Disney and Netflix make billions by creating a culture without closure—but unhappy viewers are pushing back against the system.
One interesting note about “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was that there was a Broadway adaptation of it. (Loretta Swit, post-M*A*S*H, starred in it.) At one point late in the second act, one of the actors broke the fourth wall and announced that “At this point in the plot, Mr. Dickens unfortunately died.” He then invited the audience to help choose the ending. The audience was given four questions, where they could chose how that plot point was resolved (e.g. who was the murderer?). Multiple endings had been written (and rehearsed), so that the story ended the way that particular audience preferred. So nearly everyone went home happy.
An important story to tell Ted.... So many times I've watched many seasons of a TV series and at the end thought.... what was that all about? Why did I waste so much time on something that could have been told succinctly in just two hours? Too many series are just designed to keep you on their platforms rather than telling you what they have to say so you can move on with life.... I mean, even the longest Mahler symphony is done after an hour and a half....
A few years ago, my wife and I began watching The Walking Dead. We enjoyed the first few seasons, then I started to wonder about the narrative arc. "When we the story turn for home? Will the zombies or people win in the end? Etc etc." Soon after this I took my kids to the comic store and while browsing found the Walking Dead section... There were something like 30 volumes of the story. "oh no," I told myself. "this will NEVER end." And we stopped watching soon thereafter.
“The end of a thing is better than its beginning...” Ecclesiastes 7:8
Thank you, Mr. Gioia, you have captured a key frustration of mine with U.S. television for a number of years. I have gravitated toward South Korean dramas, which are generally resolved in 12, 16 or 20 episodes. At their best, they have a narrative arc that feels like the TV equivalent of a novel. I find this model much more enjoyable as a watcher. But even the S. Korean model is being tested by Netflix. More of those shows are showing with second seasons. This is not a good trend. American shows will take a wonderful idea or character and run it into the ground, or at least to the point you don’t care any longer. If I do watch U.S. shows, I tend to watch just the first season or two. Then I drift away to find something new. Thanks, as usual, for your insights.
While Game Of Thrones was running on HBO, a friend gave me all the extant GOT books to read. I actually got halfway through "A Dance With Dragons" before I found out that George R.R. Martin was late in delivering the final two books. So I stopped reading until the rest of the series would be printed. The TV show had a finale episode and now we have a prequel series but Mr. Martin has still not completed the GOT books, although he has found time to write some prequels,the last being in 2018. It's been twelve years and now Mr. Martin has to decide whether if he ever actually tries to finish the books that he follows the HBO ending or not. If he actually gets around to it, I'm not expecting to bother reading them.
People will feel the same way about immortality, if they ever achieve it.
There is a melancholy satisfaction about a story that ends well and at the right time. I'm thinking both of "The Sopranos" and of the house my family owned for 60 years, 1955–2015, on Fort Myers Beach, the island destroyed by Hurricane Ian and before that, already more than half-destroyed by developers. We sold the house after our dad died at almost 98, and it got a temporary reprieve as a beautifully renovated beach cottage but was doomed soon to be replaced by a huge rental McMansion. Instead, Ian got it. It was GONE, snatched from the bulldozer's jaws by the wrath of Nature. It made for a better story.
but wait... did you not see No Time To Die?
Six Feet Under, many years ago. Very linear narrative, which got more and more deranged and intense as the series went on. After many side stories, all fascinating, it ended marvelously in a conflagration of the same character who introduced the story.
I don't understand why everyone is so shocked by the performance of the latest Antman. I knew it would do way less bizz than other Marvel films. Thee Antman films have always under performed in comparison to the other "Higher Tier" marvel characters. He is definitely a 2cnd tier or more supporting character. Marvel / Disney were just Hoping to build it into a bigger personality than it was.
And the MULTIVERSE garbage is getting to be real tiring crap. It seems to promote lazy writing because in the "Verse" Anything is seemingly possible
In a metaverse nothing matters
The Sopranos? Deadwood, however, perfectly illustrates your argument. From what I've heard, that show ended because Ian McShane decided he needed more money. If true, he walked away from the best role he's ever played, and betrayed the rest of the cast and crew in the process. Another recent example is The White Lotus, where several pistols were placed on the mantlepiece, but none of them were ever fired! I wrote about it here, if anyone's interested: https://chrisryan.substack.com/p/feeling-betrayed-by-white-lotus
Thank you, this is a very insightful piece. Made me remember Thomas Mann’s unfinished Confessions of Felix Krull. I really wanted to follow that story to the end when was younger.
During COVID I read dozens of novels. Why? Because in the end, you find out how they’ll come out.
Unlike real life in the time of plagues.
I think this is similar to the reason my local YMCA failed. They got hooked on daycare, Silver Sneakers and other programs that brought in government or insurance money, but if anyone started a class, they'd let it go on for only so long and then cancel it even if it met the enrollment requirements. People would sign up for karate, only get to yellow belt, and the class would be cancelled out from under them. This happened with any number of classes. People largely didn't sign up for classes that involved building skills over time, because they knew they would probably be cancelled in an untimely manner.
Clearly you're on to something, and I certainly get your point, though I don't necessarily agree myself. For me it's more about the journey than the ending. In regards to the Marvel movies, it would never occur to them to end it considering the source material. American comic book series (specifically super-hero ones) NEVER end. They're basically soap operas in spandex. That's never bothered me, but I can understand why it does bother you and others. It does seem to be a very American thing, the endless story. Manga comics for instance don't do that, they do actually have stories with a beginning, middle and end.