Post Scriptum: Of Myth and Man

As all of you probably know, the San Diego Comic-Con took place this past week, with nerds from around the world making the pilgrimage to their holy geek Mecca in heat-ridden California.

Coming out of the gathering were quite a few glimpses into the fall TV season, some of which were slipped by the TV bigwigs that bring us the crazy adventures of Veronica Mars, and of course life on Lost island.

As different as those shows may seem to be, staffers from the serials had strikingly similar things to say about their forthcoming plots, both of which highlighted the great struggle that often plagues great cult-driven dramas.

It is a debate that weighs the importance of Myth and Man and involves a scrupulous balance that can make or break a series. The Myth is the underlying canon of a show, the narrative that pulls all the story arcs into an entire web of existence, and the background that keeps the a tale tangible. The Man is the drama that surrounds characters, their relationships, fallouts and feelings. The two have an obvious overlap factor, but a keen steadiness is necessary to keep shows minty-fresh.

At the Con, both Veronica and Lost execs expressed an interest in dropping some of the myth from their respective shows this fall, allowing some more focus on the conventional romance and action that tends to grab the mainstream viewer. This shouldn’t be of much concern to TV fans–both shows ballooned their plots to grandiose mythological proportions this past season, to the point where convoluted stopped covering it. A pull-in to the faces and hearts of the characters seems a logical step; one that would have probably been a lesson well learned for the now defunct X-Files whose conspiracy theories threw off the most devoted of Believers in the final seasons.

My only worry lies in the flip-floppy aspect of it all. A few years ago long-standing narrative arcs were all the rage, marking quality shows from the monster-of-the-week tales that often demeaned intelligent viewers. Once we’ve garnered the ability to stick to a winding, continuous story, executives want to cut it down to single-standing episodes that will allow new viewers to hop onto the bandwagon at whatever stage they please.

Viewers equal longevity on TV, but are we dumbing down what we had originally smartened up? I fear in this age of segmented reality television, some of us are losing the attention span required to follow through a good work of fiction.

Though a slight watering down of myth may be in order for Ronnie and Lost, it would be sad to see the quality of the shows suffer because executives would rather accommodate the schedules of fleeting viewers than have them think through a winding mystery.

I hate to go all Da Vinci Code on you all, but what it all comes down to, is again, the perfect balance. A series must have a select group of episodes per season that stay away from pondering the great truths of their universe while injecting only a tidbit or two of mystery that will keep inquiring minds happy until plot-happy episodes.

The current sweeps system allows for this, but the recent uprising of cult culture has created the need for rapid-fire, always occurring plots to be dealt with in a fast and furious manner. This is similar to those of 24-style or Alias-tinged schedules, which eliminated natural pauses from the traditional TV season.

Those pauses were, as it seems, key. Letting a viewer breathe for a few weeks (despite mass fan objection) digests complex storylines, while allowing them to delve deeper into the actions and reactions of various characters.

The same characters whose costumed-adaptations undeniably lined the hallways of the San Diego convention center this week, still trying to come to grips with the infamous equilibrium that makes stories of Myth affect Man.