Over-the-Top is In This Season
As I’ve been watching shows this season, I’ve noticed that many of them have something in common: Bigger is better. By this I mean, more explosions, higher concepts and completely over-the-top storylines.
Take, for example, several of this season’s new shows. In Blindspot, a woman (Jaime Alexander) is found in a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square, naked and covered in tattoos with no memory at all. That is an extreme concept. It translates into a procedural, but still. Meanwhile, Quantico has a class of FBI trainees who are attempting to find out who bombed Grand Central Station…and everyone is a suspect. These are just two of the high concept shows that have premiered this season, and they aren’t even the wackiest ones.
While some shows are starting out with big concepts, others are simply ramping up. Superhero shows are always big, but this season, The Flash and Arrow are gearing up for a new spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow, and are raising the stakes all around to set up the new show. Over on CBS, Supergirl is starting out big, though not particularly great. And Gotham is fully embracing its craziness after a season of trying to be a procedural. This season has been subtitled “Rise of the Villains” and has seen the introduction of Firefly, a take on the Joker, and has had major death after major death as the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Barbara (Erin Richards) both grow in their own criminalities.
On FOX, Empire continues to indulge its over the top tendencies, with more one-liners from Cookie (Taraji P Henson), bigger guest stars (Chris Rock, Kelly Rowland, Ne-Yo), and every episode seeing the family alliances shift, particularly among the brothers. Not to mention the great performances we get episode after episode.
Joining the over-the-top game are Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Scream Queens. The former is a musical show about a girl who moves cross country to get back together with her ex-boyfriend from summer camp ten years earlier. Musicals tend towards the larger than life already, and Rachel Bloom’s portrayal of the title character is the definition of over-the-top in the best way. The show isn’t doing well in the ratings, but it really is excellent.
Scream Queens, though, takes “over-the-top” and goes way, way past it. It is intentionally campy and the dialogue is unlike anything anyone would ever say in real life, but in the world that Ryan Murphy has created, it all works. Things like Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande) texting with her killer and tweeting for help instead of screaming are commonplace and add to the fun of the show instead of making it seem unbelievable. Both Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Scream Queens are half season shows, which is good, since that type of high intensity isn’t really sustainable for a full season.
Whether it’s a high concept procedural, a variety show like Neil Patrick Harris’ Best Time Ever, a superhero saga, or a campy soap opera, over-the-top is in this season in a way that it hasn’t been before. Only time will tell if it will be here to stay.