Why Even The Best TV Storytellers Need To Know When To Call It Quits

Yeah, yeah, we know. There you are, barely having gotten started on your TV writing career, and what are we doing over here? Yep, we’re bringing you info on knowing when it’s time to cash out. But if you think about it a minute, what we’re doing makes sense. Cuz if we can persuade just one of you to leave your staff gig, that’s one more slot that’s open to…yeah, hehe…us.

Evil, thy true name is desperation!

pic found at pickthebrain.com

by Andy Crump

Knowing when a story no longer needs to be told matters as much as knowing whether it’s a good story in the first place.

Take “Transparent,” Amazon Studio’s first major original programming success, which is in its fourth season with a fifth waiting in the wings. Jill Soloway’s evolving narrative, encompassing a family’s mundane travails against the backdrop of its patriarch’s transition from male to female, has no visible ceiling, but begs for a conclusion. “Transparent” is, according to Soloway, a series about the quest to find selfhood through God and spirituality. That’s a search that, at least in theory, never ends.

But that doesn’t mean the show shouldn’t end. (Though if it does go on, it will be without Jeffrey Tambor, who announced he may leave the show amidst sexual harassment allegations against him.)

In our golden age of prestige television, the line between sticking around for just the right number of seasons and drastically overstaying one’s welcome is as thin as our patience for tips about our favorite show’s premiere date. For every “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad,” there’s a “Grey’s Anatomy” that threatens to go on forever.

In a roundabout way, those mainstays let us appreciate the creative labor that goes into higher quality content like “Transparent.” Banging out episodes of “Law & Order” and adjacent spinoffs doesn’t take much beyond daily perusal of newspaper headlines and negotiation of guest star cameos. Crafting a chapter in “Transparent,” on the other hand, demands its authors commit to personal soul-searching while also striving to understand trans American experiences enough to qualify for authenticity.

The same can be said of shows in the key of “Mad Men” or “The Leftovers,” and perhaps most of all “Game of Thrones,” which has outpaced George R.R. Martin’s source material and continues to outmatch direct competitors in scope and scale.

But maybe these are unfair comparisons; easily digested network fare doesn’t care about competing with television in the likes of Amazon, HBO, AMC or Netflix. Besides, to say that self-recycling network shows are lesser than their premium channel rivals isn’t to say they’re not worth watching. …

Read it all at Wbur.Org