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All too often serials fall into this trap:

Monster.
Everyone acts predictably.
Monster defeated.

Directly, if an action serial; less directly but still obviously if it's (for example) a romantic comedy.  (Replace 'monster' with 'tense situation', 'fight', 'terrorist', 'tennis opponent', according to your serial's genre)

Reasons for this?


Discussion


Nothing degenerate about theft (or fight) of the week - that behaviour is emergent in any number of serial formats (books, comics, radio, TV series).  In fact, I often choose that format for RPG campaigns that I GM if the time between sessions is 7 days or greater.  The format allows a great deal of room for character development (in recurrent baddies as well as the goodies) at the expense, of course, of sophisticated plot-driven action.  What I'm saying is, if you allow yourself to feel prejudiced against fight of the week shows, you'll miss a lot of interesting character-driven stories. --Mjb67   
Strongly disagree.  If your format is MonsterOfTheWeek then you are missing out on a lot of potential character driven stuff.  If a show is character driven, then the monsterness should be wholly secondary.  I would agree that this behaviour is emergent in most serials - but suggest that this is a bad thing and to be fought against.  --Vitenka

AlexChurchill: There are a number of shows which start out MonsterOfTheWeek, for some length of time while background is being established, and then change to a more ongoing plot later on.  Examples which spring to mind are JubeiChan, WitchHunterRobin, and KiddyGrade.  (RanmaHalf tends to take two or three episodes to deal with each opponent before then moving on almost as if nothing had ever happened... MonsterOfTheFewWeeks?, perhaps?)  Outside of anime, BabylonFive's seasons followed this pattern - season 1 and (mostly) 2 were MonsterOfTheWeek, 3 and 4 were continuing plot split into 50-minute chunks.
Now I definitely find such shows much more interesting when they reach the ongoing continuing-plot section.  It's arguable that the characters and situations had to be introduced in a more "normal" setting before the underlying plot could have propoer impact, but I'm not sure.  I certainly wished WitchHunterRobin would have had about 4 less MonsterOfTheWeek episodes before it got to its normal stuff.  KiddyGrade likewise - sure, they were setting background and in some cases introducing characters to be brought back later, but it was still a lot less interesting than when it hits "serious" plot.
Comments?

The only ones of those Vitenka has seen are BabylonFive and the first few episodes of JubeiChan.  There is nothing to stop you from intorducing and firming character while other things are going on.  The plot and then subplot structure of BabylonFive is much more effective than MonsterOfTheWeek for me - usually either the plot or the subplot is one shot monsterism, but the other one continues across episodes.  If you weave a differing number of such threads each episode, then you can get really great effects.
I'd also have to admit that if you are going to consider both MonsterOfTheFewWeeks? and 'any dramatic situation' as a monster, then you pretty much HAVE to have this structure.  After all, you have got 'something happens - sometimes' and you'd be pretty hard pressed to have any story (even the CloneD546 stories) without that structure.  Having said that - just varying how long each monster takes (fractional episode to multiple episodes) will give you SOME benefit, even for the very worst (DragonBall?) examples. --Vitenka
I'm not sure Babylon 5 seasons 1 & 2 were MonsterOfTheWeek.  There was still plot not just being introduced, but developed.  It does matter in which order you watch the episodes.  The first few episodes where Bester visits the station could, for example, be taken as MonsterOfTheWeek, but I think it would be a mistake to do so. --Pallando
(Now, StarTrek on the other hand... :-)

AC: Hmmm... point taken to a certain extent.  I agree that we shouldn't stretch the definitions too far.  But I disagree that you have to have this structure.  For example, VisionOfEscaflowne, KareKano or DotHackSlashSlashSign are much more concerned with ongoing plot than single-episode self-contained stories, even though there may be a few of those.  (There are lots of others, but I wanted to choose examples with 20 or more episodes.)  The feel in all those cases is of a story being painted from start to finish, in a medium which happens to split it into episodes.  They manage this even with concessions to the episode nature of the medium.

I guess what I'm saying is that they may have themes or particular things being addressed each episode, but they don't feel like MonsterOfTheWeek because it doesn't seem like they're recycling, or just padding out, but rather that they're going somewhere.  MurderOne (taking 26 episodes to tell the story of one murder trial case) had this idea from another angle.  For example, they spent one whole episode choosing the jury.  A nice self-contained episode.  But it's not a MonsterOfTheWeek, because that's the kind of thing that can only be done once, needs to come at a particular point, and contributes some understandable chunk towards the eventual resolution.  --AlexChurchill



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