Sunday , May 19 2024
How the "previously on" snippet destroys television creativity.

How To Destroy A Good Television Reveal

Here’s the deal this morning, folks: I am not going to come out the box swinging (at least not at what you think). Sure, I’m upset that Veronica Mars is no more (but seriously, Kristen, if you need consoling, tell me, I’m here), but sadly it is old news. The numbers were not there for a fourth season and as much as I like good TV, I can absolutely accept a network canceling a show that isn’t financially viable.

What really, really bothers me are the “previously on” snippets that shows air (I know, EW did a back page thing on it a couple of weeks ago, and this was neither inspired by that nor really connected). For some silly reason, for the first time in a long-time I watched a “previously on” last night (just so happened that it was for our Veronica Mars).

In this “previously on,” there was a clip from far earlier in the season in which Weevil says that it’s hard to go straight and that he has considered going back to his illegal ways. Not five minutes into the actual episode, we are treated to students looking at a police lineup in which we’re not shown who exactly is lining up. Both students, separately, state that number 4 is the guy. Because I’d watched the “previously on” there was neither awe, nor shock, nor surprise when the camera finally revealed, at the end of the scene, that Weevil was number 4. But, it was filmed so as to be a surprise, so clearly someone thought it should be a surprise.

You creative-types and network-folks, do you understand the problem here? The scene is filmed so as to try and make it a surprise, or shock, that Weevil is the guy people are fingering. The audience knows that Veronica will get him off, that he didn’t do it, but we’re still so supposed to be surprised by this “reveal.” The problem is that because someone thought that the audience was stupid and would need to be reminded that Weevil has been tempted to going back into the life, the reveal is foolish. We all know that Weevil’s the guy already, making not showing him immediately in the lineup just plain annoying. Why are you trying to surprise us with something you told us five minutes ago?

Let’s look at it another way: TV and Film Guy is going to have some delicious barbecue for lunch, only TV and Film Guy doesn’t know that he is going to have delicious barbecue for lunch. TV and Film Guy only knows that lunch will be good today and that its exact makeup is a surprise. Then, the individual who ordered the lunch for TV and Film Guy and the whole staff looks at TV and Film Guy and says “man we haven’t had some delicious barbecue in a while, have we? Isn’t barbecue delicious? Wow, some delicious barbecue would really hit the spot today, wouldn’t it?” TV and Film Guy will now not be surprised when lunch is in fact delicious barbecue. Five minutes later however, the food ordering individual keeps talking about the “surprise lunch” and trying to convince TV and Film Guy that the lunch is in fact a surprise. Sure, TV and Film Guy won’t be disappointed with delicious barbecue, but it’s no longer a surprise.

The story is no less interesting for it not being a surprise that Weevil is the guy in the lineup, just as the delicious barbecue is no less delicious. However, it’s not a surprise and consequently shouldn’t be shown as such.

Astute folks out there will realize that the show was shot first and the “previously on” edited later, so I shouldn’t rail against the show, but more the “previously on” people. I disagree, I blame everyone involved, mostly my TiVo for being foolish enough to record the “previously on” to begin with and my wife for serving me a dinner that required me to eat with my hands, not a fork, thereby forcing my remote control hand to be otherwise occupied (and quite dirty) during the crucial moments (one doesn’t touch the remote with sticky fingers).

Seriously though, it is both the “previously on” creator and the episode writers’ fault. There ought to be an open line of communication between these groups of people. A nice simple “hey, Weevil being in the lineup is a surprise, so don’t give it away in your ‘previously on’ please,” would be enough on the writers part. And, as for the “previously on” people, they must’ve seen the episode or read a script to know that the Weevil thing was going to come up, so why would they knowingly screw up a potential surprise? All I ask is for a little consideration for the audience — we may be smarter than you give us credit for being.

I think it goes without saying, and thus I don’t feel like I’m ruining the biggest surprise of all, I’ll be having some delicious barbecue for lunch.

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.

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