V: In danger of contracting X-Files Disease

So I’ve watched the season thus far of V. It’s been good enough to keep my interest — and keep me returning for the next episode. But I fear this will not last too much longer.

Why? Because the concept behind V is much better suited to a mini-series (as was the original show upon which the series is based; although it too was expanded into a one-season series the next year) than a multi-season series with an unknown end point.

Essentially, the plot boils down to answering two main questions: “What are the aliens really up to?” and “When will the majority of humans figure out what’s going on and fight back?” It’s hard to imagine how you can drag out these answers for more than one or (at most) two seasons. I see the writers trying here; in the last episode (until next March), the heroes argued why it wouldn’t be wise to simply expose the aliens just yet. I wasn’t convinced.

There are also some plot points that stretch my credulity (such as inter-species romantic love and a human pregnant from an alien). My knowledge of biology and evolution suggests that this has a zero probability. But that’s another story.

If the people behind V keep trying to stretch things out (as they apparently intend to do), they risk the dreaded “X-Files” disease. This is when the answers to the central conspiracy/mystery of a series are artificially delayed, so as to keep the series going for as long as it remains popular. After awhile, viewers get annoyed at how contrived everything becomes, how the plot never seems to advance (despite teasers suggesting that something will actually happen). Viewers ultimately abandon the series because they just don’t care anymore. Or at least don’t care to wait anymore.

That’s what happened to The X-Files in its later seasons. And this was exactly what was in danger of happening to Lost, until the third season, when the producers got ABC to agree to set the sixth season as the final one for the series. With a known end point, the producers/writers could now map out the plot without having to worry about “What if we need to make the series last a seventh season?; We can’t afford to reveal too much.” After this decision was made, Lost quickly evolved to become one of the greatest most compelling series in television history. I am counting the minutes until the final season begins on February 2, 2010.

Flash Forward, another new series this year, has so far done a much better job of handling this balancing act. I feel mostly satisfied that events are progressing, even though the fate of the series (in terms of how many seasons it may last) is still unknown. And, from what I have read, major questions will indeed be answered before Season 1 is over.

V, in contrast, has been unable to figure this out. Given the limits of the plot, it may be an impossible task. Still, unless it figures something out, I predict the series will burn out before the first season is over. I give it low odds of surviving to a second season and near-zero odds of a third.

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