Sunday, 12 September 2010

Well-Rendered jumps the shark

It had to happen. The glittering insight and linguistic dexterity that have thus far defined Well-Rendered in its first year of life are no longer able to sustain themselves. Like the aliens in Independence Day, they have consumed all the fodder on their home planet and must now bundle themselves into cumbersome spaceships, travel to another planet, destroy the native lifeforms and feed off its natural resources until it too is left barren.

Only Will Smith can save us now.

Hang on a minute, that's not Will Smith!

"Jumping the Shark" is a term that refers to the point when a much-loved television show has gone on just a bit too long, and starts relying on cheap thrills, illogical plot developments and inconsistant characterisation in order to maintain audience figures.

It is named after the episode of Happy Days when The Fonz water skis over a shark. I never watched Happy Days, but apparently this incident is not only a preposterous stunt, but also a travesty which manages to negate much of the good work done by earlier episodes of Happy Days towards the development of Fonzie's character. A previous incident in the life of Arthur Fonzarelli sees him bed-bound and full of remorse after attempting a reckless stunt, and he learns to think more about the consequences of his actions, and that looking cool isn't that important after all.

Having him water-ski over a shark in a later episode thus heralded Happy Day's descent into self-parody and its prioritisation of cheap thrills over character development, and it was never quite the same again. This is the case with any television show - once the shark has been jumped, there's no going back.

The most painful episodes of shark-jumpage that I have experienced are Red Dwarf and Futurama respectively. In both cases there was a clear point after which each show should have ended, signalled by the departure of significant members of the writing teams.

Attempts to keep the stories going led in a painfully apparent shift in the behaviour of lead characters and left dedicated fanbases torn between their desire to suck upon the withered corpses of their once-beloved science fiction situation comedies in the desperate hope of gaining some bitter nourishment or stoic acceptance that the shark had indeed been jumped.

In both cases, I chose the latter. If my years of wacthing television have taught me nothing else (and besides the ability to fashion a scale model of Tracey Island from nothing but pipecleaners and a Fairy liquid bottle, they haven't), it's that life's disappointments are best accepted, not denied.

If life gives you lemons, you can only pretend that they are actually strawberries for so long before their acidity gives you a stomach ulcer the size of a Light Bee.* Best to make lemonade, which you can sell on your patio for small change, which you can then save up in order to fund the production of your own science fiction comedy, about a space ranger in foxy boots who flies around the galaxy with her motley crew of loveable aliens with a Queen theme song and...

Sorry, where was I?

Oh right, jumping the shark.

The thing is, it hurt when Chris Barrie and Rob Grant left Red Dwarf. When Doug Naylor tried to make up for their absence with a rickety CGI opening sequnce and the introduction of Christine Kochanski (a woman whose only apparent characteristic is a dislike of mess), it didn't conceal the absence of Chris 'n Rob, it only made it more apparent.

Loyal readers, I want to spare you the same pain that I felt all those years ago.

I'm sitting at my computer right now up to my neck in lemons. I can see them, and they're bitter. I'm not going to pretend to myself or you that they are strawberries because I believe that together we can make the best damn lemonade this side of Lucy Van Pelt's front yard.

It's become apparent to me that I just can't maintain Well-Rendered to the same degree any more. Writing approximately 2,000 words a week is taking up a lot of my time, especially considering the amount I generally have to research around any given topic. This wouldn't be so much of a problem, but I'm starting a course in early October and I'm just not sure I can continue to commit to a long weekly column of a standard I can feel proud of in the time I have available to me. I'd rather not compromise quality for quantity, and if leaving more time between longer posts means that those posts continue to be as well-written, funny and informative (alright Mary, calm down) as I hope they always have been, than so be it.

Finally, I've also decided to focus my efforts on trying to write for external publications/sites. I have no idea how successful I will be in this endeavour, but I'm going to try.

This is by no means the end of Well-Rendered, and I'm going to keep posting on a weekly basis. But the longer, more in-depth articles aren't going to be so frequent. I hope you all stick around, and thank you for your continuting support.

*If you don't understand this reference, good for you! It's not too late! You owe it to the rest of us to get out there and LIVE YOUR LIFE.


  1. Looks like I found your blog too late then! Good luck with the course, look forward to reading the longer artciles less frequently. :)


  2. We understand. A writer's gotta do what a writer's gotta do. I've enjoyed Well-Rendered and will continue to enjoy it on a less frequent basis. I may even find the time to comment more. ;) I just hope you'll post links to your outside work so we can follow you out into the wide world. Best of luck!

  3. Oh Mark, it's never too late. Well-Rendered's not over, it's just the other side of the shark. Besides, I'm very proud of the back catalogue.

    And Stella, don't worry. I never pass up an opportunity to talk about myself.

    Seriously though, thank you very much for your support.

  4. You're an excellent writer and I hope you make it out there in the big leagues :D
    Stella's suggestion is a good one, link to your other work here and we'll happily keep reading.
    Best of luck!

  5. Thank you for the support Salaryn, it means a lot!

  6. All the best of luck for your studies and writing for external publications, I'm sure you'll do great! I look forward to reading your future articles and hopefully keeping us up to date at well-rendered.