Are Flashbacks Overused on TV?

Once Upon A TimeABC Television Network

Everyone loves a good flashback. If used properly — with the right casting and costuming — a flashback could make or break an episode of a television show. However, more and more, TV series are leaning too heavily on the use of flashbacks.

Sure, it was original when Lost and Once Upon a Time had parallel storylines in an episode: one in the present and one in the past. But too many shows now are using the same format: Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (of course), True Detective, and Arrow just to name a few more. Other series don’t use flashback in every episode, but still employ them regularly: The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, RevolutionPsych, True Blood, and Criminal Minds. Even more television shows have entire episodes focusing on flashbacks: Bones, Teen Wolf, Scandal, and Suits.

If you watch television regularly, then it’s hard to miss how often flashbacks are used. (And we’re not even going into the shows about time travel, like Doctor Who.) So are flashbacks overdone? Yes. Absolutely.

At this point, using flashbacks is both unoriginal and, to be honest, tiresome. While they might have seemed cool and creative even a couple years ago, so many shows employ flashbacks now that it’s more refreshing when a series doesn’t use them.

That’s not to say flashbacks can’t be used at all anymore, or that we should ban flashbacks. In fact, an episode early in Teen Wolf’s third season, “Frayed,” used flashbacks in a way that heightened the tension and made the story much more dramatic. True Detective also employs flashbacks in an interesting way to subvert a character’s integrity. However, most often, flashbacks are utilized as a lazy way to develop character or provide some sort of background information.

So, from an avid TV viewer, please, please, please stop using flashbacks. Unless they’re really and truly going to make a show better.