Monday, March 28, 2016

Temporality and New Media Changing the Television Game

When preparing for my final this semester, a big thought that came to mind was how exactly shows were using time. The shows that I’ve chosen so far are all on the CW and include Flash, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Now if you can’t guess, it is a focus on the superhero genre and how time seems to be a great way for these shows to fix plot holes and further narrative, along with dealing with trauma that other characters may face as well. With this in mind though, other shows must be looked at as an example for how time is used.

I first looked at Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow, a chapter written by Jason Buel that discussed the narrative points surrounding South Park and how they deal with time. One of the first things I found myself doing is comparing the time in which my shows are shot and filmed in contrast to what he had to say about his show. One of the more interesting things that I found is that South Park is finished the day that it’s suppose to air. This is important because it allows for the crew to be able to change the show at the last minute to fit into culturally relevant situations. With all of mine, none of that happens. I didn’t necessarily look up when they film, but I do follow most of the actors on the show on twitter. The one thing I find at the beginning of the season is that they begin shooting months before the show starts to air. What’s interesting though is with each show, they only shoot so many episodes and then take a break. As the show begins to air they begin to shoot more. It is in this manner that I believe that these shows may be taking a play from South Park’s book.

I believe a big difference that is happening between the two shows and the time it takes them to have a finished project isn’t so much about current events. With South Park, the need to be relevant puts them on a last minute schedule. With CW’s lineup however, there shows don’t play into our modern culture. They all exist within the DC universe, which allows them to stick to ideas and plays from the comics. Instead, I believe the filming and releasing of so many episodes is so that the writers have a chance to address fan issues. One of the common things I have found in the start of my research is that fans love to pick apart the series for flaws, especially temporal ones. There was a couple times within the Flash and Arrow, where their timelines were supposed to match up and run together perfectly. However, there are critics and fans alike that have picked apart where these shows don’t run together perfectly. The solution, which occurred several episodes later was simple. The writers had The Flash run back in time to change a single event. By doing so, he also alters the entire timeline of the universe. I believe that the writers are intentionally putting a delay on fully using their script and having it filmed until they know there is no way to poke holes into the plot.

In this same regard, it seems as though the internet is changing the way things are being done with television shows. In Lucy Bennet’s article “Lost in Time” she discusses how the narrative of Lost is one big time labyrinth, one that is made for fans to interact with and act even as detectives to solve the shows mysteries. This interactive experience has led to many writers of television shows to focus on how they write and create their shows. Again, the same can be found in the shows I’m studying. With Lost, there was a forum created and even a wiki for fans to interact with to watch the show. As far as I know, there is no element of interaction made for the CW’s lineup, but much can be found on blogging sites and even Facebook. The writers of the show Supernatural have a tumblr. They follow what their fans say and write and even take into account some of the fan fiction they create. One of the big things that fans have done is turned two of the main characters, Castiel and Dean, into a love item. Since the birth of what fans call “Destiel” the writers have poked fun at this “love affair” of the two. They’ve had meta episodes where the two characters seem as though they could be falling for each other, only for everything to become a farce at the end of the episode. The internet has begun to change how shows are watched and created.

With both the article on South Park and Lost, it felt as though the writers were targeting the fact that these showrunners want to be able to engage their audience. With social media now being the biggest way to do so, they have no problems reaching them. Many of the actors even do social media chats and live tweeting during the episodes to interact with fans. One actor, Stephen Amell of Arrow, has even gone so far as to give hints to what people can expect on the show. He plays with the idea of a cliffhanger, which was again brought up in both articles, to enhance the viewing for the reader during his facebook video sessions.


  1. The production schedule for any kind of television show or movie is quite interesting. I have taken part in the process of creating films before and will say that shooting, at least the actor's position in the process, is a relatively quick one. Factors like location, props, and really, every organizational aspect of producing film, is the hardest part. The actual shooting doesn't take long to do once everything is in order. A lot of time is spent in the editing phase of production. That's where the hours can really start to drag. Still, the turnover rate for episodes these days seems to be pretty quick.

    I've been interested in how time plays out in comics too. I'm interested to see what you bring to your paper. Comic books or rather the Universe in which the events take place in comic books seems to be re-written pretty frequently. Your point about superheroes using their powers to re-write parts of the show that don't make logical sense was observant. If I ever become a writer, I'll make sure I include a character who can move through time to fix my mistakes!

  2. Ty, I like that you point out the CW shows Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow as using their simultaneous storylines to adjust the plots in one anothers' show (either through fixing plot points or extending them). Not coincidentally is the fact that this is often attributable to comic books (colloquially known as "retcon," or retroactive continuity) in which oftentimes certain events are chalked up to "alternate universes," "time travel," "illusions," or something else that otherwise "fixes" the event from ever having happened (or at least having drastic consequences). For example, in the Marvel universe, Wolverine alone has died at least 10 different times (ironically as the most 'unkillable' mutant in the Marvel universe). Other shows have used plot points between one another that either ends story arcs between crossovers or reopens them in some way (for example, Buffy and Angel did this numerous times, and the character Spike is the primary example between the two series).

    Other series, as you mention, keep connections in some way with their fandom like Lost. Supernatural is a primary example of a series that dedicates itself to its fandom and fan service, oftentimes using the concept of retcon and the theme of the show to routinely "cheat" their way around plot holes and character deaths. For example, the main characters Sam and Dean have died somewhere around 15 times through Season 9 (over 100 if you count a particular episode in Season 3), but they always are resurrected by some sort of entity or deed, such as selling one's soul to demons or being raised up by angels (such as [SPOILER ALERT] Dean in S4E1 "Lazarus Rising"). Sure they are the main characters after all, but after awhile it is noticeable fan service when certain, beloved characters are brought back time and again instead of being left to die (to either end a story/character arc or create new ones). Sometimes, it's just better to let a likable character die/leave. I'm looking at you, George R. R. Martin.