Just One More Episode

It used to be that major TV shows were treated like proper events. The nation would tune in together at the same time, creating these water-cooler moments that dominated the conversation the next day. The excitement would build as the week went on until we could enjoy the next episode. Television, when done right, has the power to connect people like few other mediums are able to do.

Since the likes of Netflix came along with box set bingeing these moments are increasingly rare. Now we expect a series to be released in its entirety, for us to feast on when and however we like. A seemingly endless list of programmes to watch makes it almost impossible to get through before the plot twist in the finale is thoughtlessly revealed by Jeff from Finance.

While it is so much easier for us now, we’ve lost that shared experience, that connection. Witnessing a cliffhanger ending, knowing that you have a whole week to wait before you find out what happens creates a powerful link to the viewer. Now you don’t even have to watch the whole end credits before you’re nudged to watch the next episode right now! Very few of us have the willpower to say no, and before you know it you’ve finished the series – on to the next one.

This opens the door to a lot of very mediocre shows, as they can be watched before you even realise you just wasted 15 hours of your life on something rubbish. Time is our most precious resource, yet we are all guilty of giving it away to things that don’t deserve it. I still love TV and I always will. But by being more conscious in my choices and not mindlessly consuming it means I really appreciate the few shows that I do still watch, and I have more time to spend on other activities that bring value to my life. Are there any shows that you know aren’t doing anything for you, but you keep watching anyway? If so, maybe it’s time to make a change.

Second Album Syndrome

In 2003, a little-known band released their debut album, without much fanfare or expectation. ‘Permission To Land’ was the album, The Darkness was the band. Overnight they became a household name, playing major venues across the world, and though largely seen as a bit of a joke, they were undoubtedly talented musicians who created an album unlike anything else at the time- packed full of great riffs and earworm choruses. Permission To Land is still one of my all-time favourite albums; impossible to listen to without a big grin on my face.

The Darkness’ debut album, Permission To Land

Two years later, the follow-up, ‘One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back’ was released and, well, flopped. A couple of half decent songs weren’t quite enough to make up for the rest of the album, which lacked all of the charm and fun of the original. As quickly as they had burst onto the scene, The Darkness disappeared into obscurity. The wheels had already started coming off by this point, with lead singer Justin Hawkins eventually having a bit of a breakdown.

This situation is far from unique to The Darkness. Known variously across the world as either the ‘sophomore slump’, ‘second album syndrome’ or ‘second-year blues’ this phenomenon refers to when a follow-up album (or film, book, athlete, sports team) fails to hit the heights of the debut effort. A quick google will reveal countless lists of examples, from The Strokes to The Stone Roses. Seemingly the more successful the debut, the harder it is to follow. Lightning doesn’t strike twice as they say.

On one hand, the first effort has been crafted over a lifetime, and without the expectation has been crafted lovingly from a place of truth. The follow up however will only have a year or two, and often less, to try and capitalize on the ‘buzz’. But if the talent is there, then why should the quality drop off so much between efforts? I think the problem comes when the focus is lost. Very few people create with the expectation of becoming rich and famous. They do it because they love it – because it’s what they feel in their heart. Once they start believing the hype, they’re no longer creating what they feel, they’re creating what will be the most successful. They stop trying to make another great piece of work and instead try to make what they think others will want.

Money is a great servant but a terrible master.

The people who avoid second album syndrome are the ones who stay true to themselves, the ones who make what they make for themselves, and no one else. Most of us will not experience creating something which is beloved by millions, but it’s still easy for us to get caught up in our own hype. If you find yourself at a crossroads, remember what got you started in the first place. Do what you do because you love doing it, not for any other reason. Being distracted by things outside of your control like money or what other people might want will nearly always end up in failure.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this story has a happy ending. The Darkness are still going. After several stints in rehab, lineup changes and infighting, they took a further 7 years to release their third album, and while it was hardly a commercial success it was at least critically appreciated. Now sober, happy and healthy, they have continued to release a new album every couple of years and touring regularly. They remembered why they became musicians in the first place, and once again make the music they want to make.