Everyone loves a good TV drama serial - and the recent Criminal Justice, aired across five consecutive nights, was a very good TV drama serial. Yet there's something about the returning series - and I'm including "continuing drama" here, or soap, or whatever you want to call it - that can really deliver an unbeatable punch to the gut. I'll be stating the obvious here, but more in celebration of the art-form than attempting to make some big revelation.
Last night, I watched the final episode of a returning British TV drama series. It's one of the shows I need to catch up on, because I want to write for it. And one of the regular characters got killed. I'd been warned that this particular show had a somewhat ruthless approach to its regulars, but it was a big shock nonetheless. Not just because it was a surprise and a Big Moment, but because I felt I knew this character so well. After all, I'd spent a total of approximately 26 hours in their company. I'd watched them win the day, be a hero, be totally depressed and generally ponder their own existence. I'd done time with this person. Then, the next thing I knew, their corpse was being dragged out of a room. That's a big "ulp" moment, right there.
That's one of continuing drama's real strengths - big moments that really mean something, due to the amount of time we've devoted to the show. When it's done well, the viewer virtually feels grief. I felt like that last night. And Christ, don't even get me started on incredible US cop show The Shield (pic above). At the end of one of its seasons, something terrible happened which I still don't think I've come to terms with. I'm probably still in denial.
Warning: if anyone mentions Ethel Skinner from EastEnders, I will weep.