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Sizzle And Steak Follow-up

Posted by GregF , Jun 08 2010 · 1,166 views

Thought this was an interesting to my earlier blog entry regarding the inevitable revelation of plot secrets and what it does to the sense of "mystery and wonder" -- it's from a NY Times review of a new TV show:

"... “The Prisoner,” shown on CBS from 1968 to 1969, is one of the most legendary television thrillers, partly because it wrapped after one 17-episode season. Most recently “Lost” on ABC kept core fans going for an improbable six seasons, but it also shed most of its intrigue long before it ended. ...The “Twin Peaks” axiom applies here as well: a show can ride only so far by suggesting, however cleverly, that things are not as they seem. Soon the creators must start revealing what really is going on."

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In the Prisoner they never showed you any steak. Ever. And yet it's awesome. A strange exception to the rule? Once again though, if Bionicle had stayed like that, I don't think it'd have as many fans as it does. The fact that the steak never showed up was a significant part of the whole Prisoner thing.

Also, I heartily recommend the Prisoner. It's awesome, and Patrick McGoohan was a amazing.

> 55555
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I'm not sure.
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Prisoner still managed to be a 50-50 thing ... half the fans loved it because nothing was ever explained, and half hated it. So, as with any story, you still lose a big chunk of your readership.
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Vezok's Friend
Jun 08 2010 12:12 PM
Same goes for Life on Mars I guess. First Season only left me with Questions. *shrug*
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Great, Now I'm hungry AND informed!
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If by 'lost all its intrigue' they mean LOST 'was super awesome and lost fans who wanted a television show that didn't engage them intellectually' than sure.

Otherwise, it's a silly article, and I think you're making too much of this 'sizzle and steak' idea.
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QUOTE(Vezok's Friend @ Jun 8 2010, 05:12 PM)
Same goes for Life on Mars I guess. First Season only left me with Questions. *shrug*

Here in the UK we've got all the answers after 2 seasons of Life on Mars and 3 seasons the 80's set follow up Ashes to Ashes. I won't explain here, I'll spoil it.

Also, yeah you do eventually lose fans after too long without answers.
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CyclonatorZ
Jun 08 2010 06:27 PM
QUOTE(Darth Vader @ Jun 8 2010, 03:31 PM)
If by 'lost all its intrigue' they mean LOST 'was super awesome and lost fans who wanted a television show that didn't engage them intellectually' than sure.

Otherwise, it's a silly article, and I think you're making too much of this 'sizzle and steak' idea.


At least until the series finale, which upset many of the show's longtime followers by not answering barely any of their questions. Or at least, that's what I've picked up from some people's comments on other sites - it seems people either hated the finale because it didn't really wrap up all of the loose plot threads, or loved it because "the show was not really about the island anyway, it was about the characters."

I dunno, I haven't really seen the show for myself (save for part of one episode), so I can't really give an opinion on it myself. But regardless, it's obvious to me that there aren't very many shows out their like Lost. While that show was aparrently able to balance a heavy supernatural element without it taking prevalance over the characters, most shows that involve stuff like that make both of those elements equally important. Same goes for other sources of media, such as Bionicle - which from the begining focused just as much on the legends and mysteries as it did the characters.

Now, tell me - would you really want a series like Bionicle to end with nothing changing since the begining? Would it please you to have nothing beyond the character relationships explained, and for few or none of your questions about the setting and plot answered? Because if you do, then I think it's safe to say you're in the minority of fans. As humans, it's natural for us to want to know why things happen, even if it only relates to a tv series, comic book series, or whatnot. Most of us do like mystery, but we can only take so much of prolonged mystery before we demand at least a partial explanation. Sometimes, this explanation only raises more questions - but as long as the show isn't stuck in limbo and is evolving over time, we're happy.

From the begining, Bionicle was planned to be this way - a series that was based on an incredible concept, but also a concept that would only be revealed bit by bit. By the end of each year, we would think we had a grasp on what Bionicle truly was and how it's world worked - until the next year came around and blew all our previous theories out of the water. The mystery of Mata Nui's location and identity was crucual ever since 2001, and it would have been immensely disapointing if the Toa Mata never succeded in solving it. But they did - albeit, in a way that not even the story team could have predicted.

This is IMO why Bionicle has succeeded all these years, and why (even despite the great book Journey's End) 2010 felt rushed compared to previous years. Up until the last two years, Bionicle had been evolving at a rather steady pace, treating us with enough revelation each year to keep us hooked. As we went from Mata Nui to Metru Nui to Voya Nui, and so on, we felt as though we were getting closer and closer to the truth about Mata Nui. And when we did, it was one of the greatest reveals in the history of Bionicle, for we had finally found the answer. Sure, some were unhappy with the revalation that Mata Nui was actually an entire universe - but for the most part, people were satisfied that the mystery was finally solved. Mata Nui had been found - and seeing him in a starring role was really more of a bonus than anything.

Just my thoughts. smile.gif

~~END~~
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Nicely said, ~~Zarkan~~. smile.gif

Anyways, Greg, I heartily agree. A book would be nothing without a satisfying conclusion and explanation behind all the events. I love it when everything falls into place after or during the climax, and while that wasn't exactly the format BIONICLE used, it was still a great moment when Mata Nui's location was revealed. I don't know why people would complain about the story team actually explaining the world of BIONICLE - I can see why they might gripe about a few details like Makuta's true name, but not the Big Picture. So, thanks for revealing the mystery bit by bit in a really great way. smile.gif
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The thing about LOST's finale is, in addition to clearly making it about the adventure and the characterization more than the technobabble, they planted enough clues throughout the series and in the finale that if you really think about it, you can come up with at least one interpretation that makes sense of it all, without really a super-duper extraordinary amount of effort. You simply have to be a good "reader", and pay attention to the clues that the writers gave you.

So basically, LOST exemplifies the kind of story that takes the old writing rule "show, don't tell" to a huge extreme. Pretty much the only time they tell you anything is in the popups if you watch those versions of the repeats. So if you enjoy a show that engages the reader's imagination at every turn, and you get the kind of thrill out of that people like me do (biggrin.gif), you love LOST. But if you prefer a show that does delve into some technobabble to explain things, more like Star Trek, then LOST will probably annoy you. It's intentional -- it's designed for a certain kind of viewer, the kind that likes things that challenge the mind a lot, rather than spoonfeeding things to the reader.

But it also allows for enough ambiguity that you could also come up with competing explanations that may be just as valid, while also balancing all of that with a core set of revelations that are set in stone. It all depends on how closely you want to pay attention to it; you can watch it purely for the characterization and the adventure and the thrill of not knowing, or you can work a bit harder to begin to understand what they don't tell you... or you can work much harder to really unlock the deeper mysteries.

For me, it worked great, and it creates the sort of story I want to buy every episode and watch over and over, to catch all those little things I didn't notice the first time and get an even better understanding of it. smile.gif And the finale was satisfying, at least to me, because once again, it focused on what LOST has always been good at -- the characterization, psychology, emotion, and the thrill of the mystery, perhaps in the sharpest, most emotionally touching way of any episode in the whole series (with maybe a few exceptions), rather than turning it into a "so this is what explained that" moment which would have been boring.

Bionicle's finale, on the other hand, was satisfying in a different way; solving the mysteries with such huge and grandious revelations and such a terrifyingly huge-scale final battle that even knowing the "boring" facts didn't detract from it, at least in my eyes and a lot of others.

A lot of other series' story finales flop because they fail to provide such emotional "payoff" at the end. Not every show will fit the same pattern as every other; it depends on, to me, what they were good at in the first place, and whether they "jump the shark" in that regard. LOST and Bionicle really never jumped the shark, but that's hard to accomplish. And obviously, different preferences means for some people both may have. Different people don't "tune in" to the same emotions as others, per se. Or some just gave up early without really giving one or the other a chance, and missed out. tongue.gif
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Actually, I was thinking the other day that LOST's premise is a bit similar to the first few years of Bionicle: A bunch of people on a mysterious island that is not what it seems. Then there's flashbacks of how they got there etc etc (I haven't watched Lost for a few years, so I'm a bit fuzzy on details). But as these revelations happened, the number of people watching it started to drop...

But personally, I like being able to speculate for a while and then have the truth revealed. I probably wouldn't still be with Bionicle if the plot didn't progress beyond cyborg heroes fighting monsters on an island.
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Jonathan Juan
Jun 10 2010 04:08 PM
The thing is, however, is that LOST was made for adults. Many of us are nearing an adult-like age, and now it would be interesting to see if BIONICLE had continued like that. But that's now, not then. Back then, when everyone was younger and just wanted a good story, would you seriously stick with it that long if nothing was revealed and they still stayed on that island year after year? Would you still enjoy LOST if you were seven years old?

Remember, BIONICLE's target audience was younger kids who want a good story and a good ending. They followed the books, read the comics and saw the movies because they wanted the answers to the mysteries, and they would have left before long if they were no answers. Sure, some of you think that it would have been better to stay on Mata Nui now, but if it actually happened, no doubt you would be complaining now that BIONICLE was just the "same-old same-old", nothing new to keep you interested.

k.gifh.gif
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