The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow Jumping on the Anthology Series Bandwagon
Oh, binge-watching! Look what you hath wrought!
Anthology series seem to be all the rage. From American Horror Story, to True Detective, to Fargo, television storytelling is being done in even larger chunks than usual, with entire seasons having nothing to do with other seasons of the same show, save some tenuous connections (like the same cast, unifying characters, etc). The upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series on The CW is following suit and employing this format that’s become popular with the rise of binge-watching.
Executive producer, Marc Guggenheim, even compares it to American Horror Story. As reported by Comic Book Resources, Guggenheim explains the format like this:
Each season is its own separate movie. What we want to do is have each separate movie have its own identity. So almost to the point where each season was telling one big story that you could sort of subtitle, like the way you do subtitle ‘American Horror Story,’ if that makes sense.
LoT showrunner, Phil Klemmer, explains it this way:
It’s an anthology show. This is not designed to go forever. This season is meant to be standalone… I mean not as anthological as ‘True Detective.’ But not everybody will be continuing on this journey. The sort of central premise of time travel and Vandal Savage is totally up for grabs. This is meant to be a season that is tightly serialized that, when it’s over, you can’t go home again. It’s not going to begin Season 2 with us all hopping back on the same ship and like ‘Let’s get Vandal! Let’s get him for real this time!’ This is not traditional episodic television.
I’m pretty excited to hear this, as I’m a huge fan of anthology television, which seems to be on the rise now that people tend to binge-watch several episodes at once, but also appreciate firm stopping places and low-commitment programming. Shows like AHS or True Detective are great, because you can binge a season, any season, and stop and start throughout the history of the show, whenever and wherever you like.
This format didn’t originate with the dawn of streaming services, though. Obviously, there are shows like the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchock Presents, which told completely different genre stories every episode. But even having a “new story every season” format for a show isn’t new either. Those of us who are totally old, like I am, may remember a show from the mid-90s called Murder One, which was a law show, and the “gimmick” was that the cases they solved would be a season long, and there’d be a new case every season. Apparently, the mid-90s weren’t ready for that, and the show was cancelled after two seasons with many viewers complaining that, unlike with other law shows with a procedural format, this one was hard to jump onto.
Of course, those were the days when you had to be home to watch something. Or alternately, set your VCR. Now, the anthology format makes a hell of a lot more sense, and it’s interesting that we’ve finally got a superhero show testing out the format.
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