Don’t get me wrong … I love television. I don’t have much time for it but, when I do, I kick back and relax. As do most viewers, I have my favorites. I’ll give a fair viewing to almost anything…as long as it’s not a soap opera. Despite their very vague similarity to romance novels, they’re far too angst-filled for me. Plus, I hate watching anything that has no conclusion, mostly because there’s a real chance I won’t be able to watch the next episode.
So, if I enjoy television shows, why do I think this easy fix will never replace a good book? Besides the fact that you invest more of yourself as a reader than you do a watcher, it’s because romance novels NEVER, EVER jump the shark!
The term ‘jump the shark‘ was first coined way back in 1977 when leather-clad bad boy Arthur Fonzarelli literally took to a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark in the television sitcom, Happy Days. This ill-conceived ratings stunt marked the beginning of the end for the series. The quality of the first few season slid downhill rapidly after losing credibility with the viewers. Since then, it’s become every critic’s mission to ID the moment when a successful series loses its steam and, like Fonzie, jumps the shark.
Here are a few of my favorite comparisons of t.v. vs novel:
Will and Grace – this wonderful rom-com was on a roll its first few seasons. The occasional guest appearance was just an added bonus, not detracting in the least from the wonderful comedic timing of the three main characters. Then, somewhere along the line, they started bringing in more guests, more screen time for outsiders, and less for the title characters, Will and Grace. Viewers lost interest in what appeared to be contrived plots written just to flaunt a high-profile guest star.
In a romance, a good author would never overshadow the hero and heroine. Sure, we have supporting characters, but they’re there for one reason only … to support. And, while we hope at least one supporting character is strong enough to shout “sequel”, we still keep them in their place…third fiddle to the two main characters.
House – this was a superb medical drama when it first came out. But then, like its main character, it got weird. Surgery on your own body, trying to kill off your girlfriend because she broke your heart. Please…even for someone falling of the sobriety wagon, these extremes were a bit much. The writers’ shock tactics failed miserably and convinced the viewers to give the series the rating’s heave-ho.
In a romance, we just don’t get that weird! Our focus is on a relationship that endures. And, even when the black moment arrives and our hero and heroine think it won’t work, we don’t let them try and kill one another. We wouldn’t be that cruel!
Lois & Clark and Castle – two of my absolute favorite series, one older, one about to face its demise. Why? Oops! They’re married…now what do we do?
I absolutely adored Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman. It was the one television show that came before nearly everything else, bar a family emergency. I loved the wit, the sexual chemistry, the excellent writing, and the superhero story lines. Clark/Superman was the epitome of a hero, not only because he saved people but because he was kind-hearted, intelligent, and honest. Oh, and did I mention, sexier than sin! Lois Lane, on the other hand, was the perfect foil … quirky and full of frustrating but forgivable faults. Unfortunately, the writers/producers decided to marry them off in season 4 to coincide with the comic-book wedding of Lois and Clark. From then on, all the wonderful romantic angst was gone…kaput…replaced by contrived reasons to keep them apart. Can we say, ‘fake wedding to a frog-eating clone’?
Unfortunately, it looks as if Castle is headed in the same direction. Once the main characters married (after a rather schmaltzy delay), the fun of the chase was over. When Beckett told Castle she was moving out to get her head on straight, I nearly threw a shoe at the television. Contrived, even though her decision was made out of love. And, even though they’re back together now, the storylines are less than romantic and more about the murderers they chase.
In a romance novel, we put all the angst, all the cutesy or dramatic stuff right where it belongs, in the heart of the story. We write highs, we write lows, we write love scenes that will steam the wallpaper off the walls and curl the paint. We hit you over the head with the black moment…the be-all, end-all of their relationship. Followed by a resolution…the realization that no matter what the obstacle, life is worth more together than apart.
And, then, our job done, we get the heck out of Dodge and let them enjoy themselves in peace and quiet. Oh, and privacy. We give them and the reader what they want…a happily ever after and we never jump the shark!
That’s it for my turn on the blog. I think I’ll go watch a rerun of Castle…from the early seasons when it was fun. Or, maybe, I’ll toss in a season 1 disc of Lois and Clark. Or, better yet, make myself a cup of tea and read a romance novel…at least I know I won’t have to worry about the ending.
See you in six weeks.