There was this show that came out last year called 13 Reasons Why. Maybe you heard of it. It was strange, it was compelling, it was controversial. It was based on a novel by Jay Asher about a girl called Hannah Baker who commits suicide. 13 Reasons Why became a Netflix hit, but it was not light entertainment.
In May the streaming service announced they would be ordering 13 more episodes for season two, in spite of criticism that the show “glamorised” teenage mental health issues. Many fans of the show were excited, but for me it felt as though the show had majorly missed the mark for any ambitions to ‘raise awareness’.
Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah, has said that the new series will “explore a lot more of the other characters,” and show “life after Hannah”. Clay actor Dylan Minnette promises the new season will feature interactions between Hannah and some other characters that we’ve never seen before.
But the first season was already about life after Hannah. It was about a high school and family plunged into confusion and sorrow and incomprehension. If there is anything left to say in 13 Reasons Why it’s that suicide is not the answer, and to stuff this message into an unnecessary sequel feels almost offensive.
TV producers know that viewers will want more of a good thing. But great TV dramas are not necessarily like soap operas or sitcoms (though they too are great in their own way). They cannot continue aimlessly without some anchor of progression. Sci-fi thrillers like Stranger Things work perfectly for new series because the monster can change.
TV shows based on books (or graphic novels) that have a rock solid ending, like End of the F***king World, do not need them. That show had an ambiguous ending – a good ending – that kept us engaged and guessing. But of course, it was hinted for a recommission today after going live on Netflix just weeks ago.
At their worst, TV shows that continue forever and ever inevitably end in one or several weddings (hey, Gossip Girl), as if getting married to your sixth form crush is everyone’s norm, or clunky, plot-holey conclusions (hey, Gossip Girl).
Is making a one-season-wonder like taking a piss in the wind in the age of streaming on demand? Fuck no. Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life are synonymous with great high-school drama, and yet they manage to say everything that’s necessary about teen angst in one perfect season. They launched the careers of Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Claire Danes, all of whom may have struggled to move their acting careers forward if they were stuck in successful but predictable TV series.
For those of you worried about spending forever trapped in cliffhanger distress, don’t be. Your fictional hero or heroine probably just went to uni and reinvented themselves and had Arctic Monkeys posters on their walls, just like you. Next week there’ll be a new series to binge, and you’ll have forgotten all about them.