I have to admit, I had hopes for the new CW11 series, Hellcats. I'm a fan of Vampire Diaries and I liked the idea that 'Cats features college-age characters rather than another high school drama. Unfortunately, the premiere episode came off as...well, desperate.
In the span of one episode, the following plot points were established:
- A poor girl backstory (Marti loses scholarship and needs to find a way to replace it)
- 3 romances
- A token non-romantic male friend character
- A rivalry
- An unexpected friendship
- An unhealthy parental relationship (alcoholic, soul-sucking mother)
- High stakes for the cheer squad (danger of the competitive program getting cut)
- A 180-degree shift in Marti's perception of cheerleading (goes from "edgy" pre-law student to belly-baring cheerleader)
It was too much, too fast. I felt like the guy in a relationship trying to fend off a Stage 5 Clinger. Slow things down, honey--we've been on two dates. Probably a little too soon to start talking about moving in together.
The problem with this approach, for me, is that it accomplishes the exact opposite of what was intended. Marti's story is shoved down our throats and we're automatically supposed to sympathize with her. Instead, I found myself thinking: Who gives a crap? I haven't known this character enough to care about her or feel invested. So I end up feeling resentful that the writers are trying so hard to make me like her, instead of just putting the characters out there and letting me develop my own opinions of them. It feels false, and it's a huge turnoff.
The creative advantage of TV shows is that they can take on a narrative format. Unlike movies, where a story arc must be completed within 2 hours, in a TV show you can really delve into character development and weave multiple storylines. When you do it right, you get a show like Mad Men. Episodes don't get wrapped in a tidy bow. The consequences of someone's actions in episode 3 may not surface until episode 8. Or even the following season.
TV shows are like books, in this respect. Agent Kristin Nelson did a post on openings that kill manuscripts, and I would like to add to add this one to it: Don't give it all up right away. The more desperate you are, the faster they'll run in the other direction.