Monday, December 06, 2010
TVOD: Fringe, or Never Surrender
Fringe wrapped up its alt.universe mytharc this past Thursday with an absolute stormer of a conclusion. Cyberspace was glowing with recaps and round tables and hardcore Fringers were left gasping. Since its move to Vancouver last season the show has become the true inheritor of the throne left vacant when the mighty X left Sci-Fi City. But do Joe and Jane Q Couchepotateau care?
Although it absolutely stumps me that Fringe isn't a top 20 show, the real problem is the future of narrative. I don't know how many people pay any attention to the plotlines of these 40 minute police procedurals or whether the predictable rhythms they induce are simply a kind of comforting electronic narcosis. I don't know a single person that feels we're in a golden age of cinema and book publishing continues to wilt along with attention spans. I've long hoped that comics would ride in and be the savior of fictional narrative, and there are some hopeful signs that the long-held stigma against the form is finally melting. But the economics just aren't there yet.
And economics are the crux of the matter. In the past we had independent film and cable TV to ride to the rescue when the rot set in, but I see a supply and demand problem. Feed people nothing but McDonalds and that's all they'll have a taste for. Large swathes of the supply and demand ends of the chain are like monkeys in cages flinging poo back and forth; they make crap, someone buys it for a cheap thrill and pretty soon no one knows the difference. Caprica is a depressing example of this- the audience failed, not the show as far as I'm concerned.
I know some people will say I shouldn't bother with it in the first place but why cede the airwaves to comformist ennui and celebrations of authority? I think film and TV are far too powerful as persuasive mediums to surrender, which is essentially what some are suggesting. Why shouldn't there be something fighting for an audience that isn't Jersey Shore or Real Housewives?
The next couple of years will be key. I doubt we'll see another new wave of independent film like we did in the 90s- it's just too difficult to compete with the studios, no matter how cheap the technology is. Comics publishers are finally taking electronic media seriously and there all sorts of interesting comics/animation mutations that could signal a new age of storytelling. After all, evolution doesn't always mean bigger and bolder. A lot of times it means smaller, cheaper and faster.
If Fringe does fall in the death slot I hope there's a serious effort to do it as a comic. Meaning not just the slapdash stuff we often see with TV tie-ins. Buffy and Angel are going strong as comics which might tell you where the future lies for that kind of storytelling once the inevitable network axe falls. It won't be the same without those great actors but it beats nothing at all.
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