First of all, a little back story . . .
I don’t really watch television anymore. I’ve missed out on so many great shows over the years, that I’m catching up, series by series, and watching at my own pace.
Translation? I just started Season 3 of 24.
If you’re a 24 fan (and I have to admit, I’m semi-obsessed, having changed my ringtone to the CTU ringtone, and I’ve be known to greet callers with, “This is Bauer”), then you know that each episode ends on a super-duper sometimes melodramatic cliffhanger.
The goal of the cliffhangers are twofold:
- Get you to tune in next week (or in my case, just play the next episode on my Netflix/Wii Play Instantly).
- Get you to talk about it “at the water cooler” the next morning.
Great television “serials” can do just that.
So why can’t we do serials in the theater?
I’ve seen several mini-attempts over the years, mostly Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway. There have been a few different live soap operas, and there’s even a live Sex-and-the-City-ish serial sitcom running right now that’s been getting a bit of buzz, called Naked In A Fishbowl.
The reasons why the serial has never stuck are pretty obvious:
- It’s hard enough getting people off their couches and in an uncomfortable theater seat once a month, never mind every week.
- Our tickets are much more expensive than Free TV or even Netflix/Will Play Instantly, so serial theatergoing would become an expensive habit.
- Rehearsal costs of a new show every week would eat away at any potential profit in a theater with a fixed number of seats.
- If an audience member misses one episode, you are never getting them back.
All of these reasons, and a zillion more, are why they don’t work in the theater (Even the ladies in Fishbowl are taping each episode, so they’ve obviously got their sights set on another medium).
Then again, I would’ve bet that a 12-hour staged adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novel wouldn’t work either, and somehow Demons sold out all of their performances.
There’s an audience for everything, but whether it is sustainable is another story.
And we’ve yet to see that story succeed in the theater.
And yes, that’s a challenge.