Saturday, May 10, 2014

I Wonder...a thought on Period Piece Television

I was thinking today about shows like Mad Men which are period piece dramas. And thinking about how the original crew (maybe screenwriter, director, producer) might have had a vision of the show and was patient about telling a story that takes place in a particular time/era. The first episode had the setting of March 1960.

Yet, the final season (season 7) started with the show taking place in 1969 - a very different time period after a very interesting decade in American history. I wondered if some of the original team (attached or unattached to the project by Season 7) perhaps found themselves less excited about portraying these characters in this different time period.

Granted, I'm sure that people are excited when a show is successful but it's interesting to think of these period piece dramas changing over time simply because the setting is forced to change by the way they propel the passing of time. Mad Men could have avoided this by keeping the story static and moving along at a snails pace through time - if 24 can have a whole season take place only in a day, a season of Mad Men theoretically could have been written to span only a month or two, keeping the film grounded in the early 1960s, as opposed to years at a time. Although, this probably wouldn't have truly suited the shows plot or it's fanbase.

Similarly, some other period dramas I've been watching are the BBC Masterpiece classic shows. The first episode of Downton Abbey took place in 1912, but by the end of Season 4 (the Christmas special to be precise), it was summer of 1923. Again, different time periods, by nature making it a different story -- to the show's betterment or disaster, and similarly I wonder if original creative crew members find 1923 less inspiring than 1912 based on their initial creation of the project.

Mr Selfridge another BBC show I enjoy has season 1 in 1909 and follows up season 2 in 1914.

It's interesting to think about time changes setting and plot, but the story I've wondered about is how time period changes impacts the energy, creativity, and ultimately the crew members involved in telling the stories in successful period drama.

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