I love intellectually and emotionally challenging entertainment. I love fiction that makes me question my beliefs, my assumptions, and my own awareness. I love fiction that pulls me out of the known and asserts the possibility of the unknown.
I recently watched the series finale of Touch. The first season was an incredibly challenging story of a father’s efforts to parent his very special son in a world that didn’t understand him. While the circumstances were markedly different, I identified with the emotional tenor of the piece. The first season revolves around the father’s discovery of his son’s special connection with the world, with which the son could predict numbers that would lead the father to important discoveries in order to help others become attuned to the universe. While I didn’t identify with that, I did enjoy the mystical qualities of the story and the emphasis on connection.
Then, the second season devolved into something more familiar (from television) where there was a lot less mysticism and a lot more good guys vs. bad guys intrigue. I’m not sure, but I suspect this was a market-driven decision. Kiefer Sutherland plays the father in Touch. He also played the infamously heroic Jack Bauer in 24.
Personally, I didn’t start watching 24 until after the second season of Touch started. But, it didn’t take me long to notice how strangely similar Martin Baum had become to Jack Bauer. Now, in 24 Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Jack Bauer, is an anti-terrorist government agent who is known for doing whatever it takes to get the job done at great personal cost. His actions and motivations make sense. In Touch, Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Martin Baum, is a former journalist turned full-time dad on the run. It’s perfectly understandable that Martin Baum would do anything and everything he can to keep his son safe and help his son fulfill his role in the universe. It’s not nearly so understandable that he would be able to do so.
So, when Touch became more driven by greed and danger, i.e. more like 24, I can’t help but think it was a market-driven decision. After all, 24 was a popular television show that lasted for eight seasons. Fox is still trying to revive and capitalize on it. Touch was less successful from a market standpoint. So, after a great, intellectually-challenging first season and a sell-out of a second season, Fox canceled Touch and is now trying to revive 24.
There’s a simple explanation. Television shows thrive on two things:
- Gaining the viewing support of the masses.
- Gaining the advertising support of businesses.
I act somewhat outside this paradigm, because technological advancements allow me to watch “television” on my own time on my computer—and I haven’t watched an actual television show as it was aired in over a year, maybe two or three years.
Fringe and Touch are two examples of show I find motivating. They are intellectually and emotionally challenging. But they’re not popular. They don’t fit with the current television paradigm. Instead, shows like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol thrive. And don’t even get me started on the smuttier reality television shows.
The point? Books are better!
Those of us who enjoy fiction outside the mainstream can write and read the kind of stories we find compelling without having to worry much about the masses. Thanks to small publishers and self-publishing, we can cultivate a small but enthralled audience that demands our work without having to worry about the networks dumping us in favor of something that stands a better chance at mass appeal.
So, here’s to hoping that the story started in Touch can be revived…as a series of great books written for a smaller audience! After all, anything is possible.