February 8, 2006

New uses for old products

The Gilmore Girls have become our family treat. We watch one a night, two on Fridays, from the boxed set. It is the 50s family all over again, with popcorn, wine and tv dinners. But I don't think we could do this with current shows anywhere but on public television. The commercial interruptions are too jarring, too loud and unpleasnt, too much a reminder of everything we hate about the common culture and about the fundamental, underlying predatory motive in media.

There's a trend here worth watching. If other people are like us, then lots of folks are getting drama in 45-120 hour chunks -- perhaps the longest works of drama ever assembled. They make Wagner operas seem short. It may be very important for aesthetics to note that, in the 21st century, the age of the sound bite, drama in excess of 100 hours became well established as a cultural institution. There are all sorts of fine questions to ask: what new standards come into play, with drama of this length? How do the old rules apply to the new medium? Is it still reasonable to expect that 100 hour dramas have beginnings, middles, and ends?

I suppose that this development has already been prefigured, in soap operas. Perhaps that is right. I suspect though that soap operas aren't unities in quite the way some of these pieces are unities. The West Wing follows the Bartlett presidency through eight years. The Gilmore Girls track's Rory Gilmore's high school and college. These shows have at least a chance of coherence.

Perhaps it is not ultimately possible to make a 100 hour drama. But that's worth talking about.

Posted by shea0017 at February 8, 2006 9:49 AM