Monday, September 13th, 2010

Obituaries: "True Blood" Season 3 Finale Killed by Alan Ball Disease

WHATEVERAlan Ball Disease, a chronic but highly treatable autoimmune disorder in which a television show eats itself alive from the inside out without treatment, at last claimed last night's season finale of "True Blood." Characterized by a rapid production of unrelated plotlines and an obsessive, almost paranoid attention to their pointless unraveling and their attending tableaux, Alan Ball Disease is now recognized as the number two killer of quality television. (Coked-Up Pandering Network Exec-itis is still #1, according to the CDC.) The prime issue in diagnosing Alan Ball Disease is denial. Throughout a television season, a producer and a viewer both engage in a strange dance of mutually-agreed obliviousness.

"There just couldn't possibly be too many plotlines in which the characters do not engage each other," everyone thinks, ignoring the horrible stench and rot. The signs of the disease are quite clear to a neutral third party, however, simply by viewing the "Last Week On…" opening teaser. When what is intended to be a simple refresher for regular watchers or a brief introduction for new viewers becomes twisted and gangrenous, this is a clear indicator of advanced Alan Ball Disease.

There is no reason for producers and viewers to allow this travesty to go undiagnosed and fester before the public! TV doctors all over the country watch the third season of "Six Feet Under" for a case study in this tragic affliction of quality television.

And yet, to this day, sometimes television shows needlessly come sputtering to a sad halt before our very eyes: plotlines shredded, foreword action stalled, minor characters trotted out to provide a sense of conflict, tacky conclusions tacked on-season finales with neither a cliffhanger nor a satisfying resolution appended. What a tragic waste.

14 Comments / Post A Comment

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Just finished S2… the Maenad subplot and the silliness spinning off of that was pushing me dangerously close to the don't give a s___ anymore zone. But I've heard the "Sookie Stackhouse Series" is kind of terrible, and I'd be inclined to believe it.

tigolbitties (#2,150)

i was in the don't give a shit zone halfway through season 2, but soldiered on with the hopes of more lafayette in my life.
also, i felt like i was getting punked every other week in season 3 just to see how long i'd watch…

deepomega (#1,720)

Wait till you get to the nazis.

Bittersweet (#765)

I only made it through 4 episodes in season 1 before bailing. And given that he brought in fucking Nazis, I made an excellent decision!

C_Webb (#855)

I remember the point in Season 3 of Six Feet Under when, after weeks of misery and dread that wine could not begin to remedy, it suddenly occurred to me, "Hey, I don't HAVE to watch this!" Still felt guilty.

ae38 (#1,097)

I watched all of Six Feet Under last fall over the course of two weeks, when I was unemployed. I'm wondering if "Alan Ball syndrome" is less noticeable when the time frame is shortened in such a manner, as I later read critiques of the show and couldn't disagree more with the complaints about the plot lines. As a whole, the show felt very balanced, and I wonder if Ball views his series as a contiguous whole, and when watched in weekly installments over the course of several years, the stories are less digestible.

I say this also as someone who was incredulous that the person who was behind Six Feet Under was the same person who came up with the storylines that played out on last night's True Blood Finale. It was not good. Then again, perhaps I would have been equally disgusted with SFU after the Michael C. Hall gets kidnapped episode if it weren't immediately followed by stories that seemed more credible.

David (#192)

In diagnosing Alan Ball Disease, don't neglect to notice how many terribly bad (noticeably blatant) film edits and takes it took to come up with his blathering end-of-Season-Two-commentary … promising everything and nothing, much as one might say "yes mother, I will mow the lawn this weekend myself, and do the edging too."

deepomega (#1,720)

Ten bucks says their solution next season involves more types of mythical creatures. Mummies?

Vulpes (#946)

Not to attack you, deepomega, and maybe this isn't your point, but I really have been confused by the people this season who have been put out by witches and fairies showing up. It's like, "Yeah, vampires and a guy who turns into a dog and a telepathic waitress who every guy who crosses her path falls in love with are totally credible, but fairies are just a bridge too far!" Really?

deepomega (#1,720)

As a person who is SO not a watcher of True Blood, I'll say my problem is with using "A Bigger Universe" as an excuse to not write good episodes or narratives. See also: Season 7 Buffy, Season 3 Venture Brothers, Season 2 Heroes, etc. etc. etc. True Blood's left crutch is adding new characters and its right crutch is adding new mythical monsters.

Vulpes (#946)

Well, I guess I disagree that there are no good episodes or narratives on True Blood. It's also that it's Sam and Jason, two characters who have been there from the beginning, who, IMHO, had the weakest storylines. This season's weakness was, I think, inconsistency, between storylines and from week-to-week, not the inclusion of new monsters.

Buffy (the only one of those shows I watched) Season 7's problems really didn't have anything to do with new monsters. Buffy had new monsters on every week, practically, and always did; that was the nature of the show.

Vulpes (#946)

*sigh* Well, it looks like I'm going to spend all day on the Internet being unpopular about True Blood. I didn't mind the finale at all! It was fun, I thought.

Which isn't to say that I disagree with your diagnosis, Dr. Sicha. Sam and Jason, for instance, spent far too much of the season doing not-terribly-interesting things. But as much as this show is about the Perils of Sookie Stackhouse, it's also just about a crazy town made even more crazy by the supernatural. The other characters can have their own lives and crazy adventures without it all necessarily having to be seamlessly integrated. I mean, Hoyt and Jessica doesn't have to involve vampire politics; Jesus and Lafayette being hot and witchy doesn't have to have something to say to Sam's… whatever the hell. Arlene's storyline has, I think, been really good, but it by necessity is really all about her and Terry and the occasional witch. Still, there should be more integration and intersection, and Ball didn't really do a great job of that this season. Also, instead of the last fifteen minutes of the finale being next-season setup, we've had the last third of the season be introducing witches and fairy aliens, which might be great for starting out strong next season but isn't so great for this one.

As much as I love them, I don't really watch True Blood for classically-crafted plots and blemish-free storytelling, I watch it for sheer insanity and its occasional moments of lyrical beauty and stellar acting. I mean, Matrix Vampire Fight? Tara's kicky new haircut? Eye-fucking? Hoyt and Jessica just existing? Tommy can't read? Jesus and Lafayette being really hot? That's enough for me.

I wonder, too, if it makes a difference that I have a background in soap opera watching? I mean, True Blood isn't pure soap in a lot of ways, but it's close enough that I recognize the multiple plotlines going on at once and accept them.

janine (#248)

The finale was awful, but i will say this about the books. I usually am pretty discriminating, keeping to serious lit and non-fiction until a tussle with that DFW book on infinity turn my brains to dust (I've never been good at math) and sent me to reading the Stackhouse books. I think they're not bad. In realm where they exist (e.g. Dan Brown, that twilight lady, the lawyer dude and other books where there's embossing and cutouts on the cover, they're not bad. I was expecting much worse writing and I've enjoyed them. Also, her plotting is better than Ball's. If he's going to do things like make Jason the mayor of Hotshot, he'd be better off sticking with her plots. I doubt it though…this was about the time I stopped watching SFU.

Mocking Bird (#4,882)

I'm also pretty discerning in my reading, and I like the Sookie Stackhouse books. They're not great, but they have moments that make me wonder how much better they could be if Harris had an editor with a higher opinion of her readership. Sookie's a much stronger woman in the books, as opposed to the Perils of Pauline, Fairy Sue idiot on TB who makes my eyes bleed. And she did a good job of entwining the fairies into the world, rather than just tossing them out of nowhere like Ball did. I'm just sick he's decided to finally go off book just when he's hitting the best book in the series. Plus I hate hate hate what he's doing with the fairies on the show. They're totally lame, and making Sookie some kind of vampire crack goes against the whole conceit that she is basically just a cocktail waitress who gets pulled into this world because she happens to be telepathic.

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