The Format, TV Executives, The Public and The Future.


July 5, 2013 by jcfarnham

I’ve been thinking about serial fiction again, as I do from time to time. I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in people’s opinions recently, and I’ve commented on just that previously, but it got me thinking about the future of the format.

I hope you’ll indulge my talking about TV for a while, as it illustrates my thoughts quite nicely.

Doctor Who, the reigning longest running Sci-Fi show ever, had a long history of serial fiction during its original run from the 60s to just before my birth in the 90s. At some point, it was decided that people didn’t want that any more. Suddenly the 90s saw an influx of episodic fiction, for better or worse, spurred on perhaps by the American market.

Since the Doctor returned to our screens in 2005, and arguably no more so than during Steven Moffat’s time as show runner, the writers of Doctor Who have been testing this so-called modern format, pushing it. Time and time again we get companions who over shadow our true protagonist, leading to more and more serial elements throughout multiple series. And controversially, they even split the series as a nod toward both the original airdates of Classic Who and the ‘American way’.

There is much criticism for the show and Moffat’s choices, and much of it from diehard fans… but then again that’s not a new phenomenon amongst Whovians. However, as the Eleventh Doctor’s era comes to an end, rumours have been in circulation about how they wish to go back to contiguous airing for series 8. This would certainly aid the serial nature, rather than hinder it.

This illustrates both the increased importance of the opinion of the consumer of serial fiction, and the changing face of the format. We complain. They change their minds. There is no doubt about it. We can’t do things the old way forever. And more so than ever before there is a split in whether our opinion matters or not. We are listened to, and not listened to—perhaps a struggle is being fought between the networks about whether audiences need to be told what to like or given what they like. Eventually they do see the light, as proven by the split series criticism and the possible move away for it.

Clearly, modern network executives have to be won over. They need statistics pushed in their faces before they’ll even consider a project. For example, rumour has it there is interest in the Wild Cards series, as curated by George R. R. Martin… and we all know what show brought that on.

Does that mean the success of J.J.’s film reinvention of Star Trek could mark the return of the franchise to the small screen (once he moves on to Star Wars)? I certainly hope so. The theory goes that Star Trek needs to be off air for about a decade before technology catches up to the show’s vision and writers can subsequently make forward-looking SF that matters.

Add to that this current surge in the mainstream public’s interest in Sci-Fi, as evidence by all the SF films released recently, I foresee the coming of a perfect chance for executives and show runners.

People are consuming and paying for short fiction as per the eBook revolution, enterprising writers/directors/producers are increasingly creating web-only shows for the likes of Netflicks and Lovefilm… It may not be until 2015 (see above), but I feel we are due another wash of small screen serial science fiction. Even if it ends up indie and on the web, I need more canon Star Trek to sink my teeth into.

And if you’re interested in writing and reading (even creating and watching) serial fiction, now looks like the time to get on the bandwagon.

You know before it gets overburdened.


One thought on “The Format, TV Executives, The Public and The Future.

  1. jcfarnham says:


    I was reminded by Zach Bonelli that the main reason for the 90s SF explosion in America was that Star Trek: TNG made far more money than anyone was expecting it to. “Two seasons tops” they said to Patrick Stewart.

    Perhaps we’re currently in the middle of that today? What do you think?

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