Originally Posted by cherokeesam
Why would you assume that M*A*S*H* wasn't taken seriously? Or ask the soap fans if they take Days of Our Lives or whatever seriously. TBH, I never once saw anyone question Bond continuity (or lack thereof).
It's willing suspension of disbelief, and I think it's kind of ridiculous to think that general audiences (unlike us fanboys) would get all serious about timelines and continuity in a genre that is patently fantasy to begin with.
While your example with MASH and TV soaps is a good one in comparison to the general discussion of extended timelines, they almost certainly irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
One can not compare the TV medium to the cinema medium and take anything from the two. The one exception being Star Trek, but that's the only thing I can think of off the top of my head (because it was the most successful). They blurred that distinction so much that you eventually couldn't tell the difference. It was just Star Trek (but this also devalued the movies by bringing them down to TV level). Tony Stark post Iron Man in a TV series? Nope. Same with the Hulk post gamma radiation.
TV is meant to be a LONG, extended novel. Ebbs and flows, with characters coming and going (many times nowhere). It's meant to drag viewers in and make the characters a part of the viewers' daily lives. It provides tidbits, with compelling drama and entertainment to keep people coming for more tidbits. People care little about a characters' age and continuity when they are so engrossed in them to begin with.
Movies are one sitting. People want a complete story. The full course. Not something that drags on and on an ultimately goes nowhere once viewership declines. So no, people don't want to see Stark doing all the trivial things he may do when off screen. They want to see Stark saving the world on grand occasions. Which brings us to Bond, another character that has seemingly done the same for decades.
And again, the comparison falls short. Note how Bond movies have almost nothing in common. The closest we got was Quantum, which sort of played out as a two part Bond movie. The movies barely reference one another. Characters are constantly changing, as are love interests. It's just another story in a different time and place and only God knows why. Where is that happening with Iron Man? We have gotten Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy in every film and counting. We are seeing a maturation of Tony Stark. A maturation of Pepper Potts. A growth in their relationship. A growth in Tony's relationship with Howard Stark. It doesn't follow the Bond format. It is evolving with the passage of time.
So how on Earth do you run away from continuity and expect audiences to just go with the flow? I don't see it.