Where is this all leading to?

At the end of today’s discussion, I wonder what the future holds for television. How much interactivness will become too much between viewers and a series? Gossip Girl allows viewers to receive identical texts that the characters received that help connect storylines. A few years ago One Tree Hill had viewers vote on whether or not one of the main characters cheated on his wife. What is this all leading up to? A world in which the viewer will become the author and Hollywood writers simply start the story by providing characters and some character background? What do you think?

4 responses to “Where is this all leading to?

  1. In your anecdote about One Tree Hill, do you mean to say that viewers were asked to predict the outcome of an unresolved mystery (had the writers drenched the principal character’s fidelity in ambiguity thus far?) or that they were entitled to determine whether or not the character would cheat on his wife? If the latter (which is the sense that I get), that raises the television/viewer interaction to a whole new level. Personally, I don’t find viewer authorship palatable. I don’t object to viewer involvement insomuch as series’ creative teams respond to societal trends and take into consideration fluctuations in Nielsen ratings. However, the Average Joe isn’t equipped to satisfyingly shape the course of a narrative. (Otherwise, what would be the point of TV writers and teleplays?) And some sort of democratic system, like One Tree Hill’s use of polls, seems to sacrifice craftsmanship for the sake of popular appeal. (I can’t help but suspect that One Tree Hill had fallen into a ratings slump before the vote was proposed.) It seems to cheapen the art of sculpting innovative, astute TV. (Of course, I doubt that these qualifiers ever have been applied to One Tree Hill.) Rather than leaving series’ directions up to viewers’ whims, I prefer to intuit that TV writers work out the details of plotlines in a neat–and clever, though not gimmicky–fashion. I find it troubling to consider the potential overshadowing of–or even disappearance of–the auteur.

  2. I agree with the commenter, if a show I was really into asked me and all the viewers for what the outcome of a plotline should be, I would be pretty upset and likely stop watching. Surely, this cannot be the future of television, but I guess, especially, with reality television show, most viewers want to be more involved in Lauren Conrad’s life, and stations like MTV will try and do whatever they can to get an edge. I don’t see a network television show taking that type of risk and having viewers question their authenticity.

  3. You bring up a very interesting question about the future of television, and television writing, especially with the example of One Tree Hill. However, I tend to agree with the two other people who have commented. That idea, of having the viewers decide, though successful in shows such as American Idol, does not work as well with a scripted show. As both commenters have already said, it is the job of the writer to tell their story, not to simply tell a story that “the people” have already determined. I also would like to point out that, though it indicates that some television producers may continue this trend, the fact that it has been a few years and still no one was replicated this idea, may illustrate that producers have decided it was not a successful idea.

  4. I agree with the two commenters but i do do advocate viewer participation within the authorial process. Shows do benefit from audience participation, opening space for altering the shows trajectory or re developing the narrative. Just because audience participation is elicited, does not mean that those who have legal authorial and proprietorial rights to the show will include audience suggestions.