This has been something that’s been kicking around in my brain for a while now. I notice it when I watch shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or The Walking Dead. There’s a formula to how action works in hour-long sci-fi/fantasy shows. The show typically has an ongoing plot, that’s occasionally broken up by an action scene or two to fill an hour. I notice this a LOT in The Walking Dead.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything WRONG with this formula, I just happen to notice it a lot in television. Notice I don’t say film. See, I also know the reason none of these weekly shows are packed with action. If, say, ABC was to try to make S.H.I.E.L.D. the same scale as The Avengers every week, the show would be cancelled in about three weeks. Why? Special effects are expensive (Yes, Marvel has mad-Disney money now, but they don’t have THAT much of the mad-Disney money). Money’s not the only factor. There’s also the fight scenes to worry about. While not expensive, any scene with even a little martial arts takes a LOT of fucking time to create. That really badass 30 second scene of Melinda May taking down some thugs? Probably took at least a week to choreograph.
What am I getting at here? Well, I’d like to see more action in TV. Like action-action. Not just dramas with action scenes peppered in. Yes, I realize this is expensive. And yes, I realize this is time-consuming. But let me pitch something to you here. How about instead of focusing on an hour-long show once a week, you make it thirty minutes? Sound weird? Probably because the only shows you can think of that are half an hour are sitcoms right? Think outside of the box a bit. Think about Adult Swim. Not only do they have 15-minute comedy shows (which is pretty unique in of itself), but they also air something else. Anime. Most of the anime they run isn’t really comedy (yeah, Bleach has it’s jokey bits, but it’s meant to be taken seriously. I think.)
Think about the formula of shows like Bleach. Yes, there’s a heavy plot, but how do they advance it? By beating the everloving shit out of each other. Why haven’t we seen anything like this in American TV? A good live-action example is Kamen Rider OOO. It’s a Japanese live-action superhero show about this guy who accidentally becomes the only thing that stands in the way between humanity and monstrous versions of greed personified.
So, how does Kamen Rider OOO get his power? From “medals” taken from the Greeed’s bodies. Yeah, the special effect gimmick used for the fight scenes is actually a major plot point in the show. It moves the story along while giving you something neat to look at/want to buy a toy of. Storytelling doesn’t suffer at all in a show like this. There’s plenty of character development in this show (GodDAMN is there character development), and each episode is only 30 minutes long.
You know what ELSE is on television that has fight scenes that advances storytelling? Wrestling. Yes. Wrestling. You may not think of it as a weekly drama, but that’s exactly what it is. Between all the grand slams and the touchdowns (wait, wrong “sport”), there’s a story at work here.
So, the “mostly action” format DOES work on western television. And hell, wrestling is WAY longer then thirty minutes each week.
In the end, I think we’ve got room for a whole new format for TV shows. Yeah, hour-long dramas are great, but some are just buffered with unnecessary banter used to fill an hour (looking at you, every show on Syfy). Let’s consolidate these special effects and fight scenes into 30 minutes a week. You’ll thank me for it later.