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The Format (of the Medium) is the Message

After having two blockbuster successes with classic television, "The Rifleman" and the original "Star Trek", I was prepared to declare victory and move on. But then some clues on steered me in the direction of "The Virginian." How did I manage to miss this marvelous program when I was a kid? Actually it is probably because I was a kid. The Virginian had a 90 minute format -- too long for young kiddies.

Since I am watching the first two seasons, it was fun to see some of my favorite guest stars from "The Rifleman" reappear on "The Virginian." Similarly,  new guest stars on "The Virginian" reappeared 3-4 years later on "Star Trek."

The long format virtually makes the show a mini-movie. Superb guest stars, from the movies, would deign to appear on this television show: Betty Davis, George C. Scott, Robert Redford, Matthew Broderick, and even a young Ryan O'Neal, who looked about 17 years old.

In a longer show, the plot does not seem forced or contrived. There is time for false clues, so the ending is not completely predictable. The characters have room to travel a longer "arc." Aimed more at adults than kiddies, the characters show the incongruous collection of good and bad traits that makes human beings so interesting.

Better yet, the resolution of the story was not syrupy: it tended to offer the characters exoneration, a new but uncertain beginning in life, and partial redemption, rather than a perfect "buttoned up" happy ending.

The results of the longer format are so impressive that it makes one think about how the formats of other media genres affect their content and results. Take what you wish: 30 minute "Evening News", suburban sitcoms, office cubicle sitcoms, newspapers, blogs on the internet. With the latter, there are dire consequences to blogging too frequently, or reacting to the news of the moment. 

If the blog is just a thinly-disguised advertising platform, its integrity is compromised. It's not that people shouldn't try to monetize their blogs.  I want the internet to be part of the economy. But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I start to take a blogger seriously, and then catch myself with "Oh this is just the build-up to the next click-bait."

At any rate, thinking about the format of any medium is probably the first thing we should consider. The writers might be clever enough to put in some information of real value, despite the format, but the odds are not stacked in their favor.


Steve said…
That's the problem with my blog ... too little information with real value.
Now, now, my essays aren't supposed to be over-personalized. (grin) I was thinking about the blogosphere in general.
Steve said…
I was serious when I said that. There are times it bores the heck out of me, so I stop writing publicly. Yet, the hounds have developed a fan club of sorts so I guess to those, photos of the hounds have some value. Those are still boring to me at times. I get what you are saying though.