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Yes, I Watch Happy Town and Persons Unknown

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I do these things to myself, I understand that.  I started watching Happy Town, got a full three episodes into it before the first episode actually was on air, and liked it.  I liked it despite being quite convinced that the average member of the audience wouldn't feel the same way.  The show aired a couple of episodes and then disappeared.  It has come back to air its final few episodes and I continue to watch it despite the fact that there is simply no way that they'll end the series in a satisfying fashion.  I want them to, I'd like them to, but they won't.  It's not their fault, the show simply isn't geared that way.

Okay, I thought to myself, that's just fine, Happy Town won't end happily for the audience, but there is other stuff out there that I can watch – I can feed my addiction to dark, serialized mysteries in another way.  Seriously, it's no problem, I thought, after all, NBC is about to start up Persons Unknown

No, I'm not actually that dumb.  Well, I am, but not quite in the way I presented.

Heading into Persons Unknown I had no illusions that it would somehow be successful. Yes, technically speaking, any show – even ones we don't expect to – can capture an audience, but Persons Unknown still seemed like a long shot.  I could make some sort of easy joke here about NBC not being able to successfully launch even the best of shows these past few seasons, but I won't do that – Persons Unknown by its very nature is a quirky, little mystery series and certainly not the kind of thing that will appeal to everyone.  The promos, I think wisely, did their best to highlight the odd nature of the show which features a group of people who have been abducted, knocked unconscious, and wake up to find themselves in an virtually empty hotel in a virtually empty town with no way out (and who are being watched on camera almost all the time).  If you don't have a show that is going to attract a huge swath of the audience, make sure you get the folks who will want to see that kind of show, and I think that's what the promos tried to hit.

Even with appropriate promos, the numbers for the series aren't particularly good.  But, there I am, tuning in on a weekly basis anyway.  I know the numbers aren't going to get better (again, yes, technically they could, all of America could sit down on Monday night to watch television, find Persons Unknown and be completely enthralled), but I'm going to continue to tune in.  Why?  Because just like with Happy Town, I'm completely intrigued.  I want to know what's going to happen.  I want to know why these people have been put into this freaky empty town, what the night manager of the hotel is doing, and why the people running the Chinese restaurant are running the Chinese restaurant.

I think I may actually have some hope in getting answers there (except with the restaurant).  The show has been billed as a "miniseries event," which seems to indicate that the producers have a full story arc laid out for the course of the "event," a story arc that includes something of a conclusion.  We'll see, they could always go the cliffhanger route, and I certainly wouldn't be surprised by that, but I'm hoping that it'll be a sort of Lost-esque cliffhanger, the kind that changes the question entirely and which I can convince myself I'm no longer interested in.  My biggest fear is that they'll decide to give up on the series before they've aired all the episodes.

Please don’t do that, NBC, please.  I know that if you do you'll probably throw them up on Hulu or NBC.com, but I don't know that I'll ever make the time to watch them that way, I want them on my TV.

Maybe I just need to keep hunting for that dark and creepy but not scary (I don't like scary) serialized show that will stay on for years on end without ever losing track of the main thread or putting on bad episodes or having actors decide they want to leave or not being continuously and relentlessly riveting.  That's not asking too much is it?

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.