For anyone of a certain generation, the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books need no introduction. These were a series of adventures on a variety of themes which involved reading a few pages, being faced with a decision, and turning to different pages within the book depending on one’s choice. Each option affected the progression and outcome of the story in interesting ways. Sometimes you would die. Sometimes you would discover treasure. Sometimes you would be abducted by aliens. It was a truly unique experience.
In a world where television is king, social media is all the rage, and reality shows persist, I think a partially crowd-sourced drama would be fascinating.
There would be logistical details to work out, of course. For instance, the show could not really pause for input on decisions every few minutes. Multiple timezones would disallow this and it would require far too many permutations to have been pre-recorded.
More likely would be something akin to a decision point at the end of every episode or two. Near the end of the week’s presentation, the show would present viewers with a choice of sorts. We’d have a 24-hour period to vote, and the decision and its effects would be revealed at the start of the next episode. The story would be altered because of our input. Showrunners would have to have multiple options sketched out or filmed and/or be willing to move quickly to work on additional material for the next week. It would be taxing on writers, actors, and production crews alike…but it has potential.
I would imagine the yearly run of episodes for a show like this should be relatively short. More like the 9 or 12 episode seasons of today’s top cable dramas. So too like True Detective or American Horror Story, it might make sense to have a completely new storyline every season. The benefits of this would be threefold: 1) to keep a viewer-directed story from going too far off the rails; 2) to limit the pressure on those making the show; and 3) to allow for different kinds of stories to be told each season.
All of this is admittedly a gimmicky approach, of course…but so were “Survivor” and “24,” and they did pretty well for the themselves.
Whether or not such a participatory dramatic experience could be a viable form of entertainment remains to be seen. But all the same, it is still one of those things I’d like to see.