I used to conjure Louis Del Grande to appear on my television. I used steel wool on the antenna of a black and white set, Tuesday’s at 7 or 8pm, on CBC. Louis played a tabloid journalist that fought crime, fought his wife, fought the Crown, cracked jokes, and in the end would solve the murder mystery with a fuzzy psychic flashback. The show was called, wait for it, Seeing Things.
I thought it was neat how he could see the past so clearly, with psychic flashbacks, often at the most inconvenient time. I remember wanting to see the future like that. It was unlike anything I remember watching on television.
Last night I scrolled through over a hundred titles before summoning BoJack to make me laugh as I dozed off. No steel wool necessary.
Previously in this space I told a story about Daan and his fast follow Subscriber Video On Demand (SVOD) startup: Netherflix. And just as the murder mystery was a McGuffin, an excuse to drive the story forward in Seeing Things – I used Daan’s struggle to drive a story forward. You don’t need to go back and read Daan’s story to understand my point here. It may be helpful for some.
For as long as humans have been human, we’ve always gathered around a flickering light source to hear stories. And for as long as there have been stories, there have been values, knowledge, wisdom, agendas and ads in them. Whether it was the story of not eating the berries on a bush with three pointy leaves, that Grunt-Grunt was a great hunter because he killed that angry Leopard once, or that you must order fast because supplies are limited — we’ve always gathered, we’ve always listened, and storytellers have always told their stories.
We’re in an era where an awful lot of Capital is going into creating stories and distributing them. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook have all joined the fight, along with AT&T, Disney, Netflix, CBS and Peacock for the fire you gather around at night.
Their motivations for doing so seem to vary. Some of what I’ve heard leads me to believe that some are acting out of fear. Some leads me to believe that there is some brutal rationality to it – that there is a winner-take-all-fire mentality. For some it’s purely about power. And, for the fewer, it’s about social cohesion and social good.
They’re going to fight. There will be winners. There will be losers.
And best of all — you will get to decide!
This all comes down to who is best able to predict which people hire which story for which job, and execute against it.
It isn’t easy. Like them, our motivations vary as well.
We hire different stories to do different jobs for us – and it seems as though those jobs are remarkably stable over time. The aim in the following paragraphs is to be illustrative, not exhaustive.
For instance, there’s a group of people that hire procedurals to help them relax at night (CSI, Law and Order, Bones, Murdoch Mysteries), including including the Seeing Things subvariant featuring a psychic (Medium, The Mentalist, Thought Jacker) and the Medical variant where it’s a disease that’s creating the mystery – (The Good Doctor, The Bad Doctor (Ie. House), ER, Intensive Karen).
There’s another group of people that hire simple competitions to help them relax at night. Reality Competition is really just the expansion of a single game show into a series game show (Survivor, Big Brother) with their different subvariants – cooking (Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, all the Great Bake Off’s, Masterchef, Captain Cook), art (RuPaul, FaceOff, Blown Away), celebrity (The Gong Show, The Masked Singer, Celebrity Beatoff) and some are incredibly crossovers between comedy and cooking (NailedIt).
One group of people hire another group of people to tell them stories about playing a game, making a recipe, or why the world is the way that it is. The how-to, through their channels on on-demand platforms (Twitch, YouTube, LiveLeak).
Some people hire journalists to tell them the truth about what is going on in the world, and, what people who are entrusted with power are doing with that power and how they are acting in their name.
One group of people hire personalities who are not journalists but sit in environments that kind of make them look like they’re journalists, to shout at them and make them mad and scared at night.
Another group of people hire personalities who are not journalists but sit in environments that kind of make them look like they’re journalists, to shout jokes about current events and make them laugh at night.
Parents hire stories to get some damned peace and quiet around here.
There’s a peculiar group of people who, in spite of having their loyalty continuously abused by accountants executing a brutal maximin algorithm, are compelled by some sense of nostalgia to continue watching stories about a troupe of misfit players, that engage in a mediocre performance that bears a passing resemblance hockey.
We hire stories to make us laugh, to make us smarter, to make us safer, to make us think, to help us go to sleep, to help make the flight go by faster, to make us act, to make us better people.
I bet you can think of many more jobs.
The victors will be those that are able to match the jobs different groups want with the creatives that want to tell those stories. The victors will be those are able to design product, math, art, and science to respond to your heterogeneity. Because you hire different stories to do different jobs over time. It’s on that basis that it is possible to predict with some degree of accuracy who the victors will be.
The Victors Agenda
I think Louis Del Grande agenda in Seeing Things was just to make fun of the entire genre. I wasn’t aware of it as a child. I didn’t know how to digest it, so it just sort of passed through me like a seed passes through a bird.
I wonder about the agenda’s of the victors will be.
Will it be nakedly obvious? Will it be far more subtle? Will it just pass through me like a seed? Will it just pass through you?
Who’s going to notice?