Thursday, February 17, 2011

Books are not TV Shows

As I sit here, watching the latest episode of Bones, I can't help but think about the differences between books and television shows.

I love Bones. And not just like-love. This is the real deal. This is love-love. After six seasons, I wait eagerly for each new episode. I don't have cable, so I watch on Hulu the day after. The wait is agonizing!

The thing about Bones is, every episode is essentially them same. I'm not blaming Bones; this phenomena (phenomenon?) is not unique to Bones. There are a bazillion crime shows on TV that have been playing the same episode for the last 15 years. I know Booth and Bones are going to catch the bad guy at the end. The scenarios are different, and they've been getting more and more outlandish (Dead girl in a chocolate bar? Really?). But, the killer is always one of the three or four characters introduced early on, but not the one you first think did it.

There is a crazy ensemble cast always going in a million directions. And I happily get sucked into the drama. The tension between Booth and Bones, even after six years, is still interesting (Although, come on! Give us what we want!).

Maybe it's not fair, but if Bones was a book, I think I'd hate it. (Also, I do recognize that Bones is based on a series of books that I have never read. Maybe I should read them before I decide that I hate them...)

When I read a book, I want to see change. I want characters to grow and learn. And If I were to read a book series over the course of six years, I would expect the romantic tension between two characters to be resolved. In one way or another, something would change. How is it I can watch a show for six years with the same "will they, won't they" drama?

I think gist is that I expect more from books. There something about the printed word that elevates... I can process trash on my TV, but when it comes from a book, my brain shuts down.

And those concludes my random thoughts for the evening. Good night all! Thanks for listening.


  1. My wife loves Bones to death. Aside from Psych of course, it's probably her favorite show on TV. We were watching a movie the other day though - um, that one about the two people that hate each other end up inheriting a kid and a house and have to learn to get along - anyway. I had a hard time getting through it because it was so predictable. It made me wonder why I can watch a show like Psych over and over and never get tired of it but can't sit through a predictable movie even one time without wanting to claw my eyes out.

    I think it has to do with how I feel about the characters. I love immersing myself in some people's lives and can forgive the predictability, but if I don't care about the characters then we're in trouble.

  2. I read a book about this (can't remember the title, but I'll look it up!) a few years ago. The gist was this: expectation of change is relative to the amount of time you've invested in a book/tv show/movie.

    For example, the expectation one has for an episode is lesser than the expectation one has for an entire season; the expectation one has for a series that lasts 1 season (firefly) is lesser than the expectation one has for a series that lasts 10 seasons (ER).

    This is why it's so easy to jump the shark: the longer a show goes on, the higher the expectation. And like a house of cards, the more you build, the more fragile it is.

    If Bones were books (by the way, they are books, written by Kathy Reichs! I nearly forgot!), would you be disappointed? Maybe. If each episode were a book you had to wait a year for, definitely, because the investment would be the equivalent of one full season of bones.

    But if each book began at the season premiere and ended at the season finale, in regards to character progression, then probably you wouldn't be as disappointed.

    I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm hoping!

  3. I'm a big fan of House, and while I do think they've done a decent job making the main character change over seven seasons, the episodes mostly follow such a predictable path that I know when a diagnosis is false just because the real diagnosis isn't due for another ten minutes. I guess there's comfort in routine but it is very refreshing when they shake it up and air an episode that doesn't follow the traditional House-patient scenario.

  4. I think we can allow TV to be imperfect because it's kind of a brain shut down, whereas reading is stimulating. I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do it's because I'm super tired. Because I want to unplug.