding. People even compare you to those books with no pictures (it’s a complement, I’m told).

And then it’s everywhere. Everybody has to get on board with serialization. What’s the point otherwise? It’s old fashioned to tell those “one-and-done” stories. The bosses start telling everyone to serialize. We all get a big laugh at those old-timers who resist.

Sound about right? Well here’s what’s about to happen.

You’re checking out the latest installment of your favorite series, and you ask yourself: what just happened? You know you watched something, and it took your time, but can’t really recall any plot points. It just seemed like a lot of nothing.

And now you realize: maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. We all really dug the serialization thing, but was there another reason? Did the big guys like it because it kept us involved even when there was no story, no character. Because they figured out we’d always come back for the next installment, as long as they never gave us a jumping off point.

But now it seems that in getting rid of jumping off points, they also got rid of jumping on points. Everyone checks out the first installment, but they trickle off and never return. I wasn’t around at the first installment, why start now?

But wait, you were being innovative, right? The cool kids liked it – but now it seems like the only ones still around are the same old folks who’ve been around for a while. Where did all those cool kids go?

They already noticed, and they’re gone.

So what do you do? Well its never really up to us, is it?

Its up to the content producers, to make a drive to put out really good content. To know that serialization is a tool, and good content will always be good and bad content will always be bad.

It’s up to the suits (well, we don’t really have those, but you get the idea), not to put in place policies about storytelling, because that’s not something they understand. They should understand that their job is to identify good work, facilitate good work, and get out the word about it.

But at the end of the day, its really up to the fans. They have to demand from all of the above that they don’t want ploys — they want good stories, serial or otherwise.

I talk like I’m some old man, about to give up the ghost. But when I look in the mirror, sometimes I feel really freaking young. Like we’re just getting started, and this whole decompression thing is a little blip. And at the end of the day, isn’t it nice to know that people are talking about you?

Anyway, don’t be a stranger. I’ve got some property to sell you.

-Comics

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