From Barsoom to Bon Temps, when books & TV series jump the shark – can fans save it?
“Original meaning was the point when a television series shows it has run out of ideas and must resort to stunts to retain viewer interest. Derived from a scene in the last years of Happy Days when the Fonz waterskied over a shark. Includes actions such as “it was all a dream” episodes, live episodes, lead actors playing guest characters, and putting entire cast into a parody of some pop cultural event.” Definition 3 from Urban Dictionary about the phrase “JUMP THE SHARK“
- BEWARE – MOST OF YOU SHOULD HAVE READ OR WATCHED THE FOLLOWING BOOK OR T.V. SERIES BY NOW, IF YOU ARE YOUNG AND NOW DISCOVERING THE BOOKS OR PROGRAMMES ANEW? UNDERSTAND I AM WRITING AS IF YOU READ OR WATCHED THE WHOLE SERIES… IN OTHER WORDS? SPOILERS AHEAD!
While many television shows are guilty of this (one especially not so long ago), even before TV became expanded via Social Media, there have been many book series (past and present) which have fallen prey to the syndrome where a story ran for so long, the creators no longer know how to stop it, so they just a slap a ‘Finale‘ on it and walk away… Or rather hide and hope their fans forget it…
Many aficionados of Hogwarts still bear a grudge against J.K. Rowling for daring to Fast Fwd on Harry Potter as an adult and no rematch with a somehow revived Voldemort or some vengeful relative of the Malfoys who seeks to start up the Death Eaters again or some other plot with or without Muggles. They were even further aghast to learn on Pottermore that Harry is now graying!
MISSION FOR MARZ?
Burroughs crafted what was a marvellous trilogy set on Barsoom, which is how the natives referred to the 4th planet, peopled by blue Plant Men (whose ‘hands‘ were its mouths equally capable of sucking blood as well as their main food of sap), Green men who were in no way small (12 feet tall and and extra limbs which can double as arms or legs), plus human-like red/ yellow/ white and black (I mean black like Onyx, not the dark brown and its variations here on Jasoom or Earth) peoples who all have young from hatching eggs like birds yet can be fertilised by us Homo Sapiens.
“A Princess Of Mars,” “The Gods Of Mars” and “Warlord Of Mars” were clearly a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey where the roles of Phaidor and Thuvia were aspects of Circe while Carthoris (whose name is a foreshadowing how many folks the world over sometimes name their children e.g. Rovel Morris – son of Bobby Morris, is named for his mother and father just like John Carter‘s son with Dejah Thoris) is a manifestation of Telemachus, and the battle with the yellow men in “Warlord Of Mars” is a refashioning of Ulysses and Telemachus’ deadly feud with Penelope’s suitors.
For my part? The books should have ended there, while “Thuvia, Maid of Mars” was palatable the rest of the series was jumping the shark… I see Dynamite comics is planning to attempt their version of Barsoom which is hopefully better than the travesty from Disney with Taylor Kitsch and Mark Strong with the voice of Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas (the sole redeeming factor of that abomination, seeing Tharks and Warhoons brought to life via CGI along with Tars Tarkas’ voice being well chosen was a small consolation when compared to the magnitude of dreck they claimed was Barsoom) – we can only hope the appropriately named Ron Marz and his crew will fare way better than other versions, including DC’s 70’s version where John Carter still wore confederate pants and boots instead of the regular nudity which abounded Burroughs’ Barsoom.
In all fairness, however, that version of Barsoom was nothing like the film which started jumping the shark immediately, where John Carter was a Gulf War veteran and it had ex-porn star Traci Lords in it. Sad to say, though, even the original book series had major shark-jumping from the fifth edition, “Synthetic Men of Mars” to the eleventh “Skeleton Men of Jupiter.” They added characters like Ulysses Paxton, another Earth man and other stuff I forgot since I did not touch them again in my teens – only reread the initial trilogy repeatedly!
WACHOWSKI BROTHERS (SISTER?): WHEN ONCE CAN BE ENOUGH!
A film series which should never had a sequel was “The Matrix,” if anything, it could have been an open ended TV series thereafter with Neo in a never-ending battle against the Agents… But the Wachowskis had the Merovingian and Neo being blinded, then the ridiculous 4th and 5th issues which were so far off the map they didn’t just jump the shark, they orbited it! Thank God that “Equilibrium” made itself as a one-off and done! There was no way to justify subsequent versions, which is probably how Kurt Wimmer designed it, although his “Ultraviolet” with Milla Jovovich was probably a nod to it in a weird way…
I never agreed with the denouement of Bill & Sookie in the TV series nor the books. On HBO when they jumped the shark, was through the creation of “Billith” who superceded the Authority – this was when Bill became a fundamentalist vampire and drank the blood of the first ever bloodsucker and it sent him nuts and gave him special powers and it was nothing like the books to that point. However, the author Charlaine Harris was magnanimous and stated the same way HBO does not tell her how to craft her books, then she would not tell them how to do TV (Luckily, George RR Martin does not feel the same way for the still successful Game Of Thrones so far, and any changes have been with his blessing – usually to emphasise a point he left out in the book or similar plot streamlining).
The books in the last two editions were clearly telegraphing where Charlaine Harris had her finale aiming, which I did not agree with as Bill - of all of Sookie’s lovers (including Quinn the black Were-Tiger who never made the TV series) – truly loved her the most and almost literally died to save her in the 7th book, having Sookie annoyed because Bill obeyed his maker to be romantically involved again is dumb when considering Vampire culture as set forth in Charlaine Harris’ universe and Sookie was being unforgiving to an almost Scorpionic degree.
The TV series (like the Matrix) did far more than jump the shark, they chased away a flight of bats from the belfry as well – what with the onslaught of Hep-V or the vampire AIDS which at least created an appropriate happy ending for Eric who took the cure but old Mr Compton decided to atone for his Billith days by allowing Hep-V to run its full course, or so we thought? His demise was all the more harrowing considering Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin got married as a result of True Blood, in viewing comments on YouTube I saw one profound remark which earned 156 likes so far;-
“I was hoping that when Sookie was going to unleash her one-shot fireball upon Bill, it would end up doing the reverse of what she thought it would do, of instead of destroying a vampire, it would of cured Bill (but to the viewers it would look like she destroyed him). The reason her one-shot fireball caused Bill to become human was the intent of using it out of love not hate and causes the opposite of destruction with rejuvenation instead. Sookie would lose her powers, but it was okay with her because she already heard what Bill had thought earlier in the episode and no longer needed her mind reading powers from that point on. Then the series would end pretty much on the same note as this final episode but with a surprise reveal of a reborn human Bill at the dinner table instead of some random new guy.”
The viral response makes one pause and think if you feel out of touch with your own characters, should you re-engage via your fan base? Remember in Batman comics, DC at the time did what was then considered a radical move and let fans decide if Robin should live or die if caught by the Joker. The Killing Joke is considered a dark pinnacle in Batman’s history but how many folk recall the outcome was chosen by fans via 1-900 numbers before Twitter or Facebook? Should it be a trend or a rare move for resuscitating characters?