Seriality, the ontological concept behind TV series, originated due to consumerist reasons. When literature printing boomed out at the end of the XIX century, writers –most prominently Charles Dickens– had to look for a way to keep readers invested in their works in order to consolidate this new mass producing machine. Accordingly, splitting long novels into different chapters released over time –and with a proper cliffhanger– hooked the readers and allowed the industry to bloom. A century later, TV has adopted the formula literature popularized and even more recently some shows have appeared that have challenged our understanding about what seriality is supposed to be.
In the analogic times of TV, shows and other programs were not an isolated space in the schedule, they were a part of cycle without end, the Flow as Raymond Williams called it. Now, in the era of Netflix and Kickass, we refuse to follow a prefabricater order and instead create our personal dymanic of viewing. It’s the time of the Digital Flow.
I’m halfway through Sense8, the new Netflix series by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), and against every possible prediction (based on my previous experiences with the creators of… Speed Racer and Jupiter Ascending) and despite the reviews out there, I must admit that it’s actually a fascinating and awe-inspiring tale within its own grandiloquence. 8 stories, 8 characters, 8 cities around the world… and 8 genres?
In an isolated town in France the dead are suddenly appearing in front of their old houses, knocking on their doors and trying to live again within their communities. Although it may look like a zombie, Les Revenants is not one. This is an intimate, beautifully assembly drama that stays in the thin line between fantasy and reality.
One week ago, Mad Men ended with the image of Don Draper smiling into the camera. On the other side of the screen my face, as two ancient Greek theater masks facing each other, was rather the opposite: the face of disappointment. What a lacking finale –if not a complete disaster–, to the point that our own Homecoming Queen, who actually confessed to like the episodes, preferred to discuss the latest Penny Dreadful episodes over the series finales of a series of the relevance of Mad Men. This fact made look back to this year’s fiction and wonder: are we having a bad year?
Penny Dreadful has always been between two worlds: fantasy and reality, television and literature, genius and boredom, Vanessa Ives and the Creature. But in its last episode both realities, the malignant witches from fairy tales and the proto-feminist witches from the medieval times, have come together and create a wonderful piece of TV.
A fly on the wall, a kidnapping, Tony Soprano’s talking fish dream, a battle on The Wall, a beach house, a sitcom episode form the 90s, Annie’s Boobs, every posible outcome of a speech, a flashback that shows the loss of a child in the 80s, a flashback that show the entire history of an island… These are all special episodes of our favorite series. Episodes that did not follow the scheme we have grown familiar with, episodes that focused on a simple, concrete storyline that did not continue the serie’s plot, but rather highlight a single idea or concept. And then there’s Louie (FX, 2010-?), could a show be only constructed from ‘special episodes’?