Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hawaii Five-0's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Experiment

During Monday's episode of Hawaii Five-O, fans will be directed to the CBS site or Twitter to vote for the suspect they think is guilty, and the ending that wins will be shown. (This will happen for both Eastern and Pacific airings, so I will be very curious to see whether the same ending wins both times.) I'm torn about this idea. It's a cute gimmick and I think it will work well for this show. It just has to do with the case of the week, not a major plot point or anything, so it's pretty contained. And I'm all for experiments in making TV more engaging and incorporating the Internet directly into the viewing experience.

But I have two major concerns. The first is technical. I've only seen a few episodes of H50, but as a mystery reader and procedural watcher in general, I'm suspicious of any mystery that is constructed to have three equally valid endings. One of the great joys of mysteries is that moment when the viewer or reader says "Oh, of course, in retrospect I see that he had to have done it," and that narrative satisfaction and closure will be missing here. I can't see how it could be sustainable as a premise for a show. But as a one-off, it's an interesting puzzle for the writers and I hope they find a way to make it work.

My other concern is more serious. As I said, in this context this is a fun gimmick. But I'm worried about precedent. I've seen enough nasty emails and insulting tweets and comments and even death threats aimed at TV writers to make me very, very hesitant about anything that gives that unstable minority in fandom a further excuse to think that they have some right to demand that writers do what they want. The solution to the case of the week doesn't really matter, but I'm afraid of a later chorus of "Well, Hawaii Five-0 listened to the fans, so therefore my favorite show's writers should make xyz characters get married because I'm convinced that's what most fans want."

Aside from the unpleasantness and potential danger that would cause, it's also just not what I look for in TV. Again, as a one-off, fine. But in general, I watch TV (or movies, or read books) to see what the writers have written. I don't WANT to choose my own ending.

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