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With FOX’s Gotham premiering next month, I’ve been thinking about prequels.  Specifically, has there ever been a prequel that was a good idea?

That’s not to say that a prequel can’t be entertaining.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a fair example, though its story is so disconnected from Raiders of the Lost Ark (the only real continuous element is Dr. Jones himself) that I’m not sure it should even be considered a prequel.  It’s just another installment in a series of independent adventures, where the order doesn’t really matter.

And in general, it seems that the best prequels are the ones that have the least connection to the original.  The Star Wars prequels are probably the most notorious example of a screenplay that is simply over-explaining things the audience didn’t need explained.  Every attempt to add background to a known character ended up making that character less intriguing.

One of Kurt Vonnegut’s marvelous basic principles of creative writing is “Start as close to the end as possible.”  Give the audience some credit: if you begin by showing a character in a situation, they’re able to make a pretty good guess how that character got there.  Don’t waste their time by telling more than you have to.

The inherent problem with prequels is that they, by definition, break that rule.  If the original was written well, it starts exactly where it needs to start. A prequel essentially adds chapters before the beginning, and now the story no longer starts where it should.

I suggest that the only way to make a good prequel is to tell a brand new story. Instead of explicitly telling a story that’s was already implicitly understood, explore parts of the background that weren’t in the original. In other words, don’t make it a prequel.

I’m cautiously looking forward to Gotham, bad reviews notwithstanding. But my enjoyment will hinge on how well the writers avoid connecting dots that the audience has already connected on our own.  Give us something new. Tell us something new about Jim Gordon that stands on its own, and that doesn’t cheapen the character we already know.

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KCFW’s second digital channel started broadcasting today. Looks like they’ve picked up programming from MeTV, a Chicago station that shows comedies and dramas from the 1950s through the 1980s.

It’s probably nothing special to cable subscribers who have had TV Land and Nick at Night for years, but for those of us using only an antenna, this provides an opportunity to catch shows I haven’t seen since UHF: Dobie Gillis, The Twilight Zone, Dick Van Dyke, Bonanza, and on and on.

Only one real complaint so far: the video and the audio aren’t quite in sync.  Its sound is behind by just a fraction of a second — enough to be annoying.  Hopefully they’ll get this straightened out soon.

I noticed yesterday evening that KCFW, the NBC affiliate that broadcasts on digital channel 9 here in Kalispell, started multicasting. For the time being, channels 9-2 and 9-3 display nothing more than a test pattern (and the words “NBC MONTANA SDI TEST”).

NBC Montana SDI Test X.2 X.3

The station’s website was unsurprisingly uninformative about this new development (television stations tend to treat their websites as an extension of their local news broadcast, rather than as a place for information about the station itself), so I stopped by the station’s office to ask in person.

The front desk clerk didn’t tell me much — she said she didn’t know most of the details, and I see no reason not to believe her — but she confirmed that the station plans to begin broadcasting additional programming, and they’re hoping to start by the end of May. What will the programming consist of? The receptionist said the station managers are still deciding, possibly still in negotiations, so your guess is as good as mine.

I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing one of NBC’s sister channels (CNBC or MSNBC) coming in over the air. But considering that our local ABC station’s second digital channel is a FOX/My Network TV feed, and the CBS affiliate multicasts with the CW, the possibilities are pretty wide open. We’ll know soon enough.

Whatever the final selection, I’m happy to see this. Broadcast television remains pretty limited in the Flathead Valley, so this latest development will add welcome diversity to what’s available.

Update 5/28: 9-2 is up, showing MeTV.

Update 6/1: According to RabbitEars, 9-3 will be This TV, another channel specializing in retro programming.