Every TV season sees a few recurring fads. Despite the goal of new and fresh ideas, Hollywood’s incestuous nature guarantees that similarly styled shows will pop up throughout the networks and cable empires. And of course, there’s the multitude of spinoffs that certainly colour the television spectrum.
This year is the killing season – a dark and disturbing trend of death on television. Of course, we expect some bloodshed on Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead and any episode of Grey’s Anatomy. But not so many main characters.
This past fall, Detective Carter was unexpectedly gunned down on Person of Interest. Viewers are still coming to grips with the recent loss of The Good Wife’s Will, Scandal’s favourite husband, and How I Met Your Mother’s ... er ... Mother. Meanwhile, NBC’s Revolution has murdered numerous key characters in its short history. Last week, Chicago Fire’s Firehouse 51 experienced a firefighter’s suicide. Zoe Barnes’ sudden demise was a game-changer on House of Cards. And how does Homeland continue without Brody?
And though it’s not television, even Archie Comics are killing off Archie himself. Is nothing sacred?
True, producers often have good reason to take that final step. In the case of The Good Wife, Josh Charles wanted to leave the character. For others, it allows them to develop characters and the storyline.But what’s it doing to the viewer’s character? For years, experts have been debating our desensitization to violence as it becomes more commonplace on television. However, the violence was usually either on “the bad guy” or just faceless, nameless people in the crowd.
What about death itself? Are we in danger of becoming more desensitized by the preponderance of sudden death – especially the death of those with whom we have a connection, imaginary or otherwise?
Producers certainly hope not. Death seems to be one of the few shockers they’ve still got in their arsenal to boost ratings. And it works. TGW’s ratings have shot up in the weeks since Will’s demise.
And if the finale of HIMYM was anything to go by, we’re still feeling death quite intimately. Heartbroken fans demanded a new ending, preferably with Ted and Tracy growing old together. And they’ll get it on DVD – guaranteeing huge sales of the final season.
But even if producers aren’t doing it solely for the monetary gain, killing for further character development seems to be almost as twisted. Yes, loss changes us. Then again, so does life.
Killing a character in order to develop new storylines is like pulling the wings off a fly just to watch it try to move around afterward. We may learn but the more it happens, the more it hardens us. Isn’t life already taken for granted enough without television constantly experimenting with the emotional fallout from death?
Fortunately, I’m not the only one finding it getting pretty dark out there. NBC has just introduced a new Comedy Playground campaign to develop undiscovered comedy talent. And we could certainly use more laughter in life.