Even though I'm about to write about television here, I really don't watch much of it...well, not much in the way of TV series that is. My television is generally off most of my day only to be turned on if there's a DVD movie I want to watch or cable has some interesting movie playing. I think sitcoms are unfunny, "reality" shows are boring and sometimes I wonder if there are more doctors and cops on TV than in real life.
That's not to say that there aren't TV series I like a lot and I am absolutely hooked on but, like what radio talk show callers often say, that isn't what I wanted to write about.
Ever since Babylon Five introduced something called a "story arc" into television series, the major and not-so-major television networks fell in love with it. A "story arc" means that a series is working its way to the actual conclusion of an ongoing story as opposed to showing "episodes" of a day in the lives of its characters. The syndicated science fiction show set on a large space station, Babylon Five, did that as well but underneath there was another, continuing story going on. The producers of that show allowed six seasons to tell that story and when it concluded so did the series. They did make some TV movies to show a bit of what happened after the story was over but there was no "new adventures" for the show to continue on. It was done. No more.
The first to try out this new approach to series television was The X-Files. Their approach was two-fold: there were programs that dealt with an ongoing conspiracy to be solved, but they peppered in stand-alone episodes along the way. Fans of the show referred to the first as 'myth' shows and the others as 'monster' shows and it allowed the network playing the program to renew it until it lost enough audience that it wasn't making the money for the network than it once did and they canceled it.
The next TV show to do the story arc was on a small, fledgling network and the show was the TV version of the film, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The movie was a one joke pony where the joke was that a pretty little airhead of a cheerleader ends up being a formidable weapon against a vampire plague just getting going. The television version of it took that premise and allowed the characters in it to grow and change into something far more interesting than the film. Its ongoing story was the quest to find and destroy the source of the vampire plague and when they...or rather, she...did that, the series ended.
LOST made a go of it too but for that one success there were tons of other series that tried this style of television series making and failed -- most of the time leaving the fans of the canceled shows hanging, never to know the outcome of their story arcs. I'm one of the frustrated ones too since I like those series and tend to watch them all (although LOST kind of lost me).
I have a suggestion for the studios that create these shows and the networks that air them: Be kind to your fans and at least wrap the show up when you cancel one of the continuing story series. Dollhouse was able to do that and so can you.
Go on, please -- make a movie that ends the story that you just cut off. It doesn't even have to take up time on your schedule, a DVD would do the trick for us who were into it enough to care about it. I would love to find out if they freed Kidnapped's abducted US Senator's wife. Or who won the battle between regular humans and the new humanoid species of Prey. Did we succeed or fail in fighting off the underwater 'invasion of the pod people' aliens of Invasion? What exactly was that new creature discovered in Surface? What did finally happen to the survivors of the nuclear attack who lived in Jericho? Just to name a few, including what new future did humanity see in the second worldwide blackout of the just-cancelled FlashForward?
Help us out here, networks - don't leave us dangling in the wind like this. It just might make you some extra money too.