Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Prison Break: Where did it all go wrong?

The first in a series of posts about great TV shows which somewhere along the way turned truly terrible.

I came across Prison Break via a friend. He described it in a similar way as to how Homer Simpson described a certain blockbuster film...

There was a lot of 'these guys are in prison and they're trying to break out, then they break out and there's another prison and...'

Bless him.

Anyway, after a little research it seemed that almost everyone was raving about Prison Break. After a little more research I found out that they were only raving about the first couple of seasons. Apparently it was all downhill from season 3.

Eventually I got around to watching it. Not all of it - I'm still a couple of episodes away from the end - but I can see what 'people' meant about the drop in quality.

To be honest, I wasn't blown away by season 1. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't amazing. Most of the problem was that it was very episodic. Start of the episode there'd be a problem with the break out of prison plan. They'd spend the whole episode solving the problem. End of the episode there'd be another problem. Repeat for every single episode that season.

Then there was the whole 'lawyer' thing, which was completely terrible. I didn't give a damn about the people outside the prison, that was dull & boring. The interesting stuff was the break out, not the conspiracy.

Season 2, on the other hand, was fantastic. They were on the run, people were being killed, you had no idea who'd live and who'd die. The lawyer stuff was gone & the conspiracy was now interesting.  Everything came to a head as the season ended and then...

There was some silly set up for another year.


It should have ended there. The entire plot was more or less resolved but then it carried on. Obviously the writers didn't quite know how to progress the storyline, so with season 3 everyone is back in prison.


Actually, the prison bit wasn't really that bad. What was really bad was that at no point was the character - Whistler - that the evil company wanted the good guys to break out of prison, made clear whether he was good or evil. Fair enough, keep the audience guessing, but his motivation seemed to change so often that it didn't come across that even the writers knew who's side he was on. As a result I didn't really give a damn.

Season 2 resolved completely the plot surrounding the Evil Company controlling the president of the USA, possibly the most powerful person on the planet. In season 3 they're not trying to do this any more, which makes their plans seem a lot smaller from then on, when really as the story progresses the plans of the Big Bad ought to be getting bigger.

Thankfully the season was cut short due to the writer's strike. Unfortunately, Prison Break came back for season 4.

This didn't begin too badly. True, some of the set-up was a little... Well, it wasn't something a viewer ought to pay too much attention too because it didn't really make any sense. But at least there was a plot - bring down the company - and it rattled along a bit like MacGyver or Hustle, with a new mission every week building to a Big Mission.

And it was okay, until halfway through when the Big Mission was over...and then it all went silly again. The entire season's plot thus far was rendered pointless, at which point I wanted to give up watching. I didn't want to see how the characters moved forward from absolute bottom, as I suppose the writers intended, I simply wanted to stop.

Seasons 1 and 2 were heavily grounded in reality. True, a man having his entire escape plan tattooed all over his body doesn't sound too plausible, but it made a kind of sense. The entire escape plan made sense. It seemed reasonable. In season 4 we get a ridiculous amount of super technology. It's almost moving into sci-fi and certainly isn't a world I can relate to any more.

As I move into the final few episodes, things have gone Super Silly. With time running out for the series it seems they're throwing everything they can into it in a desperate attempt to make it exciting. Allegiances switched, people back from the dead, more super-tech, plot holes as big as craters...

It's all too much.

Prison Break should have ended after season 2. It was fantastic television up until that point. Sadly it seemed that upon conception of the show no one ever considered what would happen beyond the first couple of years and there simply wasn't enough story there to sustain the show for any longer. I've heard the counterargument - that a load of shows that do have a 5 year plan mapped out are cancelled early on. Things like Flash Forward or Carnivale, for example. But to me, that doesn't seem a good reason not to plan ahead. For every one of those shows cancelled before their time, there's a Babylon 5 which, against all the odds, managed to complete its entire planned run.