After wasting away many, many hours on YouTube, curer of boredom, destroyer of revision, I stumbled across a video with John Cleese, talking about his puritanical streak. In this interview, John Cleese was asked about why he decided to leave Monty Python after three series, and his response was rather simple: ‘I was genuinely bothered that by the third series we weren’t really doing original material, we were doing permutations and combinations of sketches from the first two series.’ Although he said that he was a little exaggerated in his puritanical desire for only original content, I firmly agree with him that less can often be, and usually in fact is, more.
Today we see season after season after season of TV shows, and movie sequel after movie sequel after movie sequel. There have been eight Fast and Furious movies. Eight. People complained about three star wars movies being added to the saga, then three more, but at least the story there is one of the most original and interesting concepts ever to make it to the silver screen. Fast and Furious has its entire concept described in the title of the films; how they have made eight films out of being ‘fast’ and ‘furious’ is beggar’s belief. Money seems to be the driver of creative decision-making now, not the inception of new and original material. I understand the fact that these movies make money, and that is why they are made. But dragging every last possible inch and avenue out of an idea is cheap and dull. In life we are supposed to take risks. Art is an expression of this risk taking, the ability to express one’s inner self in a unique way. Art, especially film and TV, just aren’t willing to take these vital creative leaps of faith.
John Cleese only made two six-episode series of Fawlty Towers, Britain’s most loved sitcom. The Office UK only had two series, twelve episodes overall. It is almost impossible to find such high quality and original content in TV shows which ran for much longer than this. Some may be enjoyable and keep viewers throughout their long runs, but I doubt every episode can be as original and intelligent, something these shorter series do. The same applies to movies, of the top 100 movies according to IMDb, only fourteen are part of a saga of movies, the rest being stand-alones. And of those fourteen, ten are from Star Wars, The Godfather and the Lord of The Rings, three sagas (if you ignore the newer Star Wars movies) which are especially good. Trilogies can work, but it has to be an extraordinary idea for this to be the case. Overall, it would in fact appear that, less is indeed more.
To conclude, as much as Box Sets can be a life saver, especially for a hungover university student, a description habitually applicable to me, I hope that big producers start to take some initiative and creative faith and make more original and new content, not safe yet incredibly monotonous re-hashes. Life is about taking risks, hopefully the powers that be in the world of film and TV can take a leap and see what happens.