Day 6 - Addiction to Resolution

Many awful shows revolve around the resolution of small but significant conflicts. Grey's Anatomy is one of the finer examples. In each episode, three or four conflicts are developing simultaneously, often within a larger drama that provides a story arc for the season. Some conflicts are often short-lived, generally an episode or two. Others fluctuate as characters take two steps toward resolution, three steps back, five steps forward, and so on, until one of the writers of the show conjures up a monologue so melodramatic, so full of goopy cliche, that the story line can finally come to its predictable end.


This is every single episode. And just in case the drama gets too rich, just the right amount of 'comedy' is thrown in for flavoring. This exhausting cycle completes itself about 15 times in the span of an hour. Of course, it's all about the editing which is flawless in this show. Flawless in the sense that the editing is what fosters the addiction to resolution. Teasing the viewer with an almost-resolution and then delivering it in the last three minutes of the episode. Over and over, for 16 years, with about 24 episodes per season. It's a sped up soap opera and, to this end, this awful and intolerable and unwatchable show is utterly brilliant. 


Compare this hysterical chaos to a masterpiece like Madmen. Conflicts are rarely resolved. Instead, we watch people life with dramas, learn to cope, battle, suffer, act like fools. We watch how this destroys people's lives. Many of whom are fucked over completely and kicked out the door, never to be seen again. Roger can't find happiness and it's never explained why. The reason is simply presented to us: He's a rich brat who thinks he earned his entitlement by fighting in a war. In turn, he has the easiest job imaginable. Cheats on his wife with young beautiful women and bulldozes through one person after another. He also lacks any insight into the business or the trajectory of advertising. He dismisses the television department as a benign appendage of print-based advertising. He doesn't have a word to say about the introduction of computers. He just wants to be free from responsibility. Even at the end, when Don finds inner peace, the resolution only leads him back to his true calling: Advertising. So, presumably, he'll just launch himself back into success and excess, though perhaps with less cognitive dissonance as he sheds the obstacles (family, relationships). Madmen treats these conflicts as complex and phenomena to be navigated rather than solved. Grey's Anatomy solves such conflicts 30 times an hour. A barrage of resolution, so much like social media. Madmen, Sopranos, and The Wire are the opposite. They are works of art that were meant to end when the stories demanded (7 seasons for Madmen, 6 for The Sopranos, and 5 for The Wire). There are some good shows on television, but it is possible that such art in television does not or soon will not exist, but that's fine. The art has been made and will always exist to be enjoyed. In other words, they are artifacts, beautiful and perfect.


Praise the gods of entertainment. 


You'll only receive email when The Barnacle publishes a new post

More from The Barnacle