Sunday, December 23, 2007

TV Trends

I've noticed a few trends in trends in television over the last decade or so. I'd like to point some of them and ask you, gentle reader, to mention any you've observed that I've failed to include.

Short introduction sequence. Over the last fe years, TV series have clearly move to shorter into sequences. Extreme examples of this include Lost, Heroes, and Pushing Daisies, where the intro is just a single (animated) title card accompanied by one or a few notes of music. This shortening allows more time to be devoted to the actual story, or since these series often have ongoing story arcs, a "previously on..." sequence.

Single-camera shooting. The traditional style of shooting TV series, particularly comedies, involves a set with no "fourth wall" and relies on three cameras to provide coverage. This approach makes the viewer---this viewer, at least---very aware that he is watching fictional events unfold before him. In recent years, television production has been moving more and more to filming in sets with removable walls and a single camera, relying on multiple takes to provide coverage. This approach is more time-consuming, and thus expensive, but results in a more immersive experience for the viewer.

No canned laughter or studio audience. The above-mentioned single-camera shooting prevents filming in front of a live audience that can be prompted to laugh at appropriate points, thus encouraging the viewer to laugh along. Canned laughter can still be used, but often isn't. In my opinion, this absence of prompted or recorded laughter yields a more immersive experience.

Numerous characters and many plot storylines. As Everything Bad is Good for You points out, the number of main characters and plot threads has increased dramatically in the last thirty years, resulting in much more challenging and interesting television.

Ongoing story arcs. More and more TV series are moving away from an episodic format, where the status quo is reinstated at the end of each episode. Instead, these shows are evolving toward a more serial format, where storylines evolve over multipel episodes or even series, and the viewer must remember or be reminded of previous events in the series. Like the increasing complicated casts and plots, these ongoing story arcs result in more challenging and interesting entertainment.

Reality programming. Certainly reality TV is big trend of the noughties. Networks love it because they don't have to pay many writers or actors, and the ratings are often quite strong. Viewers seem to love it, too, but I can't agree.

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