The Perils Of Stretching A TV Show Too Thin

When a show becomes a huge success, especially when it’s adapted from a popular book, there has been a persistent trend of studios wanting to find ways to extend the life of a show for however long they possibly can. The main motivation, though no one will admit it outwardly, is to make as much money off of the show while it’s still the hottest property on TV. Once the dollar signs start to become the central focus over the strength of the piece, a strong visual narrative that holds together well, you’ll start to notice how quickly a show gets run into the ground for the sake of more money.

13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix on March 31, 2017. Based on the YA novel by Jay Asher, the show sought to bring to life the story about a teen girl named Hannah Baker who took her own life and leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that explains all the reasons why she felt there was nothing worth living for and pointing out those she believed were responsible for driving her to a place of no return. Classmate Clay Jensen is the main character and guide who helps steer the audience, and himself, to uncover parts of Hannah’s life before she committed suicide.

Both praised and widely criticized for its graphic portrayal of suicide, drug abuse, bullying, and sexual assault, 13 Reasons Why set itself apart from the usual teen drama shows that were often reluctant to go as far as it could go with serious topics before it entered controversial territory. Despite the controversy the show garnered, I personally thought the first season of the show was a really good adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel. The show was well cast and acted, each episode drawing you in and holding your interest until the very end. As a singular novel that wasn’t a book series, the adaptation of 13 Reasons Why into an episodic TV show was about as close to perfect as you can get. Well, until Netflix decided to green light the show for another season.

13 Reasons Why [Credit: Netflix]
I’ve been against this show continuing when a Season 2 was announced, which eventually led to the currently released Season 3 and will finally end at Season 4. While it’s great for the actors still tied to the show to have a steady job in the past few years, I’d be more happy if these attractive and talented young individuals had found work elsewhere on some other project and leave 13 Reasons Why as a one season show. By continuing the show past its original source material, it has hindered and lessened the solid impact the show already had on its own. I didn’t like Season 2 and I’m still going through Season 3 at the time of this writing, albeit very slowly. If I thought Season 2 was extremely weak and unnecessary, my impression of Season 3 hasn’t been good so far.

I struggle getting through Season 3’s new batch of 13 episodes, whereas with Season 1 I more or less binged watched through the entirety of the season in about a week. The fact that I can barely get through this new season of 13 Reasons Why is already saying something. The level of melodrama and poorly written plot points have severely worn down the real purpose of this show in a bid to make more money out of it because of the popularity it gained among a young demographic. There have been plenty of narrative choices I simply don’t agree with, but that’s a discussion for another time if I decide to review Season 3 after I finish watching it.

13 Reasons Why is a significant example of what happens when a show is forced to continue. It seems like there is an ongoing trend in the entertainment industry of its downright refusal to let some stories end when they’re supposed to. You see it with the amount of revivals, remakes, and continued seasons of shows that have no business being made. I don’t know why there seems to be a fear or reluctance to let anything end. This never used to be a problem in Hollywood. We enjoy the story and characters and respect how their journey ends. All things come to an end, and it’s no different with the stories we tell. The never ending story is an irritating trend plaguing the entertainment industry and it ultimately destroys the stories and characters we fell in love with in the first place.

The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu seems to possibly be in a similar position. I’ve only finished watching Season 1 and still have a lot of catching up to do with the show. Similar to 13 Reasons Why, The Handmaid’s Tale is adapted from the book by Margaret Atwood. Atwood’s book is not a book series either, and yet when the first season debuted on Hulu on April 26, 2017, the story got extended past what was originally in the novel.

[Credit: Hulu]
I haven’t read the book nor have I gotten to watching all of Season 2 and Season 3. I can’t make much of a critique or observation about Hulu’s popular series. But I have read some opinions of The Handmaid’s Tale’s subsequent seasons and it sounded a bit mixed at times. There appears to be a perceptible feeling of fatigue with the show. This show is already very difficult to watch, maybe more so than 13 Reasons Why, but if a show that already came off strong in its first season and it’s gradually wearing out its viewers, I don’t think that’s a good sign either. TV is an entertainment medium and the reason you watch a show is to be entertained in some way, to escape from your reality and dive into one that’s completely different from your own. If a show is really good, it’ll cause you to think on a deeper level that you might not have done before watching the show. This is why if a show gets stretched too thin and doesn’t find a good place to end, then people simply start losing interest over time. I think it’s always better to end a show on a high note rather than a low one because when a show that has overstayed its welcome finally does end, then no one really cares anymore. By then you have probably tuned out and written the show off in your mind.

The Good Place, while not adapted from a book, is the perfect example of a show ending on what will hopefully be a high note. Created by Michael Schur for NBC and starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, The Good Place is a unique show that explores flawed people learning how to be good in the afterlife. That’s the simplified version of what the overall show is about without getting into spoilers about the series and its hairpin plot twists that are both shocking and ingenious at the same time. The Good Place Season 4 will air its last and final season later this month. While this show is much shorter than your average TV show, the creator and writers know when to end it before it gets into the fatigue trap.

The Good Place [Credit: NBC]
I’m sure NBC would very much want one of their hit shows to continue past a Season 4, but when a creator is extremely firm about their creative vision for the show and its characters and will not be swayed into keeping a show going for the sake of more money, this is exactly the kind of people we need more of in the entertainment industry. The story and characters come first without compromising the creative artistry of the work. Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to a show almost guarantees that the piece will stand as one of the best to ever be written and made.

Future shows could learn a thing or two from The Good Place. Let the work speak and end as it is. It’s far better to remember a show for what it did right rather than what it did wrong.

Are there shows you feel should have stayed finished?

10 thoughts on “The Perils Of Stretching A TV Show Too Thin

    1. I’ve never watched either series, but I do have friends who more or less gave up on the shows. There was a level of frustration with the direction the overall story has been going in the last few years. Probably would be a good idea to pull the plug on it.

      1. Re :Walking Dead, I think they would . I’m not sure but I think this would be the last season.

        Re: Fear the Walking Dead…. they kill off all the original characters this early, and others right and left, it comes to a point viewers don’t care about the characters, they will die anyway… and I hate the characters’ unrealistic stupid decisions. It’s frustrating.

  1. Off the top of my head Battlestar Galactica remake went off the rails the longer it went, infamously the series creators revealing after the event the tag line ‘they have a plan’ yeah, no plan…

    1. Shows shouldn’t be remade or revived if the creators have no idea where to go with the stories and characters. I felt largely disappointed by the X-Files revival. It was great seeing the original cast come together again, but it wasn’t enough to mask some poorly written episodes and the changes they made to some major character developments that happened in their prior seasons before the revival.

      1. I enjoyed series 10 more as a one off series return but a bit pissed off

        *spoiler alerts*

        they pulled a Dallas and largely had the final episode of that be a vision or dream of scully. Meh, agree, nice to see but probably added little to the legacy of the show.

        Did enjoy 24: The London adventures after season 8 so can sometimes work out.

  2. One of the “related” posts here is on Heroes: Reborn…oh man, what a pile of **** that was! I’m also with renxkyoko in voting for The Walking Dead. It literally feels zombiefied at this point.

    One show that comes to mind is “Lost in Space.” With Netflix redoing the show for a modern audience, it killed the charm of the original show (from the 1950s, granted). I don’t get why modernized a classic show always means that it’s got to become “realistic” and “gritty.” Sometimes it works, but a lot of times, it just doesn’t.

    1. Oh yeah, Heroes: Reborn was another major letdown! It’s exactly how I felt when they revived the X-Files. I liked how they ended things and by adding what they did with the revivals kind of messed up how the creators supposedly felt was a good way to end the originals. I’m really at a loss why Hollywood thinks this is what moviegoers and TV watchers want—more remakes and revivals. It’s like the whole industry is mostly risk adverse. I just don’t get it. 😦

  3. When I saw the article title I was going to bring up The Handmaid’s Tale. It definitely feels like it’s being stretched a little further than it should. I wouldn’t necessarily say it had to end when the book ended, but some of the ways they have strung it out since have been silly. I’m also really glad they decided to wrap up The Good Place. It is my favorite show on TV, but it is a premise that can’t sustain itself for too long without probably getting kind of silly/stupid in a bad way. So I like that they’re just going to end it. Looks like it will end on top which is nice.

    I think another show I’d say went on too long was How I Met Your Mother. I think particularly because they were obsessed with sticking with a vision they had for the show at the beginning which no longer made sense later in the show’s run. I think if they had adapted to the success and changed gears due to an unexpected 9 season run, it might have worked. But they did not and the show suffered (it also resulted in my least favorite series finale of all-time… what a disaster!).

    The X-Files, as much as I love it, probably would have been better shut down earlier. The last couple seasons of the initial run were kind of a mess from what I remember. The revival was also fairly unnecessary even if I did love a few of the episodes. I’m not sure it left it much worse than it was after Season 9 either though. The X-FIles is a show I largely remember for random great standalone stories and the lead characters more than anything else. I still have good memories of those regardless.

    Great post. I think about this topic a lot. It is hard to say goodbye to shows/characters I love, but sometimes it is for the best.

    1. All great points you made! Yeah, it’s always hard to say goodbye to characters/shows you love but I rather they end it while the writing is still really good and not a train wreck. All stories have a natural beginning, middle, and end. Stretching it to the point where what has developed since makes no sense is not how you make a good show. Not to mention you lose the fans quickly that way. I’m all for saying goodbye in these instances. Besides, what’s great about streaming or buying the Blu-Rays/DVDs of these shows is that you can go back to them when you feel like something comforting and entertaining. You can relive and remember why the show you love is as good as you remembered it. I want those good feelings intact. I don’t want to go from loving something to hating it with a passion. People in the entertainment industry are going about how they do storytelling all wrong as of late.

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