Story Shamans Podcast – Episode 4 – Mad Men

SPOILERS:

Mad Men

SHOW NOTES:


Related Shamans Videos to Check out:

Identity vs. Essence

Season 3: Point of No Return

Season 4: Change of Circumstances

Season 7

Season Variations

Season 4: Promotion/Slump

Story Shamans Podcast – Episode 3 – The Shield

SPOILERS:

The Shield, The O.C. kinda…, Game of Thrones kinda…

SHOW NOTES:


Related Shamans Videos to Check out:

Resolution of the Core Conflict

Core Concept

Impossible Decision

Season 4

Season 5

Season 6

Season 7

Season 4 (part 4) – Even Trade of Characters & Promotion

Season 4

Dramatic Pace

Has two traits:

  • Even Trade, for your roster of characters
  • Promotion

Even Trade

In season 2, our previous separation/negative/deviation season, we had a change in our roster of characters with “new blood.” That meant we were bringing in new people – explicitly adding to the story’s roster of characters.

For an “even trade” in characters, this means…

We’re gonna lose some, and gain some, in equal measure.

What does this look like? Let’s take a peek:

In season 4 of Friday Night Lights they traded show regulars:

  • Street
  • Lyla
  • Smash
  • Tyra

for

  • Vince
  • Luke
  • Becky
  • Jess

That’s 4 for 4. That’s a straight even trade.

Glee did the same thing. After season 3, most of the glee club graduated. And while we kept up with some of them, like Rachel, Kurt, and Santana – others fell by the wayside, only making the occasional appearance, like:

  • Mercedes
  • Quinn
  • Mike

With a lot of the group having graduated, the club needs new members. So in come:

  • Jake
  • Marley
  • Ryder
  • Kitty

Generally speaking, that’s an even trade. Out with the old and in with the new, as life goes on.

An even trade of this size works best on large ensemble shows. The smaller the cast, the smaller the trade.

Promotion

What this means, is a little difficult to pin down. But basically:

The quality of your show has to go up. The show has to get better.

You’re giving your story a “promotion” in the eyes of the audience. The show was good before, but now it’s really killin’ it.

Why? Why do we need to specifically make the show so much better than before? Well, it’s been 3 full seasons now. Most shows don’t last even that long.

If your show is going to go for a second era, then you’ve got to show your audience that there’s more story to tell. You’ve got to open up the story to bigger and better things. You’ve gotta show them that the best is yet to come.

Let’s take a look at a story that really nailed the promotion:

LOST.

For the first three seasons, LOST was doing fantastic things with the stranded-on-an-island idea. But to “promote” the story, they moved past the mysterious island angle and opened up the story to bigger and better things. We’re shown that in the future, some of the survivors get off the island. Things get weirder, more complex, as mystery upon mystery teases itself into the future. More intricate mythology, and deeper, wider reaching questions, about not just the island, but: Why these people? Why go back to the island?

This is what we mean when we say “promotion.”

They even took it one step further in promoting not just the story content of the show, but the format as well. Season 4 ditches the flashback format from the previous era, and instead utilizes the flashforward format in the new era. That’s a definite promotion. Good work, LOST.

A more subtle example would be something like Dexter.

Season 4 pushed the quality of the show to new heights. The first three seasons were quite good, but season four really hit its stride and arguably achieved the series’ high point: Rita’s death.

Now, we understand this “promotion” idea can be fairly subjective. Especially when one of its main components is:

“Hey, make it ‘better.'”

But keep in mind, the general idea of the promotion is to open the show up to greater possibilities. Breathe new life into the overall story by leaving behind what’s already been explored – search out new vistas. Specifically new, cooler, more interesting vistas. Season 4 should feel like the meaningful culmination of everything that’s come before.

It’s like reinventing the show in a way. By season 4, you need to communicate to your audience that not only is there more story to tell, but better story to tell.

But what if you don’t promote. What’s the harm? Well, then you’ve got what we call a:

Slump

If the quality of your show was solid all through seasons 1, 2, and 3. And then you stick to the same general level of quality in season 4, then you’ve “slumped.” The show can’t stay the same level of quality. Because even if they don’t consciously realize it, the audience unconsciously needs things to get significantly better after the first era’s over.

Promoting isn’t an option, it’s a necessity for the longevity of your story.

If season 4 doesn’t take the story to new heights, then it’s no longer building with forward momentum, it’s sliding backward into inferiority. The best days of the story will be behind you and your audience will feel it. They will lose interest and stop watching. They’ll be thinking:

“The show peaked, what’s the point?”

It makes sense right? The first chunk is over, and they want the next chunk to be that much cooler. They want it to be an improvement upon the foundation set by the first era. If it’s just more of the same, they’re going to lose interest.

A lot of shows have suffered a slump in their season 4, and then never really recovered from the lost momentum:

  • Nip/Tuck
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Rescue Me

They all had more seasons, sure. But the quality of the show never really recovered. Nobody really loved the show as much as they did previously.

They all coasted too much in season 4. These season 4’s weren’t necessarily worse than seasons 1, 2, or 3. But not explicitly better either. As a result, you’ve got no “promotion,” but a “slump” instead.

You can recover from a slump, but it’s an uphill battle.

Arguably The Sopranos did it. Season 4 was not great. It was too much of the same from the past 3 seasons. The circumstances weren’t very different, no real shake-up, nothing bigger, badder, more interesting, higher stakes. It was just continuing on from season 3, still playing out things that probably should have been wrapped up last season. As a consequence: it’s a slump.

Not a huge one. But a noticeable one.

Season 4 was arguably their weakest season, when it needed to be one of their strongest. But, season 5 got things moving again. It’s arguably one of their strongest. It picked the quality back up, and things worked out in the end.

What if your season 4 isn’t the same level of quality, but noticeably worse?

Oh boy…

What if you’ve “run out of ideas” and season 4 is worse than any part of the season 1, 2, 3 era? That’s a true slump that’s very difficult to recover from. A noticeably bad season 4 is a show breaker.

So when putting together your season 4, make sure to swap out an even number of characters for new ones. And go out of your way to up the quality of your show. Open it up to new ideas, grand new story threads, and a general sense of everything getting more meaningful and even better than ever before.



Season 3 (part 1) – Power

Season 3

Dramatic Structure:

There are 3 areas of concern:

Its:

Connection

theme is expressed through the idea of:

“Power”

It’s all about power.

This “power” theme has two common ways of being expressed:

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sexual Violence

Loss or Gain of Power

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Some element of your story, like a character or an organization, will either gain power they didn’t have before, or lose the power they already had.

Let’s look at some examples:

At the end of the second season of LOST, Desmond turned the key in the floor of the hatch station. When we pick up with him in season 3, he’s gained the superpower of having premonitions and mentally jumping around in his own timeline. That’s some power – gained.

In Mad Men season 3, we see Sterling Cooper bought by P.P.L. – Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. Our characters now have bosses. Bosses that now control the direction of their company. This is a clear case of power – lost.

Sexual Violence

In season 3, you’ll commonly see instances of sexual violence. Why? Because it’s not really about the sex. It’s all about power.

Let’s put our peepers on some examples:

In season 3 of Nip/Tuck the main bad-guy of the season is “The Carver.” He was first introduced at the end of season 2, but season 3 is all about him. He’s a serial rapist who likes to disfigure people’s faces. Yikes. He’s even attacked one of our main characters, Christian. The character of the Carver is this “sexual violence” idea made manifest. He’s all about rape and violence, specifically as a means of power.

In The Shield season 3, Aceveda gets raped at gunpoint. In that moment, he is powerless to stop it. We see another level of this power idea at play when Aceveda later uses his power as a police captain to completely destroy the life of his attacker. Power lost, and power leveraged.

While we’re talkin’ about The Shield, let’s dig a little deeper.

Season 3 also sees the inclusion of the serial “Cuddler” rapist character, William Faulks. He rapes victims, cuddles with them, and towards the end – starts murdering them. The interesting part about this instance of sexual violence, is that Dutch is convinced that the raping and the killing are all about exerting power. But once the Cuddler is caught, he explains that it was never about that. For him, it was about that unexplainable thing he feels when he watches his victims die. He asks Dutch to explain what that thing is to him. But Dutch can’t do it, he doesn’t understand it. Dutch’s big case culminates in him feeling completely powerless to explain the very thing he thinks himself an expert in – the inner workings of the criminal mind.

Everywhere you look it’s all about power.