Don’t change the ending. Why interactive television is so wrong

If interactive movies been available in the 1940s would audiences have insisted that Bogart and Berg

If interactive movies been available in the 1940s would audiences have insisted that Bogart and Bergman ended up together in Casablanca? If so, would it have destroyed the film's power? Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Call me old fashioned but there are certain things which you just should not do and one of them is give the audience to determine the ending of any book, play, film or TV drama.

Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clarke. Interactive television would only destroy the compellin

Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clarke. Interactive television would only destroy the compelling nature of Game of Thrones storytelling. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: PA

I’m sorry if your favourite character dies just as she is about to end world hunger or maybe he is mauled to death by a passing tiger just as he has been reunited with his long lost love but life is cruel and so is a well-constructed story. Get over it.

The reason for this hard-line in matters of dramatic narrative is the news that online film and television providers Netflix are planning to introduce interactive storylines for specially-constructed shows later this year.

Never has there been a worse idea. The idea is based on those multiple-choice children’s novels that were all the rage about 20 years ago where you could influence the development of a story by opting for option 1,2,3 at various key stages of the story and you choosing your preferred ending in a similar manner.

The power to move and to entertain lies in the skilled hands of the storyteller – be it a film director, a screenwriter or novelist. They must be free to tell the story as they see fit and not held hostage to the fact that Jude Law has been cast as the hero and the audience want to see him get off with Scarlett Johansson – which, let’s be honest, is exactly how this crass idea will really work in the outside world.

With mainstream cinema increasingly catering for the teens and twenties superhero market, television has rediscovered it’s ability to tell sophisticated stories.

High-end television, as it has been called, has exploded in recent years with high profile series like The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Affair, Big Little Lies, Black Sails, Penny Dreadful, The Wire and Outlander to name but a few.

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These well crafted, complex shows have a lot of care and love devoted to them both in terms of well-written scripts and impressive production values and as such attract big name stars who you would normally expect to see on the big screen rather than on a television series.

Big budget television has re-written the rule books and just as TV is finally devoting its energies on producing some meaty storylines we don’t want it to start devaluing itself with cheesey gimmicks.

Interactive storylines won’t serve to draw an audience into the emotional heart of a plot because the very nature of it. It turns audiences into objective spectators looking for novelty and/or trite feelgood endings.

The nature of storytelling means that you want to be placed in the hands of someone who can capture our imaginations – someone who can weave magic with our minds. If we are an active participant then we are not surrendering ourselves to the drama.

Had we had interactive drama during the golden days of Hollywood then undoubtedly Ingrid Bergman would have gone off with Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca. At the end of the film everyone is screaming for Bergman to team up with Bogey but no matter how much we want it, it is the wrong ending.

She has to remain with her husband and Bogart has to wander off with Claude Rains and utter that immortal line “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Bogart’s Rick Blaine is a loner and any long term relationship is doomed for disaster. He’s better off sparing with Rains’ Louis Renault.

Would Gone With The Wind be a better movie if Rhett Butler stayed with Scarlet O’Hara? It certainly wouldn’t be as powerful or as memorable. Like Casablanca, Gone With The Wind’s bittersweet dénouement is the right ending.

If you want to be engaged and lost in a story – be it film or TV – you have to trust the storyteller. One of the reasons that Game of Thrones is so successful is that they are not afraid to surprise its audience and kill off much beloved characters at the drop of a hat. This has not alienated its audience but rather kept them on the edge of their seats and coming back for more.

If Game of Thrones plots were dictated by the audience then Sean Bean would still be alive and we’d have no story. Netflix has to ditch the gimmicks and trust the storyteller.

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