All mythology shows should be on cable. Or, why "The Event" is doomed


© NBC Universal, Inc. Photo by Justin Lubin.  

I want "The Event" to succeed. I also wanted "FlashForward" to get a second season.

But I know disappointment will once again deliver a kick to my crotch in a matter of months. It's inevitable: "The Event" won't get a second season. Hell, it might not get a second episode.

Here's why: Mythology shows -- the series that require, you know, attention -- just don't work on major networks anymore. "Lost" -- my beloved "Lost" -- will go down as both the pinnacle and the end of Big Network myth-based television. A show that dense and twisty and challenging will only, from this point on, show up on cable.

The problem lies in two core and unfixable issues in the myth-network relationship

1. Most people don't like to expend cognitive energy on television. Decades of mind-numbing episodes have programmed a whole lot of people to switch off their brains when the TV goes on. That's neither good nor bad. It just is. And I don't cast any judgement on folks who use the tube as a relaxation device. That's a fair choice. It just doesn't mix with the effort myth shows require.

2. There's a reason myth-based shows work best on DVD: the narrative doesn't drop when the episode ends. Just feed another disc into the drive and off you go. Networks got savvy to this and started playing the likes of "Lost" and "24" without repeats. But even that technique -- which I fully support -- doesn't guarantee audiences will return week after week. People get distracted. They've got stuff to do. So they miss an episode here and there and get behind and then ... well, they give up because the narrative no longer connects and it's too much work to catch up. That's how a show that once got 23 million viewers can precipitously drop to 8 million.

These two issues separate the die-hard fans from everyone else. On cable networks, die hards are enough: gather 2-4 million consistently and you've got a viable cult hit. But major networks need watchers because 2 million ain't gonna cut it with advertisers or network execs. The Big Networks might aim for fanatics, but what they really need are the drop-ins and the occasionals, the mindless and the insomniacs.

Put another way: bored people pay the bills.

So enjoy "The Event" while it lasts.

Tags:   cable, FlashForward, Lost, mythology, network, The Event