One big problem with mystery shows, as compared with (well-signposted) mystery novels, is that they don’t give the viewers time to think things through before the parlor room scene. There’s no clear narrative break-point where the viewer knows they have all needed evidence to solve the mystery and can stop to think; even if the detective comments that they know who did it, what are you going to do, pause 3/5 of the way through the episode to comb over all the clues and discuss the mystery with your friends and so forth? That’s impossible during the initial serialized release (since TVs don’t allow one to pause), and impractical when watching via stream or disk (since it requires groups of people to take the generally-unnatural action of staying paused in the middle of an episode for an extended timespan, and that’s if they know where to pause at all).

Fortunately, there happens to exist an already-developed TV structure perfect for avoiding this problem: the structure of the 1966-1968 Batman series. Each two-episode story (which was the show’s default length, albeit with occasional exceptions (always in the longer direction, not shorter)) ends its first episode with Batman and Robin in some sort of death-trap, and its second episode starts with them escaping the trap and ends with them beating the story’s villain(s).

I’d really like to see a mystery show based on a similar structure. The default story length is two episodes. The first episode of each story ends with a dramatic reveal after which, by one contrivance or another, the audience is clearly told that the case is now solvable. The second episode then starts with the protagonists responding to the big reveal, and ends with the parlor room scene. Live viewers get a week to think through and discuss the solution between the episodes’ releases, and after-the-fact viewers get the advantage of a clear narrative break-point at which to coordinate their pausing-and-thinking, for an overall-improved mystery-solving experience relative to the current one-episode-per-story status quo.

(For bonus quality-of-life, make sure each episode is free to stream at least until the release of its associated parlor-room-scene episode, such that live viewers are on equal footing with archival viewers in terms of being able to rewatch pre-reveal episodes and refresh their memory about all the clues.)


#interesting ideas #story ideas I will never write

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