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Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

What do you think about the trend towards extended story arcs in movies and television?

Asked by Imadethisupwithnoforethought (14659points) February 29th, 2012

Do you enjoy a movie or television episode more if the plot is completely self contained or do you find yourself preferring shows that build a plot line without resolution until the end of a season?

I have seen this trend develop across television, and with the Avengers coming out soon, it appears, at least to me, to be spreading across into movies.

Do you enjoy this trend? Are we losing the ability to start watching a show in the middle and gain any enjoyment from it?

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18 Answers

ddude1116's avatar

I’ve always had more of a preference to serials, as opposed to episode-to-episode series, but I don’t think it’s taking over television. Since there are so many stations, the serials are specific to certain stations, like AMC, while other stations will take episode-to-episode shows, like TBS. It isn’t a trend, for there have always been serials, it’s just they were generally in books before, and now they aren’t. For every Breaking Bad there is at least one Modern Family, and probably more. And as far as movies, I think the only instances of serials are things which were series to begin with, like Harry Potter or The Lord Of the Rings, for most film sequels are independent of the previous films, and in cases where they aren’t, they aren’t different enough to matter. I saw Back To the Future Part III first, and I was fine with following the story, even though it began shortly after the second one ended. If this is, indeed, a trend, it isn’t a new one, it’s just becoming more noticeable now because the market is expanding and more are emerging.

fundevogel's avatar

Assuming it’s the sort of story I like I can usually get on board for a season long arc. I like the development and mystery that style of storytelling can deliver. However I loathe drawing things out just to draw them out. At this point I can tell the difference between a well-paced 12 episode arc and a 22 episode milk-it-for-all-it’s-worth or worse, milk it for several seasons because the writers didn’t actually work out a proper conclusion before they threw themselves to the sharks.

I don’t worry about coming in on the middle of a serial because it’s pretty easy to start at the beginning with things like dvd box sets, netflix, hulu, itunes and coughpiracycough.

Scanning my watching habits I watch more serials, but it’s split by genre. Anything even remotely dramatic is at least lightly serialized and the comedic stuff is stand alone. This might not be the case if I had any interest in police procedurals or medical dramas.

btw, American Horror Story rocked my socks.

ragingloli's avatar

Movies should be self contained.
TV series should have an arc.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I also love stand-alone and episodic formats. But the episodic format was a monopoly in television, and tv can’t afford the budget of movies. There really haven’t been more than a handful of shows that do the longer arcs, much less one so complicated you had to start from the beginning. I don’t want all of them to be that way, but it’s nice to have shows like Lost changing things up. With tv shows coming out on DVD, Amazon Instant, Hulu, Netflix, and coughTBPcough, it’s not only possible but easy to not only get caught up on a show that started several years ago, as well as to discover a show that’s already ended.

But not to panic. Arrested Development went down after only 3 seasons, Community is hanging on by a thread – somehow, I really don’t think the traditional sitcom format is actually in any danger.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Also, not really sure Avengers is a real arc. I mean, sure, all the movies happen in the same universe (which has always been a comic book Thing), and sure, there are a couple Easter eggs for the fans, but all of the movies are still totally viewable and understandable as stand-alones. Having 5 minutes of character cross-over really doesn’t amount to such a thick and complex plot that you can’t watch just one.

JLeslie's avatar

I like both going on at once. I don’t like waiting forever for every story line to compete, infact when we get a quick answer on something, maybe just two or three episodes, I am thrilled the writers did not make us wait forever. But, then, watching complicated story lines develop over a season is good too.

DominicX's avatar

I like TV shows with the “arc” HOWEVER sometimes it becomes apparent with these shows that the arc isn’t something that is pre-planned, it is something made up as the writers go along writing each episode and thus not everything ties together in the end. Case in point: Lost.

YARNLADY's avatar

I do not like it. I prefer stories that begin and end with each episode.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Sometimes these arcs go on so long I completely lose interest. Used to watch 24 and Chuck every week. The final season of 24 is still on my dvr…unwatched.

Got tired of the “does Chuck get the girl?” subplot, so that drifted away.

Seems like they took a good concept and flogged it to death.

JilltheTooth's avatar

OK, someone break out smelling salts, I agree completely and absolutely with @JLeslie , here. I know it’s not a world-shaking issue, but it’s rare enough to be noted.
That said, in 1977 George Lucas promised us 9 movies, and as goofy as they are, I’m a little annoyed that he stopped at 6. I want those other 3!

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m writing down the date, time, and Q. :)

ragingloli's avatar

What are you, a glutton for punishment?
He should have never made the prequels.

lonelydragon's avatar

I prefer the episodic format. It makes the show easier to follow if you are new to a series.

JLeslie's avatar

An additional comment: my husband hates the trend of showing an event, and then going back to the past to see what led up to it. For instance the new show The Firm showed the main character on the run and witness a suicide at the very beginning of the first episode, and then the show cuts to six weeks before.

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie Oh, yes. I hate that too. Last week it seems every show I watched did that.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie Oh, see, I love when the timeline is non-linear.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t care either way about whether the timeline is in sequence, like I said that is my husband’s gig.

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