I had my journalism midterm yesterday and one of the questions was about recent trends that are changing television and what we think that will mean for tv in the future. Part of my answer was about increased viewer participation or involvement, and how we may one day see Choose Your Own Adventure style television. While it was mostly an off-handed comment, it got me thinking about getting what you want.

I bought my sister a modern Choose Your Own Adventure book for her birthday one year, in an attempt to get her to read more. The end result was her not reading it at all because she attempted to read through the entire thing rather than select and skip parts as directed. This was not because she didn’t understand the concept, but because she felt she might be missing the better story or missing something important- a girl after my own heart. (There is probably some philosophical insight to be had from that incident, but that’s for another time.

While getting what you want is immediately satisfying, how long that satisfaction stays is debatable– it can be pretty fleeting. When it comes to things like television, we all have the couple that we love or want to be together, the character we want to get what’s coming to them, the things we want to know more about and the things we are tired of hearing about. As a fan and a student of storytelling, I’m torn between wanting what I want and knowing that what I find really compelling is when I don’t get what I want- when I get a taste, but not the whole cake. This is two fold, firstly, no matter how much I love a show or its characters, I don’t always know best- somethings things just aren’t in the cards. Or at least, not yet- which brings me to the second part- wanting something and not getting it creates tension and anticipation. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that tension is the root of all story, and the more tension has led up to an event, the more satisfying it is when we get what we want.
Granted, there is the issue of dragging things out for too long, or trying to create tension where there naturally is none, but for now let’s just assume that the people in charge know about pacing and chemistry.
If we got what we wanted from the get go- let’s say a favorite couple united- the characters haven’t earned it and neither have we, the viewers. If you’re not willing to stick it out, do you really want it? Is it really worth it? Does it really mean anything?

Also, sometimes what we think we want is not really what we want, when all is said and done. And sometimes, not getting what we want means getting something even better that we didn’t even know we wanted.

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