Sunday, October 26, 2014

On shared network worlds

According to the commercials, tomorrow night, Hetty from NCIS:LA is going to help out tr new kids on the block from Scorpion. That is amazing, and lemme tell you why...

See, last week, Scorpion was a fun show that had a few episodes under its belt and, like, nothing else. I really like it, and I'm really enjoying the mix of car chases and smart people, but it only had the world it had built so far.

Now, if the commercials aren't lying--like, if she's guest starring, but not being Hetty, say--now it has this whole bigger world to share. If Hetty can guest, then so can anyone on her team, which would be particularly good for Eric or Nell, who are the resident squints, and anyone off of NCIS or Hawaii Five-0 could come through, and, conceivably, they could bring back someone from all the way back in JAG, if they really wanted to.

Plus, folding Scorpion into the mix adds some other layers:

  • Scorpion is a crime-fighty sort of show like the others, but it's the first one where the people involved are not military--in fact, last week, they all failed miserably at being military-types, and that's why they work the way they work on the cases they have. Them being part of the same world brings in the civilian angle that all these military shows sometimes miss, and shows that civvis aren't just victims of the crimes they solve. 
  • Also, since they're not military, they can be messier--messier lives, messier personalities, messier stories that aren't constrained by protocol, or rank concerns, or training expectations--they're freer, in a way. And maybe that freeness can inform the other shows at some point.
  • AND, even if Scorpion somehow doesn't get picked up (which would make me sad, because I like it), these characters don't have to disappear and never be seen again. They can cross over and guest star on the remaining shows for ages after their own show is gone. They could even, conceivably, join those shows permanently, if the other shows can integrate them smoothly.
And because Scorpion is based (loosely) on the life of a real person, it means that there's this further layer of actual realness on the other shows now. If Walter is real, any of them could be real!

All of this is to say: Yes. This is a good move.

See, when I was growing up, there were all these similarly-constructed crime-fighting shows all over the TV, mostly on the same networks. And the fact that Magnum PI, Simon & Simon, and Murder She Wrote all crossed over at various points added this whole new dimension to television that I had never before thought of--all these shows were in the same world. People in them knew each other

It was mindboggling.

Of course, now TV is much more sophisticated (or at least more continuous and more complicated), but I've always had this fondness for shared worlds, and I just really wanted all of them to know each other. 

The JAG > NCIS lineage (or the millions of CSIs or Law&Orders) are a good way to do that, but they're shared by default. They're spun off of each other. Now that Hawaii Five-0 isn't a fluke, and Scorpion is part of it, it feels like a return to that comradery of shows on the same channel being aware of each other, sharing stories and characters, and, behind the scenes, being supportive of each other rather than existing in their own vacuums.

And since we've got Arrow and Flash now, and, potentially, a million other spinoffs they're setting up the world to offer if anyone has them, as well as SHIELD and Agent Carter on ABC, it seems like the thing right now for channels to have their own shared worlds. 

And if CBS would just admit that ALL their procedurals that happen in New York-- Elementary, Person of Interest, etc-- were one world, too, I'd be happy as a clam. It'd be easy. Just have John and Finch wander through the background and Sherlock not notice them because they don't matter to his case. It wouldn't even have to be a whole, formal crossover event.

Also, there's this potential for trans-channel shared worlds. Arrow and Co on CW are, technically, in the same universe as Constantine and Gotham and the proposed Teen Titans and Young Justice shows that haven't happened yet. How cool would it be if they formed the bridge between the networks and the cable channels and proved that they don't have to be in competition? That they can work together? Marvel already has linked movies, TV and Netflix; DC could be the one that links the channels between each other. 

Maybe I'm getting carried away (I probably am), but this feels like a brewing shift in how TV works that makes everything cooler instead of more fractured and annoying!

What do you think?
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