Always leave them wanting more…

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I can’t really understand the appeal of ‘binge-watching’ –  viewing a complete tv series (or box-set) in one sitting. This is clearly an example of the modern desire for instant gratification. I like to stick to the old ways – one episode per week, and if there is an impossible cliff-hanger at the end of each, so much the better.

In another life I used to write magazine serials and one of the great pleasures was ending an instalment with the heroine (occasionally hero) in mortal peril, and having no idea how they’d get out of it.

I rarely resorted to the tired but rusty formula of “With one bound she was free!” and usually came up with something reasonably plausible and usually quite mundane. I had no wish to overexcite the middle-aged going on elderly female readership of D C Thomson letterpress publications like Red Star Weekly (no relation to any Communist house magazine), Secrets and Red Letter. 

Of course nobody will ever match the literal cliff-hanger at the end of the original version of The Italian Job. The truck filled with stolen bullion and the gang who stole it teeters on the edge of a sheer cliff, with no obvious possibility of escaping with the loot. And then Croker (Michael Caine of course) announces that he has a “great idea”. End of movie!

Thankfully, despite many efforts to get one off the ground, no sequel was ever made showing just how they resolved their dilemma.

Some mysteries should be left unsolved for ever. A case in point being The Read-Headed League, the story in which Sherlock Holmes listed his deductions about his new client in front of that gentleman:

“Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”

The client gapes in gormless astonishment. Naturally every one of these assumptions is correct. Holmes then makes the rather elementary mistake of explaining how he reached those conclusions.

 “Well, I never!” said the client. “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all.”

And so it would have turned out in The Italian Job II if it had ever been made. In the immortal words of PT Barnum – “Always leave them wanting more…”