So the only new TV series I've been watching this year is "Heroes".
I was watching "Jericho" for a while, but it just got depressing, especially since every episode was the same - bleak post-apocalyptic stuff, and then a contrived mini-drama in which Skeet Ulrich (ugh) saves the day. Every week.
The good thing about Heroes is that it's the kind of stuff I like to write. Character/action/drama, with a supernatural twist. Real people put into extraordinary situations, to see what they will do.
The problem with Heroes? It's the kind of stuff I have
Every week, the series becomes a little more like my Nicholl semifinalist script.
No wonder none of these people who requested it have gotten back to me.
I knew there were some similarities early. My Nicholl script is also about a group of people with special abilities; generally smaller abilities than the ones at play in Heroes, but still. And one of my supporting characters is a guy who can draw the future.
But as Heroes has gone along, the story has become more about these people on the road, and the plot is increasingly becoming about their stopping a killer who is targeting people with special powers. Which is... pretty much what my plotline is.
I'm not saying they stole it; they obviously didn't. My script also has a lot of stuff that is completely different; the plotlines ultimately aren't all that
Similar enough to torpedo the script? Probably. Sigh.
The fascinating thing, though, is that in my script I tell a fairly-involved story in two hours. Arguably, you could boil Heroes down to a feature too, though they are revelling in the fact that they don't have to; they get to tell it long, and that's very freeing.
Figure a season of a TV drama is about 22 episodes. Scrape out the commercials, that's about 16-17 hours to play with. That's a lot of time.
The main difference is focus. The way I crammed my story into two hours is by picking a main character and telling the tale entirely through her. It's her tale; everyone else is just along for the ride.
Heroes sprawls. It has about a dozen main characters; there are episodes when some don't even appear. The pace can be slower; they can linger over character moments. They can hang around comparatively-minor characters for longer periods of time, and give them mini-dramas that don't drive the central plotline in any way.
Of course, this is also problematic in that they need to pad a lot of stuff out; even telling a multi-character tale like this could probably be done tightly in 6 hours, so 16 is stretching it. The story tends to be a bit repetitive; we get not 1 or 2 scenes of the cheerleader healing herself after an injury, but 8 or 9.
The funny thing is that a while ago I tried to turn my script into a pilot; I had a minor "we like it, though we don't actually want to give you money" interest from a prodco. So I specced it into a pilot, and that was when I discovered the whole hunt-for-a-killer plotline that it evolved into, and then I backed it back out into a script.
Oddly, though, even the spec felt like a feature, because it still focused almost entirely on my main character. I hadn't really let it sprawl; I hadn't taken the opportunity to move other characters into the forefront.
Ultimately, I think there's interesting aspects about both writing things short or long. There's a definite tightness and structure to getting things down to feature length that is satisfying. But there's no denying that a lot of TV series are currently having fun just letting the characters and situations breathe.
Of course, in other currently-depressing news, I'm also becoming increasingly aware that my new supernatural thriller feels way too much like a very-special episode of The Ghost Whisperer. There really are only about 29 plots in the world.