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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Static from The Geek-In-Chief: One and Done?

Fox has teed up two high-concept new dramas this fall. One, Prison Break, plots an attempted jailbreak over an entire season, seemingly complete with twists and turns. The other, Reunion, is a soapy potboiler that relives the lives of a group of six friends over the last 20 years- neatly covering one year per episode.

Both show examples of how networks are trying to break through and change their image to be more like cable's top risk-takers, like HBO and FX. Sure, they can't compete in the nudity and profanity departments- neither of which, by the way, are necessary to make great television- but both concepts are preferable alternatives to another lame procedural drama (of course, FOX is doing that too- see Bones).

Here's my question: what happens if these shows are actually hits? How does a network renew them for a second season? They have finite concepts and story arcs. Sure, anything's possible, but will we still be interested if Prison Break's attempted escape drags on over three or four seasons? And if the escape does happen by the close of season one, what gimmick could they possibly use to make an interesting sophomore slate?

And Reunion is essentially a tarted up murder-mystery. When everything is wrapped up after 20 episodes, how do you believably squeeze out a second season? In Entertainment Weekly, producers say they'd take the lives of a couple of the principles, add a few others, and cover how their lives intersected in the last 20 years. Hmm... could work, but it sounds like a stretch. Of course, unless Fox shifts it from its deadly Thursday 9pm timeslot, Reunion won't need to worry about renewal.

Still, business matters aside, which are usually all that matters to TV networks, Fox deserves kudos for taking such creative chances with these two shows. I'm sure they welcome their success, and figure they'll worry about the future when- and if- they have to.

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