The Right And Wrong Way To Do Too Much On A TV Show

06.20.18 4 weeks ago 2 Comments

Fox/Amazon/Showtime

You should not eat soup with a meat cleaver. There are a lot of reasons for this, starting with the fact that it is not an efficient way to get broth into your mouth and then moving on to other things like “you’ll probably cut your lips a lot” and “it will scare children” and “they’ll ask you to leave the diner.” And that’s not even touching on the bread bowl problem. You’ll pierce the side on the first scoop and then have a mess on your hands. I can’t see a single benefit to it, really, other than the visual I have in my head now of someone trying to do it. No, you should use a spoon. It works better. We’ve all agreed on this much.

My point here is that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do just about everything. Some would say that a paragraph about eating soup with a cleaver is the wrong way to start a column about television shows. That’s fair, but it does get us to the issue at hand: doing too much. Doing too much is not always a bad thing. Sometimes too much can be exactly the right amount. Other times it can ruin something that had a chance to be good. Let’s talk about the best and worst of doing too much.

The Right Way To Do Too Much

Showtime

Billions does too much. Billions does entirely too much. The show burns off plot the way a rocketship burns fuel, fast and sudden and resulting in flames and smoke, then it discards the now-useless empty canisters and lets them clang back down to Earth while it zips off triumphantly to space. The best part about this analogy is that it is both accurate and relevant because Billions, a show about a hedge fund trader and a U.S. Attorney trying to ruin each other, featured an episode in which the show’s version of Elon Musk — played by James Wolk, who starred on Zoo, a first-ballot Doing Too Much Hall Of Fame show — tried to launch himself into space in a privately funded rocket and proceeded to blow himself up on live television.

Did anyone on the show mention it a single time after this episode? Not really! Did the show suffer at all for it? Also not really! Billions moves fast. If it slowed down at any point it might cause you to stop and question some of the things you’re seeing, which would be bad because the whole fun of the show is its breakneck pace, and that pace makes things like meticulous plotting and dot-connecting impossible and unnecessary. The show literally opened, in the first five minutes of its first episode, with a dominatrix urinating on Paul Giamatti and it has not looked back a single time, not even for a second. It does too much because it would fail if it did any less.

A show like 9-1-1 also does too much. But 9-1-1 does too much in a different way, one that makes no apologies. The very first episode of the show featured first responders dealing with a newborn baby stuck in a toilet pipe and a decapitated snake and this, which I feel is best presented without any explanation.

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