Post-hiatus musings: I don’t want your stupid movies, cult television

After nearly a month, my fairly substantial hiatus here at TVS is over. I am happy to be back providing content for you folks on a regular basis. In my time off, I’ve missed all sorts of television, both viewing- and writing-wise. To combat that, I’ll be whipping up a number of random posts with thoughts on countless summer programming over the next few days. I hope you consider these posts fair payment for the weeks I took off so that I could work on my thesis and spend time with my significant other. 

Most of my post-hiatus posts will tackle series and episodes of programs that I watched while away, but this subject has been driving me nuts for so long now that I have to write something. If the title to the post didn’t give it away, I’m here to talk about this somewhat recent and ever-present phenomenon in the entertainment industry where a television series gets canceled or comes to a relatively natural end…and then someone involved with said series begins talking about the possibility of that story continuing on the silver screen. I’m not sure if this is to keep DVD box set sales up or to bring more people to fan sites and message boards, but here’s what I do know: This has to stop.

That means you, longgestating Veronica Mars movie. It also means you, similarlylonggestating Arrested Development movie that probably wouldn’t be any good anyway. And you, second Firefly/Serenity film. Unfortunately, this applies to the absolutely-never-going-to-happen cases of HBO’s Deadwood and Rome. Recent examples of series that came to a quasi-legitimate end or better like 24, Smallville, Friday Night Lights, The Hills and Entourage are particularly annoying and let’s not touch the possibility of more of The Event. Finally, as much as I hate to say it, this also has to apply to the possible Party Down film that I actually want to see.*

*Side note about Party Down that may or may not completely destroy my entire argument: Of all these options, I feel like a PD film would probably work the best. It’s a comedy that wouldn’t require much plot machinations to get going for another 95 minutes, there’s enough story left, but it could easily work in a self-contained environment and most importantly, everyone seems really interested in actually doing the damn thing. I’m very skeptical that a Party Down movie will ever happen, but if there was one bet on which one of these movies got made, that’d probably be my pick. Or Entourage, sadly. 

At first, I understood this phenomenon. Arrested Development, Deadwood, Rome and Veronica Mars all ended prematurely in the eyes of most because they were financially unviable for their respective networks. However, each series had a substantial (yet obviously too small as far as television economics goes), but rabid fan base that was so interested in the material that someone on the respective series’ production team deemed it possible to move forward with more story. Plus, they certainly got a look at how this would all work when Firefly fans were rewarded for all their troubles with a feature-length film. That produced all sorts of statements like this: “Hey, if the three million people who watched Veronica Mars each week on the CW went to the theater, the movie would make like $25 million dollars!”

But as the years have passed, the stories about these possible movies have only dragged out further, making it clear to me that they are never going to happen. In some cases, the finances weren’t there. In others, television stars became movie stars (well sort of, Kristen Bell, Jason Bateman and Michael Cera). As someone who only watched one of those four series live (Arrested Development), I grew annoyed by the constant waffling over things that I think most of us can see just aren’t going to exist. And I hope that most Arrested Development fans realize that a feature-length film just isn’t going to be that good. The series ran out of gas in its third season, its creative team has horribly fumbled everything after that and there’s a reason it’s taken this long to get moving. Not to mention how ridiculous everyone’s expectations would be after all these years.

As horribly annoying as those cases are, they have nothing on all the much more recent examples I listed. There is zero reason why audiences need or deserve two more hours of 24 after they received nearly 200 episodes across nine years. Sure, Jack Bauer could be the middle of a new action film franchise, but removing the series’ story from its up-to-the-minute format seems misguided even if the format itself grew stale and tired as time passed. I shouldn’t have to pay $10 bucks to see more of a 60-year old Jack Bauer just because Howard Gordon couldn’t come up with a good ending for the television series.

24 isn’t the only one with lots working against it. Smallville went longer than 24, had its own ending problems and just happens to share characters and stories with one of the most presumably valuable franchises in the world. Friday Night Lights came to a glorious conclusion that satisfied audiences and critics alike and was developed after a feature-length film adaptation of the original book succeeded at the box office. Entourage and The Hills could theoretically work because of the inherent style of the storytelling, but I just can’t get there because I don’t want to live in a world where we have film versions of both.

The Event? Jesus. JESUS.

I honestly don’t want to come off like a curmudgeon here and I know that my opinion might not be in line with the majority, so I figured that I would at least point out a few parties that are most certainly to blame in this situation.

1.) The media: Oh you dastardly media! I’m not really a member of the media, but I am willing to defend the media entities when necessary. This isn’t really one of those times. There’s a reason why Jason Bateman talks about the Arrested Development movie all the time and I’m nearly 100 percent sure it’s not because he really, really loves the script (that may or may not be finished). Bateman, Kristen Bell and their peers are all stuck in this horrible situation where the reporters interviewing them basically have to ask about the possibility of a film, both because the fans want to know and because the fans wanting to know turns into some major page-views for whomever is posting the “news.” The media machine perpetrates most of these things each time an actor or writer has a new project and they hit the junkets, it’s almost unavoidable. It sucks, particularly when media outlets pitch a non-answer comment as “exclusive news,” but it’s where we are these days.

2.) People associated with the series: This is tricky because I obviously don’t know Rob Thomas or Mitch Hurwitz. I’d like to imagine that they’d prefer to move on and talk about their new projects when out there in front of the media, but that may or may not be the case. One might argue that it’s in a writer, producer or actor’s best interest to bring up their most beloved projects in interviews so that they can hook in any of those viewers on the fence about the creative’s new work. Last fall, every interview Hurwitz did before the premiere of Running Wilde had at least one AD reference and I’m sure a few folks who were unaware of the creative force behind the mediocre Will Arnett comedy and they therefore decided to give Wilde a choice because of its AD connections. But again, the reporters were asking the questions. Which leaves…

3.) Fans: I don’t want to get into a debate about taste cultures and who is the right kind of media consumer and who isn’t, but let me put it this away: Today’s internet fan sucks. We’re just terrible people. All we do is complain for more, more, more and then when we get it, we complain loudly. Thanks to the internet, we all feel more empowered than we actually are so we assume that if there’s enough of us crying about wanting a 24 movie, then god dammit it should happen. After all, WE WANT IT. Because we cry for more, the media like to report on any and all updates as if they’re major events. The coverage of Twilight and now The Hunger Games by the likes of EW and MTV come immediately to mind here. By my calculations, there are 902 lead stars in the first Games film.

Our voracious appetites are out of control. Putting aside the obvious things like illegal downloading, internet fans are consumers of any and all story content and information. It starts with spoilers and on-set photos when a production is still up and running and then it morphs into cries for pick-up by another network or a feature film once the production ceases to exist. We are never, ever satisfied with conclusions, network-mandated or not. We want all the answers to Lost‘s mysteries, we want Hills movies and we want to know the “origins” behind the Doc and Marty relationship from Back to the Future. No stone can be left alone, no question unanswered, no story ever over. So of course there’s a Buffy comic book or the probability of a Pushing Daisies story in the same format or countless origin stories at the local theater. We did this to ourselves and there’s probably no going back.

I eagerly await news of the Fringe and Community movies.

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