Monday, February 28, 2011

Knowing When to Pull the Plug

I was actually inspired to write this post after giving a rather long-winded answer to an interesting question posed on Tracy's Forever Endeavor Blog.

I've mentioned before how much I loved V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic, and most of the subsequent books in the series. 

Notice I said most.  The first two books were out-and-out amazing.  Suspenseful, sad, and mind-blowingly effed-up in the best possible way.  Not to mention V.C.'s unmistakable flair for hinting at different interpretations of everything going on without ever giving the reader a concrete answer (was Sylvia really mentally impaired in My Sweet Audrina?  Did Corinne really dump Cory's body in another part of the attic, despite promising to give him a proper burial?  You are a masterful genius of torture, Virginia Andrews!)

But by the time I finished the third book in the Dollanganger series, I remember thinking hmm... V.C. was a little off her game on that one.
By the fifth and final book, I was scratching my head, wondering how things had veered so off course.  The storyline had gone from Wow, that's effed up! to Wow, that's just effing stupid!  The little things that drew me in had slowly disappeared; the intricacies of the plot, the dark depth of the storytelling.

I decided to try the Casteel series next, to see if I'd fare any better.  It was the same phenomenon all over again, except this time, it was worse.  Several of the characters spoke with distinct Southern accents, which disappeared as the series progressed.  And one character was named Walter Drake, after the explorer, but went by Drake.  Well someone obviously forgot this little detail, because a couple books later he's referred to as "Drake Ormond Casteel".  Was V.C. losing her mind?

No, but unfortunately, she did pass away from breast cancer in 1986.  The only books she finished before her death were My Sweet Audrina, Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, Heaven, and Dark Angel.  The rest were penned by a ghostwriter, and in my opinion, not a very good one.  Then again, how does a detail like getting a character's name wrong slip past the editors, too?

Which leads me to my main question.  When a series is concerned, why don't people seem to know when to leave well enough alone?  If it's already a ghost of what it once was, isn't it better to just let it die?

I'm sure not everyone noticed the difference in the V.C. Andrews novels, but I did, and it bothered me.  Was it greed that led publishers to plaster her name on the covers of books that weren't worthy of it? 

Pull the plug, people.  Don't let the quality of the work suffer.

I have a feeling something similar happened with Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series.  While none of the titles in the 8-book series will make it to my list of all time favorites, they were still an enjoyable read.  ** Be forewarned I will be giving away plot details next**

The whole premise of the series is the mystery surrounding the disappearance of pretty, popular Ali who dropped off the face of the earth after a fight with her four best friends.  Three years later, they each start receiving cryptic text messages signed "A" referencing things that only Ali knew.  Then Ali's body is found.  And the text messages keep coming. 

Not a mind-blowing plot, but intriguing enough to keep me reading for four books, after which it seemed the mysteries were solved and life would go back to normal.  In my opinion, I'm pretty sure this was where Sara Shepard intended for the series to end.  If it wasn't, it should have been.  Because after book four, things just got ridiculous.  Emily is banished to Amish country.  Hanna and Kate fight over perv-y Mike Montgomery.  Spencer turns out to be Ali's long-lost sister.  And worst of all, Ali turns up alive and well, despite her body having been found and buried in the first book.  She does disappear again, though I haven't read the last book to find out WTF was up with that, nor do I care to. 

That plug should have been pulled four books ago. 

My last example of a series that should have been put out of its misery is not a book, but it's dear to my heart all the same.  I'm talking, of course, about Smallville.

Siiiighhh, Smallville.  I can't tell you how many times I cried watching this show because I was so head over heels in love with everything about it.  Cried, like, hysterically.  If you've ever seen the episode where they flash back to Lex Luthor's birthday and no one came to his party, you know what I mean.  Or the episode where Clark lost his father trying to save Lana, or the episode where Lana married Lex after telling Clark she wanted to be with him... Ahem, Sorry.  I tend to gush when I talk about those first five seasons.

I just loved the angsty dynamic between Clark and Lana.  She was so darn pretty, I wanted to be her.
I lived for them to get together (Lois who?).  I loved the relationship between Clark and his parents, and I gave huge props for the fact that they always followed through on story lines.

For the first five seasons, that is.  I read in TV Guide a long time ago that the show was intended for a five-season run.  Then it became the most popular show on the CW network, and wouldn't you know it, the five season idea went out the window.  Along with it went the attention to detail I'd so admired. 

Now in it's eighth season, Smallville is virtually unrecognizable and utterly silly.  Jonathan is dead, Martha only comes around once in a blue moon, and Lex Luthor peaced out a couple seasons ago.   Tell me - how do you tell a story about Superman without Lex Luthor?  Sure Justin Hartley is one sexy piece of shirtless eye candy as Oliver, but it's just not the same without Michael Rosenbaums' darkly delicious villain.  And it irks me so badly that Clark and Lois are together.  Everyone knows that Lois Lane is supposed to be in love with the Superman persona and barely knows Clark Kent is alive.  She's certainly not supposed to be happily engaged to, and living with him, while fully aware of his dual identity.

But this is what happens when people, whomever they may be, refuse to let a series end on a high note and insist on squeezing blood from a stone. 

Of course, Tom Welling and his gorgeous lips and eyes still set my heart aflutter.  Look at him!
But that doesn't mean I wanted to see my beloved show run into the ground.  I would have rather seen it end too soon and end well than be reduced to a shadow of its former self because it was stretched too thin.

So I say again, pull the plug, people.  Quantity and quality are not one in the same. I hope if I am ever faced with the choice, I will choose quality.  Then again, I haven't had an offer to publish one book, let alone eight.

What's your opinion on the matter?

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading Flowers in the Attic so many years ago, and I remember after the 3rd or 4th book being like WTF and gave up!