Creative commentary plus crafty composition

It’s interesting how the length of a TV series season has evolved over the last 50 years. Into the 1960s, there were some with seasons of more than twenty-six episodes: Perry Mason, The Wild Wild West, and Lost in Space are three examples (all on CBS). Nowadays, depending on the network, a season usually varies between ten and twenty-two episodes, although certain shows at times have had more (Frasier being an example). But I digress…

As with many other ‘full season’ TV series, GRIMM has ended its season run this month; this was last Friday, with the last of its fifth season escapades on NBC combined into a two-hour cliff-hanger. (It has been limitedly renewed for a sixth.) Frankly, while I and a small legion of loyal followers of the show are happy about this, I don’t think many of us would have given it a chance initially of making it past one or two seasons. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it was too different.

Truly original shows – of which GRIMM would be up there, but in the second tier overall – tend to have a short track record on traditional network television. It’s really since the emergence of Fox, then HBO, Showtime, and so on, that programs with more original premises have had a chance to grow. I believe this situation contributed to what is deemed one of the pioneers impacting the horror with humour genre, namely, Kolchak: The Night Stalker; the latter had one season of twenty episodes in 1974-5, then a brief revival about ten years ago, as Night Stalker, in which only six of ten produced episodes were aired on ABC. In my opinion, a lack of support in both cases by the alphabet network contributed to their short life spans, especially time slot scheduling in the revival’s case.

The most direct ‘descendent’ of the Kolchak era, including its two highly successful TV movies, was The X-Files, an important contributor to putting Fox TV on the map. Indeed, the creator of that series, Chris Carter, has acknowledged that the adventures of Darren McGavin’s relentless reporter, Carl Kolchak, was one of the inspirations for his own iconic creation.

Insofar as GRIMM is concerned, it started out on the base structure of a police procedural, but with a major tangential curve: a number of citizens, including those in positions of influence, have within them an inner beast, long existing in a range of manifestations and powers, frequently detrimental to we normal folks. The setting in Portland, Oregon, plays a part; the wooded areas in which much outdoor action occurs is reminiscent of the Pacific northwest around Twin Peaks, or near Vancouver. The title character refers to a detective, who early on discovers the secret of his ancestors: that, as Grimms, they act as hunters and peacekeepers in this secret world. Thus, elements of what both Kolchak and Mulder/Scully faced live on.

In the spirit of the genre, where twists to the narrative twists are common, here’s the interjection of a GRIMM life lesson or two:

  • become adept at watching for, and adapting to, the unexpected; those without ‘the prepared mind’ become easy prey for the secretly powerful; however, even preparedness may be guarded with only the safety catch on (an invitation to vulnerability)
  • the adage that ‘those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it’, comes into play; as the show’s name implies, there is a folk-tales’ backdrop to be adapted; as one might expect, things won’t always end well – violence is often an end and a means
  • as our world has become so interconnected due to technology, that intertwining has influenced our manners of communication, thus our interactions; many events which seem black or white from an outside perspective take on many other hues when the dots are considered more closely; some discoveries, peeled from below the surface, may put selves and personalities on a different plane

Being adept at adapting, and ‘following the money’ (or whatever currency), work with almost any genre. Visible in the mirror or not, this often reflects life, happily not often with the bizarre complications of a GRIMM one.

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