Just when you thought the show was over, it reels you back in.
These days, with the Internet and other media, TV writers and producers are keeping viewers hooked on their shows long after the television has been turned off.
For example, many of the websites mentioned by fictional characters on shows such as "Arrested Development" and "Alias" are real URLs that offer clues to upcoming episode plots. They may also continue plots online that are not explained in the show.
"Arrested Development" has several associated sites that include a blog kept by former flower child Oscar Bluth, who has been wrongfully imprisoned after police confused him for his embezzling twin brother George Bluth. The website explains the fictional psychological affliction never nudity; and a site calling for visitors to free Annyong, a Korean teenager adopted by the wonderfully dysfunctional Bluth family.
Other shows are eschewing the standard 555 phone number given by characters and use real phone numbers that viewers can call to hear messages from fictional characters and also get clues to upcoming episodes. In a recent episode of the Fox show "Prison Break," viewers who called a phone number recited by main character, Michael Scofield, were treated to a voicemail message left by a mysterious woman who, in a shocking twist, turned out to be Scofield’s wife.
Last season on NBC’s "Scrubs," producers did a similar thing and viewers who called were able to hear a message from Turk, one of the main characters.
"Smallville," which airs on the WB, has a website that is actually the fictional town’s online newspaper: The Smallville Ledger, which contains articles written by characters on the show and advertising links to businesses owned by characters on the show.
While other TV shows may not use the Internet to continue plot developments, they are still using them to promote the show. For example, the WB’s "Gilmore Girls" website has a book club based on all the books read by Rory Gilmore, one of the lead characters on the six-year-old show.
UPN’s "Veronica Mars" website contains episode guides that are written as journal entries by the title character. Even character guides and photo galleries are designed as the private files of the teenaged private eye.
Cartoons are getting in on the action too. "The Simpsons," in addition to an impressive official website with character dossiers and episode guides tracing all 17 seasons, the show has several associated websites "maintained" by fictional characters. "The Venture Bros.," which airs during Cartoon Network’s adult swim programming block has a "Scrotal Safety Commission" website that explains the fictional (not to mention hilarious) affliction testicular torsion.
Since many popular shows have accompanying websites, the next step in entertainment media convergence could be websites that inspire TV shows. There are already two on the air: Classmates.com, which shows people reuniting with old flames and friends, and thesmokinggun.com, which traces the bizarre trials and tribulations of celebrities.