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Hypable

Since J.J. Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, hit it big with LOST, the pressure has been on to get new genre shows on the air. Sometimes they’ve been successful and other times, they just fall flat. Notably, however, the successes seem to always be linked to Abrams, Bad Robot, or former LOST producers striking out on their own. These shows often spend more time on character development than the other LOST clones out there, but is it too much of a good thing?

One of the staples of Abrams’ post-LOST work, including Revolution and Person of Interest, is the use of flashbacks. For those in the know, LOST was full of flashbacks. Sometimes these trips to the characters’ past were well done, but sometimes if you weren’t paying enough attention, you lost track of where they were in the time stream. Both of Abrams’ subsequent shows have doled out information on the main characters in pieces over time. Person of Interest is a prime example of how dishing out the history of your characters slowly over time creates a deeper connection between the character and the viewer. Also, it has the handy device of the Machine to keep you fully aware of what you’re seeing, and where it falls in the overall timeline. Since Revolution is currently in its infancy, it hasn’t built up quite as much connection. However, it does appear that they are slowly dispensing backstory to build well-rounded characters.

Another thing Bad Robot shows have done well since leaving the Island is creating intriguing mystery. Once again, Person of Interest seems to exemplify the use of a season-long (or in its case seasons-long) arc. To the writers’ credit, it’s not as silly as putting the plug in the hole in the glowing cave at the middle of the Island. The Machine’s existence and purpose is revealed piece by piece. But you don’t have to wait six seasons to find out what’s really going on. This time, the creative team has been giving answers along the way and then posing new questions. To an extent, this move of answering questions in a semi-dystopian setting is paying off on Revolution as well. The writers answered the “what caused the blackout” question mid-way through season 1. Again, they are learning to keep the viewers engaged while still creating a drama that makes people want to keep tuning in.

While the productions of Bad Robot and its former writers have largely sustained genre television as a commercially viable enterprise, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. There are certain notes that all of these shows seem to hit, and that can lead to burnout. Sometimes the LOST nods are obvious and somewhat amusing…the first few times they happen. Oceanic or Ajira flights on Fringe or Once Upon a Time are rather minimally intrusive shout outs. Apollo candy bars have also been known to appear on Once Upon a Time. The number of LOST nods on Once Upon a Time is especially interesting, considering it is not a Bad Robot produced show. Showrunners and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were long-time LOST writers and producers, however, so this goes to show how the LOST/J.J. Abrams influence has spread beyond the Bad Robot brand.

It’s one thing when these shows include small nods to their common roots or have a similar feel now and then (they all seem to involve a lot of wandering around). It’s another when they adopt some of the worst aspects of their roots wholesale. Again, Once Upon a Time is the prime example. Early in the second season, several of the characters found themselves in the present day Enchanted Forest. All of the Enchanted Forest has been affected by a curse except for a Safe Haven. Safe Haven was forcibly reminiscent of the Temple, which figured prominently in the early sixth season of LOST. The Temple story arc was not one of LOST’s shining moments, and neither was the Safe Haven arc.

It’s clear that J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot have had a lasting effect on the genre television landscape. In some ways, this is a good thing, as it means that genre shows often feature an interesting, non-linear story structure and a decent attempt at character development. It becomes more problematic, however, when the shows start to all have a similar feel and start embracing each other’s worst elements. Has pop culture reached the Bad Robot saturation point? Considering that Abrams and company are now in control of both Star Trek and Star Wars, the answer is, apparently, no. For more opinions and recaps on your favorite shows, check us out at more-tv-please.com.

This article was written by a Hypable user! Learn more and write your own right here.

  • http://jimmypautz.com Jimmy Pautz

    Alias, LOST, Fringe, and Revolution are some of my favorite shows. I don’t watch Person of Interest, but I tend to avoid CBS and it seemed to be more of a procedural, which get old for me fast. I do watch Once upon a time, but it isn’t nearly as good as the J.J. Abrams show I watch(ed).

    I don’t think there is too much saturation, since there only tends to be one or two good ones on at any given time. The bad shows that try to copy the Bad Robot recipe and fail, don’t usually last.

    • http://twitter.com/MoreTVPlease Sarah & Jen

      Definitely agree with you that shows trying copy the Bad Robot formula (FlashForward and The Event come to mind) generally fail and don’t last, probably because they take the structural elements and forget, for the most part, that character is important too.

      While we may agree to disagree about whether or not the TV landscape has reached Bad Robot saturation, we can agree that even some of the less successful Bad Robot (and related) shows tend to hit the mark more than the complete imitators.

    • aswmbo

      Loved all four shows you mentioned…but have to disagree on calling Person of Interest a mere a “procedural”.
      Yes, there is a one-and-done story each week, but by far the most interesting and intriguing are over-arcing plots that transcend episodes, even seasons, and increasingly are taking on an SciFi flavor. (The Machine is becoming sentinent!)
      The characters are onion-layer, their personalities and back stories slowly, slowly revealed. This makes it much more a serialized drama than a “procedural”!
      You’re missing a fantastic show by avoiding a network…but jumping in right now would not be fair to the series: as with LOST, a viewer needs to see it from the beginning to fully appreciate it.

      • http://jimmypautz.com Jimmy Pautz

        I don’t doubt it is good and if I have some time, I might look into watching it from the beginning. Thanks for the tip!

  • Hayley

    Fringe is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I loved that it was an intelligent sci-fi show that didn’t dumb anything down for its audience. It assumed you knew the mythology and because of that, produced some imaginative and amazing stories. The continuity was flawless, the characters were diverse and well-developed, and the acting was phenomenal – Anna Torv and John Noble both deserved Emmys. So, if Bad Robot wants to make another show like that, I won’t mind. These are the type of shows we need more of.

  • http://twitter.com/NatashaPeartree Natasha Pereira

    ALIAS!!!!!!!! that is all.

  • http://hypable.com Selina

    Great article! I think the problem with the JJ Abrams effect, as you call it, is that everyone doing sci-fi these days sets out to make the next Lost – and not even Lost could live up to its own hype! So they’re setting themselves up to fail.

    I loved Lost (especially while I still thought the mysteries would be answered in a satisfying way), and I loved Alias, but aside from that? None of the similar genre shows (Revolution, Terra Nova, Flash Forward) have really managed to catch and hold my interest. Even Fringe I thought was touch and go until Wyman and Pinkner went totally off on a tangent with the alternate universes (which I loved cause it was such a fresh twist). It’s a shame, really.

    • http://twitter.com/MoreTVPlease Sarah & Jen

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! It’s so true that following the “Lost” formula seems to be a requirement for getting a genre show on the air these days. Agreed that Fringe really came into its own when Wyman and Pinkner decided to just go all out with taking creative risks. Sometimes the creative risks worked, sometimes they fell flat, but I at least always appreciated that they were willing to take the risk at all.

  • Greatest_Ever

    Person Of Interest is in my opinion, the best show on TV. When you have the writer of the Dark Knight trilogy (as well as Memento & The Prestige) as the creator/director and the mastermind behind the epic ‘Lost’ TV series (as well as films like Super 8, Star Trek & Cloverfield) as the exec producer, you have watch you call ‘Must See T.V’. The mystery behind the machine and it’s protagonist’s and antagonist’s keep you wanting more. Not only that, but the eerie reminder that the premise of this T.V show, is quickly becoming reality makes it that much more terrifying.

    Fringe was another show i thoroughly enjoyed, especially from the second season onwards. Unlike Lost, it’s final season was extremely gratifying.

    I’ve yet watch Revolution yet, it’s plot/story has me intrigued. Will probably wait for the season 1 set’s to watch.

    • Sarah & Jen

      You are right that POI has been a great addition to the TV landscape and a great blend of mythology and procedure. The show found its footing throughout season 1 which was more procedural-case of the week type format. We were happy to see them slowly break away from that with season 2. But more importantly, the writers didn’t jump the gun too early. They waited until they had established something that worked before toying with the design. Plus, the writers didn’t change things up that radically (sure there was the episode with 6 numbers but it reshaped the mold instead of outright breaking it). We enjoyed the change of Reese’s character, too. He went from being pretty much always coming out on top to losing. The writers took a isk in having him unable to save the doctor near the end of season 2. Seeing our heroes fail made them more human and it really upped the tension of what was going to happen to the Machine. We are equally intrigued by what will happen next year..

  • Alex

    YAY! PERSON OF INTEREST IS THE BEST SHOW EVER!!! (right now)

    so glad that it keeps getting such good press! hope it stays such high quality for many, many years to come !
    (also thank you for giving Jim Caviezel a second chance to be great!)

    but AGGHHHH THAT season 2 finale!!!!

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