Two words came into mind after reading the first half of the “Eight Episodes”. Epic Failure. From reading Reed’s essay, it seemed that “Eight Episodes” failed in almost every aspect that it could as if it was deliberately done. For one, it failed to meet the visually high expectations of its viewers. Reed said “Computer animation had reached a plateau where reality was an easy illusion, spectacle was the industry norm, and difficult tricks like flowing water and human faces were beginning to approximate what was real. Yet the show’s standards were barely adequate…” In this age, technology is one aspect of our society that exponentially grows. More advanced innovations are created left and right. In effect, TV shows need to catch up in order to effectively lure its audiences. Moreover, TV shows were meant to be seen, not just heard. Good visuals allow the medium to become the audience’s portal into a new world and possess cultural dimensions that can raise questions about society.

Reed also mentioned that the inconsistencies in the performances of its actors were another problem. This is a major problem because the actors are the biggest visuals of the show. Without a good performance, I think any show won’t fully fulfil its function of providing the audiences with cultural and ideological dimensions. Moreover, a lack of good actors means that the show will have difficulty charming its viewers into watching it. Without this charm, it fails to plant their characters’ familiarity in its viewers thus stopping them from reaping stability in the characters. Without this, the actors will have no viewers and eventually, no job.

When I began watching “Doctor Who”, I admit that I wasn’t thrilled because it hardly created an illusion of reality. But the actors won me over. In each episode, I grew fond of the Doctor’s goofy grin and his witty banter with Rose Tyler. TV shows aren’t perfect. But its weaknesses need to be balanced out with its strengths. So far, “Eight Episodes” has yet to do this.

Likewise, Reed categorized the show’s inappropriate commercial breaks as an indication of poor showmanship as he said, “The series’ pivotal events was barely noticed…” It chose to forgo the story telling-techniques of good timing rather than use these breaks for cliff hangers to build the suspense for the culmination of the plot development.

More importantly, Reed said that the narrative lacked structure. It producers and writer/s held no interviews to either promote the show or clarify certain points in the show. It simply left the viewers to interpret the show in whatever way they wished. This seems trivial but I think that audiences do appreciate shows better once they’ve fully grasped what it wants to say. Likewise, the show’s narrative doesn’t follow the conventional modes of story-telling. One episode showed fifty-three minutes of a barren world spinning in space. Succeeding episodes covered months of unexplained scientific work where Dr. Smith and his graduate students examined a microscopic object that no one, but them, could see.

As part of the general public, it would have been better if it somehow explained what was happening to its audiences. I remember watching the “Big Bang Theory” and thinking how great it was that they down-played the intimidating scientific terms with its humour. Moreover, it extended itself beyond the realm of science as it also showed the interaction of the characters amongst each other. But I’m not saying that the “Eight Episodes” need to pattern itself to “The Big Bang Theory” as I’m sure it was meant for a different kind of audience. All I’m saying is that viewers like me would like to see developments in the show. For example, “The Big Bang Theory” showed how the characters went passed the awkward stage of mere acquaintances to really good friends.

But like I said, “Eight Episodes” seem to have been created for a particular type of audience. One episode showed a barren world spinning in space for fifty-three minutes. No commentaries were made. It just showed the world spinning until the show had to end so it slowly pulled away from the planet. Astronomers found this remarkable because it made an extraordinary event readily available to them. However, the rest might have disliked it due to the lack of a plotline. I admit that it’s something that I’d like to see but not for fifty-three minutes because it will reduce the magnificence of the occurrence.

Another episode was well praised by geologists because of the impeccable attention to detail it had on the pieces of “furniture” that it used. The show might have failed to impress the general public but it surely impressed the professionals with the accuracy of its detail. To this characteristic trait of the “Eight Episodes”, Reed said

    The great southern continent was rendered accurately enough to make any geologist smile,
    while the little glimpses of Permian ecosystems were even more impressive. Whoever produced
    the series (and there was a growing controversy on that matter), they had known much about
    protomammals and the early reptiles, cycads and tree ferns…five months later, a team working
    in South Africa uncovered a set of bones that perfectly matched what a vanished dramatic series
    had predicted…and what was already a cultish buzz grew into a wild increasingly public
    cacophony…

Because of this, people started believing that the show seemed to have its own world because it is from another world. For one, the show’s creators held no interviews. But this was meant to hide the identity of its creators. Without a name or a face to associate with the show, the public (both viewers and non-viewers of the show) become intrigued. Its mystery becomes the show’s appeal because it’s a break from “what should be”. People should have someone to either praise or blame for the show’s outcome but “Eight Episodes” withholds them of this. In return, they do all that they can to try fix this.
For this, Reed commented that “For years, every search to uncover the creative force behind Invasion of a Small World came up empty. And in the public mind, that single mystery remained the final, most compelling part of the story.” This little detail planted the idea that “Eight Episodes” wasn’t a TV show but mankind’s first contact with the extra-terrestrials. In this context, TV is indeed our portal to another world.

I find it quite interesting how a single detail (or the lack of) drew audiences to a supposedly dying TV show. I think the idea of not knowing trivial details is too unfamiliar that pushes the public to make it familiar. At a certain extent, this mystery intrigues me as well. It makes me wonder if the show made those risky decisions because they had a card hidden up their sleeves. Whatever their intentions were, the original production team deliberately chose to remain hidden. In the essay, Reed said that “Tracking down the original production company produced only a dummy corporation leading to dusty mailboxes and several defunct Web addresses. Every name proved fictional, both among the company’s officers and those in the brief credits rolling at the end of each episode…”

Given this, I retract my previous statement that the episode was an epic failure. I think that if I ever chanced upon it on television, I would watch an episode or two. But it might not be enough to reel me in for the long run.

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