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True or False: All great shows take risks

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True or False: All great shows take risks

Old 09-23-03, 12:19 AM
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True or False: All great shows take risks

I was watching Threat Matrix last night and at the end of the episode, the good guys manage to stop whatever it was the bad guy was trying to do. And I gotta say, it was damn boring to watching because you basically knew just how it was going to end up. Everything led upto the point where they found the guy and cornered him. I mean they found all the info on him with just a few clicks on the keyboard and recognized him straight away. And overall it was a very predictable and boring episode; and I probably won't watch it again unless something truly dramatic and memorable happens that will make me change my mind about it.

I wonder why are so few shows so reluctant to take risks in their plotlines? An example is MI-5, where the agents do NOT always get their man; sometimes the terrorists do win and end up taking out a high-level government minister. That was an exciting show and it stuck in my mind how different this show was from the others. But Threat Matrix did nothing of the sort; it just kept moving right along from one point to the next, never engaging but just 'telling'. The only show that even comes close to taking the kind of risks that MI-5 takes is 24 (though I would have liked to see the terrorists succeed and actually bomb the city; that would have been much more dramatic than just finding it and detonating in the middle of the desert). Are the producers just unwilling to take risks like that for reason of offending someone, or is it that they are just afraid the people won't like it (clearly not true after looking at 24's ratings), or is it something else?
Old 09-23-03, 08:14 AM
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there are lots of examples where shows took risks and it turned out good:

The Shiled - the pilot - probably the best in recent years
Futurama - Jurassic Bark (although others might not think so)
24 -
the nuke going off. although they took the safe way off with him not killing the guys son

i'm sure there are lots of examples of where they took risks and it didn't work. It probably depends on how well its executed.
Old 09-23-03, 08:28 AM
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I'm surprised the initial post didn't mention "The Shield." Great show, and one that takes a lot of risks.
Old 09-23-03, 09:10 AM
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I don't think he mentioned "The Shield" because it is generally considered a great show, thus proving his point (I think).

Think of all the great shows. Are they formulaic, or do they take "risks" such as unhappy endings, main characters dying, controversial topics, etc. I'd say that most, if not all, of my favorite shows DO.

I think of shows like "The Prisoner", "Star Trek", "All In The Family", "Twin Peaks", "Family Guy", all of my favorite Britcoms such as "Bottom", "The Young Ones", "The Office", "Phoenix Nights", "Monty Python", and many others, and they typically fall outside the "mainstream" sensibility.

Then again, I think "Leave It To Beaver" is a truly great show, but the most controversial thing to ever happen on that show is when Beaver didn't do his chores. So certainly there are some "great" shows which don't take risks, per se.
Old 09-23-03, 09:36 AM
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Re: True or False: All great shows take risks

Quoth huzefa <HR SIZE=1>The only show that even comes close to taking the kind of risks that MI-5 takes is 24<HR SIZE=1>

That's hardly true.

In answer to the question, I'd say False. IMO, great shows are driven by many things with the top of the list probably being realistic characters. What some call "risks" I consider "realism." Life doesn't always work out, people sometimes let us down, people grow into and fall from greatness all the time. Shows that portray that in a realistic way are the ones I find to be of great significance. It's a shame that that's considered "risky" by the suits, but it really shouldn't be.

On the flip side, one the reasons I'm always ragging on 24 is that it simply takes risks just to do it. With no realistic character motivation, they'll just twist the plot for the sake of "shocking" the audience. If it doens't make sense why that situation would happen or why a character would suddenly do something only to serve the plot, then it holds no value for me. On top of that, it becomes insanely predictable and just as boring as the opposite.

As Numanoid points out, there are great shows that don't have to do anything shocking or wild. They just need to portray our humanity in a way with which we can identify. Leave it to Beaver does this, and so do many other series that I wouldn't consider risk-takers.

To me, it's all about characterization. If the characters are interesting, and you stay true to them regardless of the situation, the show can be great, whether that situation is simple family life or a fight for the fate of the Universe. Very often that takes the form of the risks you're talking about, but it doesn't have to.

Old 09-23-03, 01:52 PM
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I think another thing that keeps shows from "taking risks" is that if you make a major change to a character's life or the show's "world," then that change probably has to become a part of the show.

It's easier for writers (and some viewers) if you can start with a fresh slate with your nice characters at the beginning of each episode.

I think that makes for boring television, but some people don't want to have to watch every single episode.

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