There seem to be only two types of fiction-based TV programme:
The episode starts, everything changes, then everything ends exactly the same way it started. This is typified by comedies, such as The Simpsons, which often have crazy storylines that seem irretrievable, but end up where they began. In fact, more than one episode of The Simpsons has parodied this technique.
The episode starts, everything changes, then everything ends up differently at the end. This is typified by soaps such as Eastenders.
The first type of programme reflects the comforting nature of an unchanging world - viewers know it isn’t really going to change, so they don’t need to ‘worry’. Put cynically, it’s unchallenging. The second type of programme appeals to viewers who are looking for a programme that keeps them interested - it gradually evolves and so is guaranteed to be different every time. Put cynically, it’s a ploy to cover for weak plots.
So why aren’t there more programmes that are somewhere in the middle? One of the better examples I’ve seen of a programme that strikes a balance between the two is Arrested Development, but this isn’t too popular. Lost gave it a go for a while, but then began to repeat itself.
Please, TV producers, can we have some more?