Murdoc Syndrome

I wanted to take just a moment to draw your attention to a condition that appears to plague a number of successful television shows, let’s call it Murdoc Syndrome. 

Murdoc was a recurring character in the original MacGyver series and has been reprised in the new series as well.  He was a hit man who was the most frequent antagonist of the main character in the original series.  The  typical sequence of events when Murdoc appeared (he was in nine episodes of the original series, but it seemed like he was in every other episode that I watched) was that MacGyver was surprised to see him because MacGyver was sure he had killed Murdoc the last time they tangled, then Murdoc would trap/capture MacGyver, Murdoc would develop an elaborate plot/mechanism to kill MacGyver, MacGyver would use duct tape and match sticks to foil the plan at the last second then turn the tables on Murdoc and be certain that Murdoc was really dead this time,,,,until he showed up again two episodes later.

To my simple mind it appeared that occasionally, the writers of the show would hit a wall, run out of ideas then someone would pipe up with, “Hey, let’s bring Murdoc back for another episode!”  It also appears that this idea was heartily agreed to every time it was mentioned.

So, what is Murdoc Syndrome?  It is the tendency to revert to the same story line/same characters again and again.  Television shows that catch my attention and appear interesting during the first season seem especially prone to it. 

“Once Upon A Time” was interesting the first season.  However Murdoc Syndrome appeared as each season finale seemed to end with a kind of reset to the beginning of the story, a new villain (who apparently was required to be a Disney movie character), was introduced then rinse and repeat. 

“The Flash” was interesting for a season or two as he learned to cope with his super speed and use it to battle a series of unique bad guys.  But, alas they slipped into Murdoc Syndrome ending one season by introducing the villain du jour of the season then spending the entire season figuring out how to defeat  him.  The last part of the finale would show that whatever they did to fix this season messed something up that caused the appearance of the next villain du jour for the upcoming season, rinse and repeat.

I stumbled upon “I Zombie” while traveling for work and found the concept of a zombie who works for the coroner and has flashbacks of the people who come through the coroner’s office whose brains she eats rather intriguing and watched that show for a while.  Again the show succumbed to Murdoc Syndrome as the plot degenerated into a weekly struggle between the good zombie in the coroner’s office and the bad zombie, rinse and repeat.

I understand that it would be a lot easier to write a Murdoc episode; the character is already established (you even have the actor already pegged), you know the essentials of the story line and you already have a pretty good idea of how it will end.  I am sure it is easier, I am also sure it is not as interesting.  If I wanted to watch a Murdoc episode again, I would just record it and keep watching it.  If all I was wanted was rinse and repeat, I would go wash my hair.



1 thought on “Murdoc Syndrome

  1. Jay McDonald

    The “Murdoc” writers are just borrowing a technique from the guys who used to write the serial shorts that were shown in theaters years ago. The hero or his girlfriend were always at the point of being killed by the villain at the beginning, escaped and then was right back in trouble for the cliffhanger ending. Nothing in Hollywood works like recycling an old idea!

    Even as a kid, I always thought Superman would have saved himself a lot if trouble if he’d let someone get rid of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person


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