Originally posted to my LJ in May 2007
Although this essay uses examples from NCIS, the points I raise can pretty much apply to any current show fandom when compared to non-current show fandom.
So NCIS has been renewed for a fifth season. Oddly enough, I find myself in two frames of mind about this.
On the one hand, of course I'm happy and excited and really pleased. NCIS is, not only my main fandom containing my beloved Gibbs/Ducky, but it is also, IMO, one of the better shows currently on TV, on either side of the pond.
However, there is a small part of me that is slightly ambivalent about it being picked up again, I know, I know heresy, how dare I say that, but bear with me, please.
There are two reasons for my feelings.
Firstly, not only has the show, in my and in some other people's opinion, deteriorated to an extent since Season Two. In Seasons One and Two, you knew, IMHO, that every week you'd have a good episode, now it's more hit and miss. Plus, I've wondered once or twice recently whether they are running out of plots.*
And secondly, and for the point of this essay more importantly, being in current show fandom is more exhausting, in my opinion and experience, than being in non-current show fandom.
Until I became hooked on NCIS, firstly as a show and then as a fandom, I had only been in fandoms where all of the canon was already out there and known about, i.e. completed shows.
Starsky and Hutch first aired in the mid-late 1970s.
The Professionals first aired the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Due South first aired in the mid-1990s.
Sapphire & Steel another late 1970s/early 1980s show.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was first aired in the mid-1960s.
All the canon existed; was out there in some form or other. Thus, finding out what happened, even before I watched the shows, if I wanted to (I knew S&H, The Pros and S&S from their first airing on British TV) was mostly if not wholly achievable. People had been writing fanfic for years, in some cases decades, and whilst fanfic cannot be relied upon to give one hundred percent accurate information for things other than factual canon, due to us all seeing and interpreting things in different ways, enough information could be garnered to know a lot of the salient plot points, especially those concerning one's pairing. You could go into fandom knowing how the series ended; you knew whether your pairing lived or died; married and settled down; whether your pairing were still friends by the end of the series, etc. etc. etc. You had a 'comfort zone' - if you wanted it.
That is not so with current show fandom.
Each week/series we are at the mercy of the producers, who might throw anything into the mix, even the death of half of the pairing (I'm thinking of Gibbs/Kate, DiNozzo/Kate, Kate/Abby fans here). Of course this doesn't put a stop to fans who are loyal to their pairing and see them as their OTP; Gibbs/Kate, DiNozzo/Kate and Kate/Abby still flourishes, and stories are still being written about them on a fairly regular basis. I'm guessing/going on summaries (given that I don't read them) that they are a mixture of pre-Kate's death stories, and alternate reality stories in which Kate never gets killed.
I do find myself wondering, on occasions, whether Gibbs/Kate, DiNozzo/Kate, Kate/Abby would have a following if Kate's death was somehow knew about before the show aired? Basically, if people were watching the show as already-in-existence-show canon rather than current-show-canon. Also, do new people coming into the show, who already know about Kate's death, 'avoid' a pairing in which Kate is involved? Or are people like me: you don't choose the pairing, the pairing chooses you? Thus, it doesn't matter what you know in advance - except that as you do know, it won't come as a shock to you in the way it does if you don't know beforehand.
I do also think that, in some ways death is less tiring and easier to deal with than other things. It's rather like the series ending, in a way, as you can make a point of putting a stop to your canon with the death of the character. They aren't going to pop up in later shows and mess you about :-)
However, with ongoing storylines and existing characters, you can find that stories you write one month are completely and contradicted the next (and I'll ignore canon inconsistencies for this essay). Again it doesn't stop people (it doesn't stop me *g*), there's just more to write around and deal with, but each week the viewing process is quite a tiring one, as you don't know what to expect, there's no knowledge, nothing to fall back on, no comfort zone.
I find that I don't even particularly 'enjoy' the first watching of each episode, in fact I find it nerve wracking and exhausting. Now that's partly because I'm taking notes so that I can write a review of the episode, and that in itself is hard work, as things happen so quickly, it's quite an effort to keep up with it (the pause button is my best friend once a week *g*). However, it's also a case of what are they going to throw at us this time; what are they going to do with x, y and z'? And it doesn't help when we're mis-led by blurb (thinks in particular of the so-called Ducky-centric episode), or snippets.
And given the way that show-cultural has changed, we can no longer assume, as we used to be able to pretty much, that one or more of the lead characters won't, no matter what, how deeply in love he/she falls, marry or at least get into a long term, stable, loving relationship. Yes, Starsky & Hutch, Bodie & Doyle, had girl-friends; yes, Kirk has the 'girl of the week', but even when watching the shows originally one tended to 'know' that it would be for the week. Their jobs would interfere, or the girl would get killed (it was not a good time to be 'the love of the hero) or something, and that by the next week, she would no longer exist. This is no longer the case; now the lead character can have a serious, steady, long-lasting, lets-buy-a-home-together, loving relationship that lasts for far longer than just a week or even two. And could even end in marriage and happy ever afters.
Again, I know it doesn't and won't stop fandom, even if they did marry Gibbs off (again), it won't stop me writing Gibbs/Ducky (and I would like to think the same would apply to other Gibbs/Ducky writers). And I'm sure that even if both Gibbs and DiNozzo marry their respective women, that it won't stop the dedicated Gibbs/DiNozzo fans. Fanfic is about 'putting right canon' and rewriting, explaining, working around, canon we don't necessarily like. However, it is harder if you actually have to deal with the kind of canon that currently exists in NCIS.
I know that part of this finding current show fandom more tiring than already in existence fandom is to do with caring passionately about the show, all the main characters, and the other characters - and whether the 'caring passionately' is liking or disliking said characters, doesn't really matter, it's still caring what happens to them. And that has to be a good thing, right? And it is; I know that. The more you care, the better it is, yes? But it's so darn tiring :-)
Which is why part of me will be jolly glad when NCIS actually comes to an end, and I don't have to deal with anymore current canon.
Equally so, at the same time, part of me will be saddened to miss my weekly 'fix' and adrenaline wave/drain (hey, I'm Gemini, I'm allowed to be dichotomous), and current show fandom becomes non-current show fandom.
And at least for me there will be an end to canon. However, for some people in fandom there never really is an end to 'canon', is there? How do people who write RPS/RPF handle the constant 'canon' of the lives of their loves? Or is it different for you?
So that is why I am ambivalent today at hearing the news re: the fifth season of NCIS.
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