Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't yank my chain...

This past week we’ve been discussing TV shows we’re getting ready to break up with. One show that was mentioned a lot was House. Great character, great actor, great premise. However, after so many seasons it seems there is nowhere left to go with him. Then last season they emphasized the long and ongoing chemistry between House and Cutty. There was a kiss. There was a “faux” sex scene. There was an implied understanding that House was ready to acknowledge his feelings ask her out. I got sucked in. Naturally. And I watched every episode with anticipation.

Then in the premier for this new season he meets a visitor/stranger at the Mental Health hospital he’s checked into and has sex with her in a closet. Hookay – not what I was looking for.

There were no thoughts of Cutty, no mention of his past feelings, nothing. When I saw that I thought… I’m done with this show. Then in last week’s episode (because breaking up is hard to do) once again an emphasis is placed on the chemistry/non-relationship between House and Cutty and the will they/won’t they tension begins again.

Now I’m pissed. Now the writers are yanking my chain. I’ve been down this road a number of times and I get why TV writers think they have to do this. The theory being if you get the couple together the tension dissipates and the show falls apart. (In my opinion do a better job of writing and coming up with better ideas how to handle the relationship and the show WON’T fall apart.)

But instead the solution is to yank my chain.

And I hate it. And I realized I’ve read books that do the same thing. Books that bothered me but I couldn’t understand why.

Couple A wants to be together, but he has commitment issues. So she fights the attraction but fails. But his issues are still there, and eventually they push her away. Then he wins her back, (because he’s that good.)…. only she realizes the issues are still there and she leaves again.

No. No. No. This is chain yankage. I find authors will do this at the end of the book when they are trying to create that will they/won’t they moment and it drives me NUTS. If the hero or heroine was willing to overcome an obstacle the first time to be a couple, using that same obstacle again at the end of book to drive a makeshift wedge between them in lame attempt to ratchet up the sexual tension is just lazy story telling.

I don’t have problems with new obstacles. I don’t have problems with obstacles left unresolved. But I have a huge problem with taking the reader (or watcher) up and down and up and down on the roller coaster ride for no other reason than to make us queasy.


Kimber Chin said...

Oh, I SO agree.
When I see the same issues come up, be resolved, and then come up again in romance, it makes me worry that the couple will make it.
Not my idea of a HEA.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes, chain yanking bad!

But I think for me it's all in the execution. I mean, people don't get over their issues in one full swoop, so a writer can make me believe that an issue was resolved only to have it be tested one final time. But it has to be done well. I have to have been given hints that the issues weren't 100% resolved in the first place and the thing that tests them again must be big and different from things that had come up before. Does that make sense? Dunno.

As for House... I've realized through this discussion that while I find the House/Cutty thing delicious, it's not why I watch the show. Evidence of that is that when House and the Franka Potente character had their little thing going in this season's premiere, (like House) I didn't think of Cutty once. I never even thought of that until you just wrote it. I was too busy thinking, cool, Franka Potente is on House. I hope they make her a recurring character. Oh, she's good for him. She sees who he is. I like this. Interesting.

But I do admit that the resolution of that storyline... her simply moving away, was weak and annoying.

Clearly the writers of this show don't really care about the romance storylines...

Eileen said...

Oh, the yankage. It hurts. I think it's especially hard in TV series, though, where it's entirely open-ended. At least in a book, I have a pretty good idea of how long the arc needs to be sustained.

Sinead M said...

So agree with you Stephanie, especially about House.. I've given up on the show.
To me yankage means the writers are out of ideas, and have to revisit the same thing over and over.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Robert McKee talked about the mind f*!k in his seminar - and I didn't agree with what he always thought it consisted of - it seems to me if the writer can use one big trick, one giant game changing reveal - then good on the writer and the reader/viewer. Shamalyan totally got us the first time - since then he's been yanking our chain.

And I feel like chain yanking is a mind f*!k - it uses the worst of the terrible devices - dreams or in Houses case - hallucinations - to keep all the drama going. And every great series be it tv or book, usually ends up with some kind of dream sequence, chain yank, mind f*!k. Dexter did it this season - House, Moonlighting, that's right - moonlighting. X-files. They just can't keep the romance arc going without it.

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