There are a lot of shows that get cancelled or limp to a disappointing finish, forcing us to say, ‘Well, it used to be good. Fatigue through perpetuity, changes in onscreen talent, and a lack of a through-plan mean that some shows that blossom like roses, end up as manure a few years later. With the current success of shows like Fargo and American Horror Story, the trend is drifting more towards self-contained seasons with a revolving cast of players or, in the case of Fargo, a whole different cast and story that retains some basic elements and ideas under the same title. This new age of anthology got us thinking here about TV shows that would have benefited from the same treatment.
Heroes was a fire that burned too bright, too hot, and burned out too soon. Its first season is held up as a fantastic opener to a show that quickly ran out of steam. The issues are multitude: too many characters, too many plots that went nowhere, a fantastic ending to season one that pretty much got wiped away with the second season opener, and characters whose powers were too good so that any threat that arose would be pretty much snuffed out instantly. With the anthology model Tim Kring and his writers could have ended season one with a more definite ending rather than ambiguous cliffhangers and endings that were negated by the next season as the beginning of season two shows that the key event of the end of season one: Nathan and Peter sacrificing themselves to stop Sylar from destroying New York is meaningless as, yes, New York is saved, but Peter, Nathan, and Sylar all somehow survived. If Heroes was an anthology show in which each season focused on a different set of super powered people, they could make whole new arcs each season that had clear beginnings, middles, and ends, and the freedom to kill off characters and make events have long term repercussions.
There are a lot of us who loved How I Met Your Mother for a good four or five years before it began to collapse under its own weight. It didn’t have the legs to run for the amount of time it did and that is evidenced by the poor quality of the final few seasons and the pretend-the-last-four-seasons-didn’t-happen finale. However, the concept is strong enough that it could sustain the anthology model. Each season could focus on a new lovelorn character and their search for the One, or they could follow the Fargo method and focus on the same area and characters but change the time period. If Ted’s story took up season one then maybe season two could be the story of how his parents met in the 70s or switch over to the meeting of Lily’s parents or Barney’s. The issue facing this show would be the unfortunate nature for sitcoms to focus upon breakout characters, whose plotlines and catchphrases they run into the ground. If they must though, there’s no stopping them from having the linking tissue be Barney Stinson by simply casting Neil Patrick Harris as a different version of the same character in every time period, or even removing the character entirely as he is a gross representation of a toxic masculinity in which a man’s worth is based on the amount of women he’s tricked into sleeping with him.
Prison Break’s initial concept of a man getting himself arrested to break his brother out of jail using clues and maps tattooed onto his body was high concept and weird enough to sustain interest for a season but once the main characters were out of jail the interest waned. Much like the other entries in this list, the show’s concept is strong but the longevity of television was its enemy. Anthologising the show and focusing on a different prison, prisoners, and prison break each season would give the writers the freedom to go wild with new, sexy concepts and ways to break their characters out. They could switch time periods, countries, the genders of the protagonists, the method for escaping, the reasons for escaping, and so on and so on. Each season would most likely end with the prisoners breaking out but the fact they wouldn’t need to take characters from season to season would mean that no every character was guaranteed their freedom.
House of Cards should be really, really good. The talent is there with David Fincher kicking it off and Kevin Spacey leading a stellar cast. It’s based on a fantastic book/UK TV series, and wears it Shakespeare influences on its chest like a badge of honour. So why isn’t it better? Some people are probably furious reading this and saying, ‘Screw you, Sean, its amazing’ and that’s fine. But for me, I’ve tried watching it and can find a lot to love but mostly it never quite hits for me. Perhaps it’s too long. There’s only so much Machiavellian scheming from one character that I can tolerate, I mean, there’s a reason Richard III is only a few hours long. House of Cards falls into a same song different verse model in which Frank Underwood wants something and then we watch him destroy his enemies and get it, and then we repeat. The anthology I have in mind would have season one be Frank Underwood’s story on the Hill as he schemes his way to the Oval Office. And then we would switch somewhere else, maybe to a journalist/blogger or another congressman or a senator, and we would follow them on an adventure. We would keep the fourth wall breaking but imagine the show in which not everyone is a piece of shit. Maybe a young senator out of their depth and when they talk to us it’s not to show off or scheme, it’s to ask for help or express their dismay. Keep the same quality, get a stellar cast and talent behind the camera, and just switch up the focus.
Much like Heroes, Homeland was a sun that burned brightly before dimming. For a time Claire Danes and Damian Lewis were the toxic power couple we loved to hate and Homeland dropped revelations like they were going out of fashion, constantly bucking the trend for when a show should or would usually drop the big plot twists. Unfortunately, once season one was done they managed to get a pretty good first half to a second season before they fell apart and couldn’t sustain themselves. In fact, Homeland is a prime example of why TV should move into the anthology model. Season one was amazing and one of the standouts was the amazing performance by Morgan Saylor as Dana Brody, the daughter of the suspected terrorist. Unfortunately, because she was incredible the makers needed to use her more in season two but there was no organic plot there for her. Hence she ended up in a relationship with the vice president’s son which resulted in a hit and run plot that was universally hated and which added nothing to the main conflict between Danes and Lewis. Consider if Homeland was an anthology show which focused on different aspects of the War on Terror each year, Saylor would have had a stellar season of TV and moved onto new projects rather than having her initial run of quality negated by a season of fake drama just to keep her face on the screen.
What other shows would you like to see anthologised? Do you agree with our picks? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured Image: Showtime