Why you should watch series that surprise you

I don’t know about you, but I love being surprised.

I love when I start a book and it doesn’t go at all the way I expected.

I love it when I get a present when it’s not my birthday.

I love to try new food and taste new flavours.

I love when something unexpected happens in a TV show or a movie.

And that’s one of my first criteria for a good TV show. For example, I loved The Big Bang Theory when it first started. Now it’s boring. When the element of surprise is gone, then a story is quite boring. If it’s a book and the writing style is beautiful, then there’s always something to hold on to. If it’s a movie and the actors are really good, the music captivating and the director has its own style, it’s still worth it.

You get the idea.

Still, in a story, whichever it is, originality is one of my main criteria for its success. In a TV show, the actors can be great, the pitch interesting and the music amazing, but at one point you’re going to get bored if there are no changes.

Also, there are so many TV shows, when it doesn’t have its own identity, a series is quickly boring and forgettable. That is why, when I watch a show that’s different and original, I love it. And that’s the case with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Several factors made me watch that show: 1/ the title. Interesting. Weird. Nerdy. I loved it. 2/ Elijah Wood. Lord of the Rings fan, love his performance. 3/ The fact that it’s based on Douglas Adams novels. Love that writer, love British humour, loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books series. And loved Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

And I was completely puzzled after the first episode. What was this show about? What the hell was happening on screen? How unreal was the story? Was it science-fiction or fantasy? What the hell was the story?

And it just made me want to see what was happening next. You would think that having such questions after the first episode would make me want to stop. But the first episode was so good, I just wanted to understand it. I thought: they’re really good. I didn’t get what’s happening but I absolutely want to.

The actors were great, they told just enough of the story to make me want to see what was next, the quality of directing, the atmosphere…

However, if you read the book, don’t expect the TV show to match it. Only the name of the series and some general elements are alike, but the show is barely inspired by the book — NB: read this book! It’s weird and puzzling, fun and confusing, and very enjoyable to read.

That’s one recent example, but many of the shows I watch, I do because I can’t wait to see what’s next and I almost never expect what’s happening. Just to clarify: it’s not just because there’s a big cliffhanger and I want to see what’s next — many mediocre shows can do that; I have to confess that I loved Once Upon A Time at first, partly because there was so many cliffhangers and twists, and the idea was interesting. Then I just got bored because the outline was always the same) — but because the quality of the show is good AND there are nice (moderate) cliffhangers.

I spoke about Dirk Gently because it is my last discovery. But I could say the same thing with one of the greatest TV shows ever: Twin Peaks. The pilot is puzzling: you don’t really get what’s happening but you sense that the showrunner knows where he/she’s leading you, that the story is going somewhere. It’s at the same time incomprehensible and yet there is a mastery of the storytelling.

Surprise is a key element to a story. Even your story. I like having a routine, but I don’t want it to take over the spontaneity or craziness of my life. Because I feel that without a little craziness or even folly in your life, it would be too sad.

Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts about this subject :) Are you also a fan of surprise or do you hate it? Which show did you watch lately and why did you love/hate it?