Fatigue of the familiar – or you can just flog a dead horse so much




Fatigue of the familiar – or you can just flog a dead horse so much

There was a recent cartoon in Private Eye that in the first panel said “Big Brother is watching you” and in the second panel said “You is not watching Big Brother ” (sic). Actually Big Brother’s audience is up so far year on year but it is certainly a franchise that seems to have had its time. I overheard one teenager saying to another recently – “why would I stay in and watch people sitting and doing nothing when I can go out and do something myself?” . What a good question – how come we’ve never asked ourselves that before?.

At a recent presentation of his new film Despicable Me (in cinemas this autumn people and not to be missed (http://www.despicable.me/)<http://www.despicable.me/)>) Chris Meledandri suggested that sequels and repeats were pretty much a golden goose at the end of their life cycle. He referred to a new trend he’d observed amongst the young as “Fatigue of the Familiar”. The successful producer of the Ice Age franchise and also Alvin and the Chipmunks has now got a number of new new projects in production. Personally I can’t wait, especially if they’re in 3D!

However there is a more serious point underlying the drive for newness which, if it is real, would undo much of what we currently understand about entertaining the young. Traditionally there is a strong streak of comfort in repetition. Story telling usually picks up on a dozen or so themes. Franchises are built in entertainment on the business of making as much as possible out of continuity. The mass market likes the fact the Coronation Street and Eastenders keep going strong year after year.

But maybe newness is more important than it used to be. The unlimited access that the world has now to every kind of entertainment that there is via the internet, may mean that new stuff is more important than ever.

The Daily Mail tells us the Coronation Street cast is heading for a culling. Is the familiar over for the mass market too ? (spare Betty for goodness sake!) (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1292864/Coronation-Street-bosses-planning-mass-character-cull-fatal-tram-crash-storyline-shows-50th-anniversary.html<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1292864/Coronation-Street-bosses-planning-mass-character-cull-fatal-tram-crash-storyline-shows-50th-anniversary.html>).

I’ve heard teenagers talking about how Facebook’s got nothing new to give them too. If the new isn’t new enough – what is ?

Sue Unerman

Chief Strategy Officer


One Response to “Fatigue of the familiar – or you can just flog a dead horse so much”

  1. Sam Learmonth says:

    Thanks for your blog, very thought provoking.
    To tell the truth, I’ve always felt that the driver behind spates of sequels was corporate risk adverseness. Most sequels make money with a certain level of diminishing return, but perhaps what leads execs to ‘green light’ them is not so much that it’s a guaranteed formula that works but more because if it fails, your logic in developing a tried formula looks sound. As individuals we are encouraged to “find new cheese” and move away from exploiting safe but diminishing areas. Interestingly, on a corporate level, a lot of the time that kind of entrepreneurial behaviour is tacitly discouraged and regarded as irresponsible. This could be due to the kind of processes and procedures that build up, where the finance side gets involved in the creative process, and decisions are either made by committee or have to get approved at several different stages. People love new. Business needs to make money. Maybe that’s the only reason why they ever move out of their reliable comfort zone?