Alan 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.