Never mind on-demand and box sets, we still love to talk about a TV cliffhanger

When it comes to a truly popular, talked-about TV moment - the old rules still apply

Share

During a splendid half-hour interview with the novelist Margaret Atwood on the BBC News Channel this week, the interviewer asked something about the way the writer had ended her latest novel. Ms Atwood’s eyes widened and her friendly gaze became menacing. “You’re not going to talk about the ending!” she half asked, half demanded, incredulously.

Sadly, talking about endings has become all the rage. Critics in all art-forms increasingly take a perverse delight in revealing the dénouement. When I read, as I often do, “I will say nothing about the startling coup de théâtre/plot twist, unsettling climax, except to say…” I always stop reading, knowing that the “except to say” will say too much.

And then there is the case of the cult TV programme, the programme that really does make it to the water-cooler, the programme that demands coverage of its last night as much, if not more, than its first night. This week that programme has been the brilliant American comedy-drama Breaking Bad. I’m a bit tardy with Breaking Bad, so have invested in the box set and have not yet reached the final episodes. So I tried (God, how I tried) to avoid the reviews, stories, features, cartoons, that flung the dénouement in my face. I never dreamt quite how difficult that would be.

I would read a report of the Conservative Party Conference, I thought, there at least I would be safe. But, no. Political sketchwriters and columnists seeking popular-culture metaphors for some arcane aspect of Tory policy turned to Breaking Bad and its dénouement or the final stages. Nowhere, from the travel pages to the sports pages, from football to cookery, even “Thought for the Day”, has been safe. And, as I contemplate my expensive box set about which I now know far too much, I do begin to ponder on the fact that the way we consume and comment on popular TV remains more traditional than we think.

This is the age, we are told again and again, when we watch TV on computer, on “catch-up”, or on box sets, or Sky-Plussed, any old way but on the night of transmission. And that clearly is the case with any number of TV series. But when it comes to a truly popular, talked-about TV moment, then the old rules still apply. It will be reviewed, it will be discussed at the water-cooler, it will be the subject of any number of passing comments on the week of its broadcast. Put a recording of it away for a rainy day or a cold winter’s night, and your enjoyment will be, if not ruined, then certainly tarnished.

And, despite my doleful gazes to that expensive box set, I feel somehow pleased that in a multi-channel, catch-up, box-set, download environment, the communal thrill of a shared climax to a TV series remains.

Helen Fielding’s life would look big in a book

I’m a big fan of Bridget Jones and its author Helen Fielding, and have been since the column first appeared on the pages of the Independent in the Nineties, when Helen Fielding worked for the company. What may have been forgotten in the intervening years when Bridget became a bestseller then two hugely popular films, is that the column started as a quirky experiment and wasn’t even at the top of a page. One had to look downpage in the old broadsheet format to find it. I don’t know if the author plans any more Bridget Jones books after the one that is about to be published, but if not then I’d like to see if a Helen Fielding autobiography.

Tales of her early friendship with Richard Curtis, working for charity in Africa, then creating a national heroine, finding completely unexpected fame and fortune, falling out with feminist critics, going to live in California, getting married, having the marriage break up, returning to London as a single mother… I suspect it has been a life just as interesting as that of her famous creation.

A sheepish rekindling of Shakespearean romance

Greg Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has announced that the RSC is developing a three-year relationship with the Barbican Centre in London, during which time it will use its theatre. This is the theatre which was the RSC’s home for 20 years from 1982, but which it walked out on 11 years ago. Mr Doran says that the RSC and the Barbican are “dating” and “not announcing wedding plans”. It feels more to me like a curmudgeonly husband who left his wife then realised that he couldn’t find anyone better and went back with his tail between his legs, begging to be let back into the marital home. “Dating” is altogether a too romantic way of looking at it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor