Storytelling

Most TV shows are after the unexpected. They want to create that water cooler moment that brings you back the next week, still buzzing about what you saw before. John Locke was in a wheelchair. Livia Soprano takes out a hit on her son. Michael Scott drives a car into a lake. The secretary runs over the new guy’s foot with a lawn tractor. All of these moments – good and bad – traffic in that instant when you gasp in shock and awe, amazed by the way the storyteller led you away from what you expected and toward something else entirely. Being surprised by a story is one of the most basic of human thrills. But I don’t think it should be the only thing we build our stories off of. The more storytellers try to surprise the audience, the more the audience goes in always expecting to be surprised. But stories can do other things as well. They can move us or comfort us. They can create a way for us to re-hear truths we’ve long believed. They can reflect our lives as they’re really lived. Surprise is a great tool, but it often seems like the only tool TV fans and critics value anymore. There’s something to be said for a story that holds a mirror up to our own flaws and emotions and says, “We know how this feels, too.”

Todd VanDerWerff on “Huge”