Why do Americans prefer things to be bigger, longer, and louder? They have the Big Mac, big cars, and big buildings. They also happen to have rather large people but perhaps that is down to their insistence on super size me fast food experiences. But something that has always bugged me a little bit is their overindulgence to try and zap every single cent they can from TV shows and movies – something I will refer to as chasing the cheque.
I first realised this when watching the TV show Lost. Rumours quickly started swirling around that because the show had been such a hit with the first series, they were going to extend it from an originally planned three series to six series. Then as it grew ever more popular they decided they would have to complete it with a movie. And while all this was happening you could see the plot was getting thinner and thinner, to the point where people stopped caring about it – I didn’t even see the final series after watching all the others. They decided chasing the cheque was more important than the shows reputation!
But something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is bigger, longer and louder doesn’t necessarily mean better. Lets look at one of my favourite TV shows The Office – ran from 2001-2003, had a total of 12 episodes and 2 Christmas specials. Arguably one of the greatest TV shows ever, and ended perfectly. Ricky Gervais wanted to emulate Fawlty Towers (which also had 12 episodes), where rather then trying to squeeze every penny out of its fans and lose some of the magic about the characters, he moved on to other projects.
Something not so easily done with the American Office – ran from 2005-2013, and had a total of 201 episodes. They even managed to squeeze out two series without the main character holding it all together: Michael Scott (Steve Carell). While Ricky Gervais was making plenty of money from this, it was the show that continued to chase the cheque, and it must be said damaged its reputation by doing so.
Now while I know I’ve only given two concrete examples here, something I’m trying to build from it is an idea that has been storming in my head for awhile – building one’s reputation is more important and more rewarding, then going after money all the time. For example, Ricky Gervais has managed to build a great reputation by making shows with great characters, and walking away from them at the right time when he could take the easy pay cheque to continue churning out more episodes of The Office. But this reputation has led to him being able to command money for new ventures much easier in the longer term.
For me it is more important to work towards something that is enjoyable, and reputation building, then just going after the big cheque all the time. Examples of this include helping any students that ask for help towards projects – adding this kind of work to LinkedIn enhances a reputation, or going doing a charity cycle and raising money is again reputation building. Obviously this is an idea still swirling, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more posts towards it, but it might get some people thinking.
So while America is bigger, longer, and louder, at the moment I would definitely say not better – chasing the cheque is not as good as raising your reputation.