The first two months of Schmoedown Season Five have been perhaps the most divisive the show has known since its move to Collider, with one word dominating the complaints pile on the Commissioner’s desk – story.
The second incarnation of Schmoedown Spectacular and the weeks leading into it were the best example of what the Schmoedown can be. Ken Napzok’s turn to the dark side left the whole community in a state of shock in what was the most daring storyline the show had attempted.
The six-hour season finale, meanwhile, left many threads dangling, bringing around a festive period where all movie trivia fans could do was speculate as to the answers of their many unanswered questions…
Why did Brianne Chandler leave the MissFits? And what exactly is she doing with Mike Kalinowski?
What will Robert Meyer Burnett do next after he was dumped by the Lion’s Den?
Who will get Emma Fyffe’s No.1 contender match?
What was in Tom Dagnino’s Gucci bag?
How will Kristian Harloff regain his power from contract-happy Williams?
Who will be Rachel Cushing’s new partner?
At the time of writing, only the latter has been truly resolved. Some of the others have been danced around by those involved, presumably with a big reveal planned somewhere along the line. But others have seemingly been tossed away, and it might be some time before there is any kind of resolution, if indeed there is one.
The lack of story development has been put down to the decision to flood the opening weeks of the season with new competitors.
In just over seven weeks of action there have been 20 Schmoedown debuts while neither Bonnie Somerville nor Cody Hall had competed since the very first tournament back in 2014. As a result storylines, whether ongoing or brand new, have largely been forgotten about.
While there is a justification for this in as much as that it is difficult to throw all these new faces straight into aspects of the show that were set up before they arrived, this writer cannot help but think that a little creativity might have helped bridge the gap between Spectacular and the return of many of the familiar faces to the show.
Could we not have seen a short clip of “Miss Movies” – perhaps alongside Kalinowski – coming face-to-face with Jay Washington in the corridors of Collider either before or after one of the early-season showdowns? How about Burnett attempting to integrate himself back into the Schmoedown family following his stint with the Den?
If anything the pre and post-credits scenes have far more impact if they do not involve those actually competing in that episode, and hopefully this is something that can be thought about if a similar situation arises further down the line, particularly during tournament season when storylines tend to take something of a back seat given the sheer volume of matches.
Obviously this season of the show has come with its own issues when it comes to putting episodes together, with both the sale of Collider and the move to a new studio that followed understandably meaning certain aspects of the show were not at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
The main issue the Schmoedown faces when trying to put these scenes together, however, is that very few of the competitors are readily available for every single recording. They can only play with what they have on hand whenever a series of matches are being filmed, and as such if a whole host of new competitors are the only ones in studio then the likelihood is they cannot do much other than put out the match itself.
A case in point of how absence can affect the show is Ricky Hayberg. The former ETC man’s secret conversations in the back offices at Collider were the big talking point heading into last year’s Collision, with the reveal that he was now managing William Bibbiani and thus breaking up the Four Horsemen even getting its own special episode in the aftermath.
Since then, however, he has barely been seen, though that is in part down to the failings of both “The Beast” and Critically Acclaimed, with their results having also put pay to any potential showdown with John Rocha and Top 10 to close the loop on their story in the near future. Either way after such a big build-up the pay-off has not quite lived up to the hype.
Quite how the Schmoedown decision makers ensure that more of their cast is on hand to shoot external scenes is one of the big questions facing the show as it looks to expand. The increase in revenue – whether from the Patreon, merchandise or tickets for live events – will certainly help in paying for competitors to appear, but while they all have other jobs away from the show, scheduling is always going to be the great hurdle that halts the show from going to the levels they have outlined previously.
While many fans come to the show for the trivia they tend to stick around because of the personalities and the journeys they take both through competing but also with the interactions they have with the other competitors. Taking away that key aspect of the show for the best part of three months – including the break – has understandably left many feeling unfulfilled, and both finding consistency and striking right balance throughout the whole season is the next task facing those who make the show happen.
Given how well they have done it in for short stints leading up to the big events this should not be huge undertaking. If for each episode the question of ‘What story are we going to develop around this match?’ is asked and then answered – whether it is with those actually competing or not – then the show should continue to improve as a well-rounded product.
For now just a few extra story beats were what was missing from the opening weeks of Season Five. Fingers crossed in 2019 they can pay for a few more familiar faces to show up and ensure the same does not happen again.
Have you missed the Schmoedown storylines in the early weeks of Season Five? Have your say in the comments below!