The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Not A Second Time

‘Give it a chance, it might improve.’ That’s what people say when a new drama or comedy series kicks off with a lukewarm episode. ‘Give themtime, they’ll sort out the format, iron out the glitches.’

I disagree. Don’t give shows a second chance. If episode one is lousy – stop. Why? Because episode one should be the best one. After all, it’s the episode which got the show made in the first place – the series would have been commissioned on the strength of its script. It’s the episode where the writers had the greatest amount of time. It’s the episode where the director could have recast any regulars who weren’t gelling. It’s the episode where they’ve had time to go back and re-film any bits that didn’t work. It’s the episode which the show’s makers knew would be make-or-break, where they had to do their best possible work. And if it’s a sketch show or sitcom where the episodes could be shown in any order, why wouldn’t they open with their best one?

If they can’t get it right bearing all that in mind... chances are that whatever – or whoever - made the first episode lousy will make all the other ones lousy. I mean, of course, things can be fixed along the way, people can be replaced... but it’s never going to be as good as if the show had been fixed from the start.

Look at The West Wing, or Doctor Who, or House, or Lost, or The Office, or any successful show. They hit the ground not merely running but bounding with supreme confidence. That’s what television should do. It’s not as if, when you send a script to a commissioner, they will reserve judgement until they’ve read episode two. No. First impressions are all that count.

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