October 09, 2006

Martian self–discipline

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6033735.stm

So the BBC reports that the makers of Life on Mars have decided to wrap the show up completely at the end of the next, second season. They’re to be congratulated on having the self-discipline to realise that even very successful shows dilute their own success by dragging on for too long; Friends, Frasier, Ally McBeal… the list is endless.

And it’s even worse when you have a show with a clearly defined arc which, once resolved, essentially wraps the story up; shows which had such an arc and then had to invent all sorts of new stuff to justify continuing are rarely as successful beyond the initial premise: think X-Files, which all but imploded under the weight of its own ever-expanding conspiracy theories, or in the movies, the woeful Matrix sequels to a movie which was clearly always meant to be self-contained. It doesn’t take too much cynical imagination to see a third series of Life on Mars with some sort of execrable extension to the premise such as “He figured out the seventies… but now he’s back in the sixties!”.

And I imagine that there must have been a certain amount of pressure to wring some more profit out of it by extending the arc over three or more seasons, so all the more reason to applaud the decision to stop early. It puts the show in classy company; Fawlty Towers, The Office and not too many more.

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