8.01.2014

Television: Extant v Orphan Black

I've officially given up on Extant. It started out pretty interesting, but by last week seemed to be flagging. And this week I turned it off halfway through. It was simply one too many clich├ęs for me: the alcoholic dad/grandpa using the grandson for a con. And what was with pulling out a random brother backstory for Camryn Manheim's character? I was done.

Under other circumstances, with so little to pick from over the summer television season, I might have felt differently and stuck Extant out. But unfortunately for that show, I'd recently decided to try Orphan Black. And Orphan Black is just so much better paced, and so much more interesting, that Extant never stood a chance. (I'm only about five episodes into OB, so no spoilers, please.)

It's an interesting quandary for television makers. Not only are they competing with things people have previously recorded on their DVRs, they must also contend against whatever is available streaming and On Demand. Shows from years ago are rivals for today's more recent offerings. Someone like me, unimpressed with whatever is currently on, can easily go get hooked on something "new" that's really just old but that I'd overlooked.

On the flip side, if I ever do feel like wandering back to Extant, I'm sure it will be equally available to me without my having to watch it right now.

I've said it before, but it's the lack of urgency that is strangling most television shows. If the program can't make us feel we must see it right when it airs—if it is not the stuff of office chatter and online insanity—it has failed to clear a major hurdle. Of course, many shows are glad to have viewers at all, even if they defer their viewing a day or two (or seven). This speaks to the fragmentation that has occurred: Live + Same Day, +3, +7 . . . Ever stretching those ratings numbers . . . But at what point does it become useless to the advertisers? A movie opening on Friday airing a promo that might not be seen for another week (assuming it's not just fast forwarded through anyway) . . . And yet, if the movie stays in the cinema at least a week, maybe it's not a complete loss?

It's complicated, and the more ways (and times) of viewing, the more complicated it will become.

But that's for the television people to figure out. For me, it's this simple: There's nothing on current TV that I'm much interested in, so I've gone looking for something else and found Orphan Black. Current TV's job? To stop me from looking for anything else.