cliffhangers

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Cliffhangers in popular television series: Nefarious scheme or poignant plot device?

Analyse whether the use of cliffhangers in popular television series and their seasons, such as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, is a shallow attempt to maintain returning viewers or if it is an effective plot device.

  • Also, does the "shallow attempt" work? If it is considered as such, does this sort of basic viewer manipulation alienate viewers, or are they hooked regardless? – JimEis 5 years ago
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  • This sort of tactic is poignant to a degree and definitely expected from mega-popular series, and really any television show is going to leave at least some things unanswered by the end of the episode or season because that's basically how you keep viewers engaged. But I think after a certain point the manipulation becomes too obvious and it can be alienating for viewers because it takes them out of the moment and forces them to realize they're being toyed with in a sense. It would be interesting to see a piece about this that uses specific examples and the reactions from fans. – darapoizner 5 years ago
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  • Though cliffhangers are absolutely infuriating, they act like a drug that leads the viewer needing more and more of it. When everything is tied up in a nice bow, what is going to push the audience to impatiently await the start of the next season? I do view it as means of maintaining returning viewers, as well as acting as an effective plot device. Now, for clarification sake, it is an effective plot device when it is well thought out, drives the plot further, and serves a purpose in the show. Those cliffhangers that rely on pure sensationalism to "hook," the returning viewer, while leaving he or she with no real substance, is a shallow attempt to maintain returning viewers. Nice topic...I would like to see what is done with this. – danielle577 5 years ago
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  • It might benefit the topic, which is presently binary, to ask when is it effective and when is it manipulative, shallow, or unfair? – Tigey 5 years ago
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  • Very interesting idea. Cliffhangers are the ultimate catch 22. They might seem like a trope, but it is important to keep people interested. Plot is sometimes underestimated. – cbell 5 years ago
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  • In defense of GoT, there are too many story lines to not leave any one cliffhanger at the end of a season. Things just don't line up like that. As for the Walking Dead, as a consumer it did feel a bit cheap. In shows with only one real story line season ending cliff hangers don't inspire me to keep watching because everyone knows it'll all get resolved in the first bit of the next episode. Cliffhangers today need more depth, more layers to keep people interested, not just "oh, which one of these pre-determined people dies?" There's cliffhangers vs plot twists, and cliffhangers are the easier of the two. – Slaidey 5 years ago
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Do we need cliffhanger endings?

It seems like television shows always end the seasons with cliffhangers. But why? It’s been a long time since JR was shot and it had people talking for months to try to figure out who was responsible. Do cliffhangers matters anymore? Shows like Misfits managed to have satisfying endings with minor cliffhangers and were able to come back the next season with new stories. What purpose do cliffhangers serve especially in our constantly fractured TV landscape in America it’s become common to break seasons in half just to have a winter finale and then a end of the show season finale. Wouldn’t no cliffhangers better serve shows like the recently cancelled The Whispers or The Event both of which ended in cliffhangers that will never be resolved. Contrast to show that didnt end in cliffhangers like the miniseries turned full TV show The 4400 which was originally a miniseries that had a satisfying ending. And when it turned into a full series to my recollection ended with a cliffhanger.

  • I think the cliff-hanger ending (of seasons leading up to the finale) merely try get a rise out of the fans. An example of this was the finale to the third season of House of Cards. But I would not want a cliff-hanger at the finale of the series itself. – luminousgloom 6 years ago
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  • Cliff-hanger endings have always served the same purpose: to get people talking, and to convince them to come back in droves for the next season to see what happened. Only in hindsight, if a show gets cancelled before a cliffhanger is resolved, does it seem like a pointless inclusion. But it wouldn't quite be the same if that cliffhanger had been resolved. Some shows can thankfully set things up to end on a good note if they get a memo early enough in advance that their show will be cancelled, which is what happened with "Brisco County Jr." But if it pops up inbetween seasons, then no one can do anything about it, like what happened to "My Name is Earl." – Jonathan Leiter 6 years ago
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  • I think it depends. I think you can still have a satisfying show without cliffhangers depending on your genre/show style. I don't think it's necessarily bad to use them though either. It generates intrigue and talk. It allows the viewers to involve themselves in the story even though it's not currently airing and they are waiting for the next season to start. I kind of like the excitement personally. And I like to think and scheme and wonder instead of be handfed the story passively. But again, I think some plots lend better to being consumed passively vs. actively, so I think it's really up to the writers. That said, obviously from a monetary standpoint, building hype and buzz usually generates revenue which is always the goal. – Tatijana 6 years ago
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  • "Only in hindsight, if a show gets cancelled before a cliffhanger is resolved, does it seem like a pointless inclusion." --- I think it's the other way around. It's always a pointless inclusion and only in hindsight if they don't get cancelled does it seem like brilliant forethought. I don't think that cliffhangers really get people talking like they used to when a television show was a unifying force. --- "And I like to think and scheme and wonder instead of be handfed the story passively." --- There's still room for ploting and scheming. There's just no reason to stretch it out over the season break when no one knows for certain if they'll be back. If you KNOW you're back there's room to argue for cliffhangers but take Scream Queens for instance and Harper's Island as well. Both of which had active communities trying to ID the killer while the show airs. It's not the end of show talk if you talk week to week. – wolfkin 6 years ago
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  • There really hasn't been a cliffhanger phenomenon quite like "Who Shot JR?." It was really the first, and best example of what the cliffhanger is for: to raise awareness and word-of-mouth regarding a show in order to draw more viewers. Since cliffhangers are used now with such frequency, they have lost their initial punch. However, every now and then, it still works. When Rick Grimes and his group of survivors were captured by cannibals at the end of Season 5 of "The Walking Dead," it did lead to a huge audience for the next season's premier. I think, at this point, what cliffhangers do best is to speak to our own addiction to anticipation. Waiting months to resolve hanging storylines feels almost like that post-Thanksgiving anticipation for Christmas morning. – TheHall 6 years ago
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