The season 2 finale of the hit Fox show, Lethal Weapon, aired recently. It placed lead reckless cop Martin Riggs in a pickle. With Riggs’ relocation to Texas in his future and a gunshot wound to the chest to stop it. The finale’s storytelling built from two seasons of law-breaking family turmoil and a rollercoaster relationship with his partner-turned-captain on the force Roger Murtaugh.
Which held some of the series’ most raw and real performances from the show’s lead actors, Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford, leaving me in tears and begging for answers.
Warner Bros. opted to renew the series in the wake of Crawford’s firing. Bringing actor Sean William Scott on board as a new lead opposite Wayans. The situation begs a question that needs answering in the entertainment industry today:
At what point will storytelling matter more than money?
We will not comment on the actions of Crawford, the cast of Lethal Weapon, FOX or Warner Bros. We do not align ourselves one way or the other in this matter in terms of actions taken. That is not the focus or point of this article.
Where Did It Begin?
Lethal Weapon, a successful reboot of the movie franchise of the same name, has been met with its success because of its superb casting and excellent and witty writing. Met with situations similar to these, the majority of TV shows and movies who have pressed on despite the loss of key characters or actors have been met with subpar results.
However, the lowest season finale ranking the show had seen by 1990s-2000s standards.
Some Didn’t Fall After They Rose, Though…
Playing devil’s advocate, some shows have managed to rise from the ashes of their lost brethren with nary a scar. ABC’s long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy — despite numerous upsets from beloved characters’ departures (McDreamy, anyone?) — has maintained relatively steady ratings.
With only a slow decline over several seasons demonstrating the decrease of live viewership and subsequent increase of DVR views and streaming. Some shows have even built cast turnover into their premises.
BBC’s hit sci-fi Doctor Who thrives off of the main character’s “regenerations” into another form (i.e. change of lead actor/actress). While others, like True Detective and American Horror Story, make each season its own open-and-close story. This allows for new characters, cast, and stories to thrive under the same umbrella.
Storytelling — Substance VS. Money
There are shows that worked and didn’t work when circumstances changed since the beginning of the film industry. These recent examples highlight an unnerving trend with modern-day storytelling:
Substance is taking a backseat to bankability.
With media having such a hefty influence on the development and evolution of society, the top priority of today’s media companies should be to bring to fruition untold stories. Stories that can impact culture and influence positive change in its consumers.
It is understandable a business needs to be profitable to be sustainable. The current state of affairs in various parts of our culture deserves reflection in the form of impactful, diverse, and inspiring content. Not the last-ditch efforts of an industry too slow in adapting to its consumers’ changing desires.
We need substance. We need stories, not unimaginative money grabs.