BRETT DALTON, CLARK GREGG

Whenever I pick up a new book, I try to approach it with a sense of patience.

I follow the age-old rule and refrain from judging it by its cover, and even refrain from judging it by its first chapter. Books are a different animal than film of course, requiring a longer commitment, and rewarding the audience with more nuance and texture. Since it takes longer to tip its hand, I like to give any book I pick up 30% of its page count before deciding whether I want to bail out. By then, you see, I’ve given it half a chance to play past any first-act-jitters, allowed myself to get into the proper head-space, and given the story an opportunity to show its hand.

…it’s like TV in that way.

With the new TV season beginning, I have seen a lot of declarations about how certain shows are abjectly terrible, tone-deaf, should be cancelled, or never should have been greenlit in the first place. Often after one episode…or less. I’ve never understood this.

In the current landscape of television, a lot of shows are cancelled inside of six episodes (sometimes faster). The stakes seem to be sky-high and the trigger-fingers have never itched more. Thus, it would seem as though many network executives think like many of those who scream on social media about how “This show is the worst!” or “That show sucks!”. The funny thing for me as a viewer, is how that has left me skittish to get into a new show. The last thing I want to do is get into something new only to have the rug pulled out from under me after six weeks.

I treat it like ‘Nam; I don’t even want to learn a recruit’s name until they’ve been in The Shit for six months.

But back to the itchy trigger fingers…

Why is it that viewers want every last show to arrive as a fully-formed specimen? We become spoiled by shows like “True Detective” or “Game of Thrones” and expect absolutely every show to step out on to the street guns-a-blazing. We forget, that a lot of our favorite shows have actually been an evolution…artistic endeavours that have found their footing over the course of weeks, evenĀ years. Don’t believe me? Dig up the first episode of The Sopranos, or Sex in The City. Even Breaking Bad isn’t exactly itself in the pilot.

We forget sometimes that pilots are usually designed to appeal to three key groups; network executives, advertisers, and test audiences. Quick show of hands: Who trusts any of these groups as tastemakers? Who even trusts two-out-of-three?

Where would we be if these shows hadn’t been allowed to go through their growing pains? To figure out what their principles did well, and what their scripts needed to work on? Once in a while, a show hits the ground running…but more often than not, it’s through the course of their first season – sometimes their first two – that they get a firm hand on their own identity. Where would LOST have been, if their showrunners didn’t convince ABC to allow them to work with an end-date in mind?

Time and patience, it’s the key to a lot of great television. Not all of it, but a lot of it. Time and patience aren’t virtues that most viewers are equipped with though.

So where does that get us? Perhaps zeroing in on shows that deliver blockbuster pilots…like Glee, or Heroes, or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

So maybe we should read a few more pages before we put these books down. Considering how differently shows play week-to-week against binge-watching on demand, maybe the time has come to stay the execution. Maybe say “not yet” and let it work out its bugs before giving it another chance later in its inaugural season…or even its second.

Perhaps the time has come for a bit more patience.