‘Homeland,’ ‘Rockford’ and Why I Love the 13-Episode Arc

In response to Lost and Fringe Come to Mind:


I was less troubled by the politics of “Homeland” than John S., but the plot was ridiculous, especially season two. “SNL” captured the show’s contrivances perfectly, especially the annoying daughter who always pops up to excuse the spouting of exposition. I wouldn’t watch season three on a bet.

Unlike Ace, though, I love this new approach to dramatic television using the 10 to 13-episode season. “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “The Walking Dead” — all brilliant character studies that unfold like classic literature. You can also “re-read” them without losing the power of the spell cast.

Thanks to this new phenomenon known as binge-viewing, it’s fascinating to watch older shows this way. Like many dramas of its era, “The Rockford Files” (my all-time favorite) is self-contained — the characters, circumstance, and relationships never evolve. Throughout its six seasons, Rockford’s always the grumpy, single P.I. who lives in a trailer, fishes and bickers with his dad, and gets duped by Angel Martin. If Rockford falls in love in one episode, by the next it’s forgotten. The “formula” stays the same.

The beauty of that approach is that it’s very, very comforting.

By the way, one of the creators of “Rockford,” the brilliant Stephen J. Cannell, gave us “Wiseguy” — the first show to break “formula” and tell a long story over multiple seasons.  

P.S. I’m re-watching “Lost” now. I sure missed those characters.