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“It’s bigger than it looks.”

“Right, these two again. Need a refill?”

Forgive me but one more brief rant about television. What is UP with shows that hobble perfectly watchable characters and situations with annoying and incomprehensible long-game backstories? Sense8 and Orphan Black, and Fringe and Alias before them, are in most ways just the kind of TV I like: human characters in the contemporary world who encounter the Unknown in some way. But keeping track of the story-that-drives-the-story, and keeping viewers invested in it, is not something any of these shows does well. It felt simultaneously like a sop and a surrender when Sense8 the other night brought in a character to simply info-dump all the business about Whispers, etc. into a monologue. But by that point Richard and I were beyond caring. “Oh, look, there go Waif Girl and Cop Boy. What are they doing, again? Who’s chasing them? Why?” Etc. Plus, you know that the Grand Design is probably only a front for an even grander one, which will be revealed if the series gets picked up for another season (Sense8 didn’t). Thus is the suspension of disbelief over-tried.

This feels like very anxious screen-writing to me, as if the shows are afraid they aren’t giving us enough for our money. Or that a conspiracy theory that Explains it All speaks to contemporary times, maybe. Fine, just don’t make me feel, um, Lost.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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