Popular culture demands of us that we take treat many things "as read." We see the protagonist climbing out of bed in the morning. We cut to a scene that shows him beginning his day at work. We take as read all the events in between, showering, dressing, eating breakfast and the drive to work. We accept that he did these things. We understand that they are not germane to the story at hand. We are happy to have them elided from the show, to take them as read.
It's amazing how good we are at taking things as read. Even unambitious shows hurl us around with scant exposition and very few sign posts. Suddenly, our protagonist is in a large office building. That's ok. This is probably where he works, we think. We "stayed tuned." If this turns out to be someone else's place of work, we are quite happy to adjust.
We are happy to supply assumptions, and we are amiable about it. We don't think, "office building? Wonder if it's in Rio?" No, if the show has been set in LA, we are happy to assume that this building is in LA. We are just that cooperative. (Or philosophically undemanding.)
Viewers are active, even when they are not fans. They are active even when they are not especially literate in matters of media. That's what it is to belong to our culture. We are highly skilled at taking things as read (TTAR).
But TTAR can be dangerous. Once we have accepted the editing it performs on the story, what's to stop us from editing too. We see a scene taking shape, two people arguing, perhaps, what's to stop us from saying, "Got it. Argument. Let's just take this as read and move on."
A virulent form of TTAR can consume the entire show. We need only see the characters and the opening scene to think, "Very well. Good guys. Bad Guys. Conflict. Resolution. Theme music. Fade to TTAR."
Indeed the more formed a show is by genre, the more likely we are to respond by issuing a summary TTAR order. Because if we know the genre, and the show is genre bound, we can say quite precisely what's going to happen. Take a show like Law and Order, this is so very predetermined that it's a wonder that anyone bothers to watch it anymore. (But of course we do. A mystery for another time.)
I have watched two espisodes of V. This is a show with lots going for it, including several great performances, but it does feel a little predictable, a little confined. Some way into the second espisode, I could hear myself thinking: "Good guys. Bad guys. From outer space. Conflict. Resolution. …" God, even the criticism begs for abbreviation. This "visitation" genre is now well known. Visitors with terrible powers of control… The plucky band of humans who resist… How many times have we seen this played out? And where can they go with it? It doesn't feel like there are many options here. This genre might be relatively new but it's beginning to feel like its already hollowed out. V feels like a show straight out of the TTAR pits of formulaic television.
I could be wrong, and I hope I am. But I don't believe V will flourish.