Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Soap Opera Singularity

Roy’s Third Theory of Television posits that any series allowed to run past its prime, will eventually come to resemble a soap opera; that, with a limited cast interacting over an increasing number of episodes, the scriptwriters will begin to rely on unlikely couplings, baroque story arcs, and the other tropes of daytime drama just to fill the time. The original Star Trek, for instance, was cancelled before this effect could really take hold; but I knew I was onto something when I tuned into the fourth season of Deep Space 9 to learn that Kira was carrying Keiko’s baby.

That’s not to say, in the real world, if you’ve spent 132 episodes antagonizing the spiteful but spirited Margaret “Hot-Lips” Houlihan, you might not end up sleeping with her in the 133rd. But that’s exactly when I’d advise you to step back a moment and consider how you came to fall into bed with this woman you don’t even like. Maybe you’ll even be able to describe the series of increasingly unlikely coincidences that brought you together, but I’m pretty sure your friends, not to mention the rest of your dwindling audience, will just chalk it up to bad writing.

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