Today is the day in television history we all have to thank for the widespread use of ‘cliffhangers’. This day in 1980 was the final episode of Season 3 for CBS’s critically acclaimed show, “Dallas”. The episode, entitled “A House Divided” featured the ending scene of someone shooting J.R., the show’s leading man for those that never watched it. This launched the 8 month “Who Shot J.R.?” media and fan frenzy leading up to the season premiere in November, which was delayed by a Screen Actor’s Guild strike. The season 4 episode, “Who Done it”, reached an estimated 83 Million viewers, catapulting “Dallas” to more notoriety worldwide.
It also sealed the fate of TV viewers to this day to suffer through the agony of cliffhangers. Sometimes writers now do not even wait until the end of the season to give us a big cliffhanger, instead insisting on dishing smaller ones out week after week to keep us pining away for our favorite on screen characters. This device certainly has appeal as ratings are what determines which shows get made and which get cut every season.
I think if I was a plotter writer instead of a pantser, I would do this with short stories and release each segment several weeks apart in order to drive readers into a frothing frenzy. That would be fun. Although I don’t want to end up like George R.R. Martin, with people clamoring me to finish a series as badly. Will be big dollar signs for him when he does.
Our lives could be a cliffhanger in the vein of these television shows. Each day leaving us wanting the next, barreling towards our goals and inevitable conclusions. So my Gentle Readers, go out and chase your own cliffhangers in life, always hungry for the next episode in the show that is you. Until next time. Live well, write well, be well.