Is it just me, or has The Truman Show really been going downhill lately?
Now, don't get me wrong here. I've been one of the show's biggest and most loyal fans for years. I own the Truman: The College Years and Truman Bloopers! DVDs as well the companion guide (first edition, natch). Up in my attic, I have all but seven of the complete set of "World of Seahaven" collector's figurines, as well as all 16 Truman Show TV Guide covers. I'm a frequent contributor to the Truman Show Fanfiction newsgroup. My prize possession? My gold brass saxophone, autographed by Louis Coltrane himself at Trumania '98. Yes, I'm that obsessed. But as I watch The Show these days I can't help but feel that my favorite show is slowly but surely going down the tubes. At this pace, it won't be long until Truman jumps the shark (if he ever faces his fear of water, that is!).
TTS used to be the most innovative and fiendishly clever show on television. It was a real high-concept experiment in entertainment. Nowadays it's like a subpar Time Joint! rerun. TTS used to rise above such vapid formulaic sitcoms, but lately it's really been dumbing itself down to their level. The producers need to stop and ask themselves why they're even going after this idiot demographic. TTS isn't for everyone, and that's what makes it so good. Unlike 99% of the crap that comprises the television landscape, TTS is pure class. I realize that the show needs advertisers and viewers, but surely they could do it without sacrificing their principles or intelligence. I wouldn't be surprised if we soon see a laugh track added to the show so Joe Redstater knows when to laugh.
Some people say "Hey, if you don't like it, don't watch it". A valid point. But, once a show gets labeled the show of the millennium by Time magazine, you just kind of expect more, you know? I remember a time when The Show didn't have to rely on stupid gimmicks like the Miss Seahaven beauty pageant right next to Truman's office they had during sweeps.
A lot of episodes these days are just subpar and unenthusiastic. I realize that the glory years set impossibly high standards. But, seriously, it's like they're not even trying. I don't give a rat's ass about Truman's latest insurance report! Is that seriously supposed to be drama? That's compelling television? In its heyday, The Truman Show used to be the master at drama and suspense. Who could forget the time when Truman ran away with Sylvia? I for one was on the edge of my seat, thinking "holky fuck!" the whole time. That's how you make compelling television. Now look what passes for drama: Meryl and Truman arguing about mortgages while overbearing suspenseful music plays. What the hell happened? If I wanted to see that, I'd turn off the TV and get to know my family again. And I haven't even mentioned all the formulaic, artificial drama they try to infuse into the show. The episode where the insurance company's infrastructure fails and the tech guys have to patch the "Phoenix shield" to make it work again? The writers just threw all reality out the window with that line. I'm exaggerating, but each passing day is another contender for "worst episode ever".
The character development has also really deteriorated over the past couple of years. I loved Meryl for her angel-like, unassuming schoolgirlish charm, but now she's become a helpless, nagging shrew. Ron and Don were funny when they were only minor characters, but ever since they got popular they've been putting them in every damn episode, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. For a while it seemed like they were going somewhere with Lawerence's character but I guess the character bus broke down on the way to development town and he reverted back to his usual, one-dimensional self. And let's not forget Marlon. Back in the glory days of Season 20, Marlon was an oaf, but he was a relatable, sympathetic, lovable oaf who used to have at least an iota of intelligence, not the self-aggrandizing retarded manchild he is now, with "edgy" third-rate putdowns coming out of his mouth at every opportunity. This isn't the Marlon we knew and loved. This is some unrepentant jerky asshole Marlon bodysnatcher, a "Jerkass Marlon" if you will. It's like the writers feel the need to compete with EdTV and resort to its lowbrow hi-jinx.
And what's with the complete lack of any resolution to any of the story arcs? I thought that maybe by the end of last season they were going to answer at least some of the questions that have been building up. What happened to the rumor that the insurance company is being taken over by a rival corporation and relocating to Florida? Are they going to leave the island or what? We tune in, expecting answers, and what did they give us? Even more questions! Damn it, you cockteasers, I want resolution! This isn't a soap opera like World of Our Differences! This is TTS, damn it!
Cristof has been showrunner for what seems like a billion years now. To his credit, he's brought us some great, unforgettable moments that transcended the medium of television and became art: the Burbanks' wedding, Truman's first kiss, and of course the classic story arc in which Seahaven gets a monorail. He's undoubtedly a visionary who has innovated television many times over and I would give my left kidney just to shake his hand. But over the years he's lost his touch. I know you can do better, Truman Show. You've gotten complacent with mediocrity. You need fresh blood to breathe new life back into the show.
Hope is not lost. I still see a glimmer of brilliance here and there. A pretty funny Truman one-liner that's up there with the best quotes occasionally finds its way into the show. Plotlines with potential do sometimes happen, but they're in short supply nowadays. The recent "Carnival" episode, although nowhere near classic status, was pretty darn good, and I recommend downloading it from iTunes if you get a chance (warning: the full 24 hour episode will definitely cost you a pretty penny!). I am cautiously optimistic that, with the right ingredients, the show can still generate classic material. But they have to try and take risks, which unfortunately they seem fiercely devoted to avoiding.
Frankly, however, if it doesn't start getting better soon, I think they should just end the show before the quality sinks any lower.