In order to catch up on my attempts at daily posts, the previous one was a really good YouTube video that pretty much explains the entire point I wanted to make. The guy did a better job than me and way earlier so he gets the credit. Expect to see posts of cool yet long videos about once a week or so. Anyway back to this post. This afternoon I noticed that The Simpsons Movie was on and I immediately made sure to see it in its entirety. I have seen a lot of episodes throughout the years but I never really bothered to see the film when it first came out. Still it’s fairly interesting to consider that enough seasons of a program has a movie as a natural extension of itself. So how does serial fiction change when you suddenly make it not a serial in a new medium? Let’s explore.
First off you have to try and figure out some sort of continuity between the two formats. Is the movie doing things on its own or does it let the show serve up all the introductions to settings, characters, and the most basic elements of a plot? Is it the equivalent of a really long episode or three episodes semi loosely connected together? Does it make a difference if the show is still ongoing or if the show has officially ended. Do the events occur post the series finale and are actually a sequel or could it happen at any moment in the narrative? It gets pretty weird and complex once you start thinking about it.
The Simpsons Movie works as a long episode that genuinely has some funny moments but the divisions in the story are pretty tangible. Now they are not nearly as marked as say the Futurama movies which have actually been subdivided into four episodes and placed within general programming. It gets particularly weird when you are watching a marathon that actually contains these episodes in order and the breaks between commercials and theme songs really makes for a different viewing experience than say a DVD or even seeing the movie on television. One interesting example of this juggle between show and movie can be found in Family Guy’s Star Wars hour long episodes. The first one was shown on tv and much later turned into a DVD special. The second one more of a simultaneous thing occurred as it was aired on tv and then immediately announced the dvd. The third one started on dvd and it would be more than a year before you could see it on tv and even then it’s on a very limited availability.
The ability to make a feature length film but distribute it via DVD now makes for a relatively easy way to maintain a show going even after the networks have cancelled the show and syndication still isn’t a foreseeable option. Animated shows like Futurama and Family Guy did this to get back into normal serialization. Now live action serials tread into shaky territory as contracts with actrs and filming schedules get pretty hectic. Often times it takes an effort long after the program itself has officially ended before you can get the (most of) the cast to come together and actually make the movie. Just look at the examples of the X Files movie or the Sex and the City films. Actually it’s better if you don’t look at them directly (they’re not exactly very good).
I wonder what happens when the reverse of making a show after a successful movie. maybe something for another post in the near future..