This is from SciFi.com:
David Eick, executive producer of NBC's upcoming Bionic Woman remake, downplayed rumors of behinds-the-scenes problems and the departure of co-executive producer Glen Morgan, saying they were simply business as usual on any television show, especially a genre program.
"One of the things I learned very early in my career, when I was running a television company for Sam Raimi, was that in the genre, so to speak—and there's horror, science fiction, fantasy and superhero—there are so many permutations of what you're doing and, moreover, what you're not doing, and people bring their own perspective to that," Eick said during a Sept. 7 conference call. "Some people come in thinking, 'Well, if it's got someone with super strength, it must mean it has to be really kind of funny and kooky,' and other people come in and said, 'Well, we've got someone with a tortured soul who's had this thing perpetrated on her, then it's got to be very dark and twisted.' Other people might say, 'Well, it should be very female and soft.'"
Executive producer Morgan (The X-Files) left the show abruptly last week, and sources told Variety that he left due to "creative differences." For its part, NBC thanked Morgan for his contributions to the series, without going into detail about why Morgan left.
The trade paper also cited industry insiders as saying they believe it's possible the show, which is now in production on its fifth episode, might take a break in order to give the writers a chance to focus on refining the show's directions. Eick said that no break is imminent, though he added that most shows take a week to regroup at some point.
Eick didn't talk specifically about Morgan's departure, but added: "Finding the people—not just people who get it, but defining what the 'it' is that you want everyone to get— ... is its own sort of separate endurance test. I think this is really no different from, frankly, most of the genre shows I've done in that there's a lot of turnover early in the process. It's just the way it works."
Eick, who is also an executive producer of SCI FI Channel's Battlestar Galactica, will be Bionic's show runner and will handle all day-to-day aspects of production with executive producer Jason Smilovic.
So. Let's see if we can parse this. Rumor has been that this show's always been in trouble. And Eick's words don't actually dismiss that. But somehow, Glen Morgan was made the scapegoat for the fact that there isn't a strong creative vision on the show. If there's one thing you need, especially in genre (and the strong genre shows in England speak to this), it's a creative vision. If there's someone who knows about helping creators define a vision, it's Glen. The standalone monster eps on "The X-Files" wouldn't exist without Morgan and Wong. But everybody here is willfully ignoring that so they can slap a dunce cap on Glen's head and shove him in the corner. NOT cool. NOBODY puts Morgan in the corner.
What Eick says at the end is very interesting. Basically, what I get from that is, the tone of the show was never defined (which can happen when you start shuffling people around). Glen wasn't fired because he didn't get the tone. He seems to have been fired because he didn't define one, or wasn't allowed to define the one HE wanted (which seems more likely to me). This is sort of an executive thing. "I'll know the tone when I see it." Eick also says that there's a lot of turnover in genre shows. Well, maybe it's just him, because that's a horrible rule to accept. How about NOT firing people? Why don't we give THAT a go? I think, when he talks about this, that he's mainly talking about one show -- "American Gothic," and partly "Battlestar Galactica" (due more to low ratings than any quibble with the show). But this is NOT the way it works. This is NOT the way it SHOULD work.
Lately, one of the biggest issues with new genre shows has been that of tone. But what's really going on here is buyer's remorse. They heard the pitch. They read the outline. They read the script. They talked to the creator and heard future episode ideas. They shot the pilot. They ordered the show. And then, suddenly, they want to change the tone. We went through this with "Haunted," which was very dark at the beginning. It didn't really fit the network, so they wanted to lighten it up. So we would go, "Ghost cop, why so sad?" Needless to say, the show didn't work on UPN. At all.
This also happened with "American Gothic," which was one of the more arresting, funny, dark shows on TeeVee. But it was that season's experiment on CBS. And the CBS experiments never work. "American Gothic" was a show about an evil sheriff who may be the devil. He breaks a girl's neck in the pilot. The network thought it was too dark. Um. YA THINK????? They really fucked that show over, and it never recovered. They changed episodes around. They tried to lighten the tone. They axed characters for no reason, and replaced them with bland, dull CBS-approved actors. They ripped the heart and soul out of the show. And that was WITH the creator and visionary of the show still there!
Now flash-forward to today. Even though TeeVee is considered a writer's medium, it's turning into a marketing executive's medium. Marketing is always worse than whatever you stack up against it. Except maybe eating babies. Or terrorism. Or Bush. Okay, it's worse than whatever you stack up against it in the entertainment industry. Anyway. Writers are not in the position of being able to put their foot down and go, "Fuck you. This is my show. I know exactly what it is." Unless, of course, you're on cable, where sensible networks like AMC say to Matthew Weiner, "Whatevs, dude. Do the show you want." Which he's doing. Brilliantly. But on network, there's a lot more at stake, apparently. So even if the networks don't mean to, they neutralize the creative entities. Show creators, especially if they're new to the job (feature writers, mainly), don't really understand how much power they have, so they let the networks take it away. This makes the show more malleable, so the tone can be fucked with on a daily basis.
It's the easiest thing in the world to order a show and then fuck with the tone. They've gotten into the habit of doing it all the time. And when it's a big show for the network, like "Bionic Woman," it's almost mandatory. If the actual creator of the show is a guy like Eick (a POD, in other words), any writer brought in is a writer for hire, NOT the creative entity behind the show. And that's when problems occur.
But that's after the show's already been ordered to series.
So it sounds, to me, like whoever made the decision to install Glen in that hornet's nest wanted him to define the tone, the mythology and the characters. Which sounds like stuff that should have already been done by a creator. It would have been, if the show hadn't been treated like a franchise that could exist on its own. A writer, at some point, should have been given the fucking reins. ONE WRITER should have been allowed to define the show. But with so many cooks in the bionic kitchen, that was made impossible. So now the show's got horrible buzz AND it's in the danger zone.
It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
What's always curious to me is that all shows that are treated this way fail. ALL OF THEM. Look at the shows considered either critical hits or commercial hits. "Lost." "Heroes." "Grey's Anatomy." "The Wire." "Battlestar Galactica." "Mad Men." ALL driven by writers with visions. "Gilmore Girls" was a show that couldn't be written by anyone other than the person creating it. "Buffy" completely redefined the genre show, thanks to Joss Whedon. What? There can be HUMOR in fighting vampires?
But the networks don't seem to have learned that, and this pilot season is more of a frenzy than ever before. What's happening is, the networks are all looking for high concepts. While it's important for a TeeVee show to have a fairly simple premise (don't pitch "Pushing Daisies"), these are simply absurd. Every pilot is about somebody touched by God. They can perform miracles. Or the shows are funny "X-Files" knock-offs. But none of these premises sounds like they're the least bit sustainable. A lot of shows are going to fail this year, but even more will fail next year.
And a lot of people are asking themselves why they're even in this business. The fun and the inspiration has pretty much been sucked out of TeeVee and out of film. There's no magic anymore. And nobody can figure out the rules. They've changed, but how? And why? Is it because the Writer's Guild has so fucked up the negotiations that the studios and networks are terrified? Maybe. But there seems to be something else going on, too.
At some point, if you're already in this business or want to be, you have to boil this shit down. Take a moment, and ask yourself why you're doing this. We're all beating our heads against the wall. And as long as you've got a clear, defined reason for why you're doing it, then keep on doing it. You'll punch through eventually. And our long national nightmare may eventually come to an end.
There are ways to own your work, even if it isn't in TeeVee right now. Things have changed a lot in the last ten years, and from what I can see, the only good thing that's come of it is the internet. This may be where the real creatively-driven content ends up. But even with all the crap and frenzy, all you have to do is turn on "Mad Men" to see that there is some sanity in this business. And as long as there's one great show on the air, there's the possibility for more.
Lastly, the greatest monologue from one of the greatest movies ever, a movie about TeeVee that was relevant when it was released, is even more relevant now, and will always be relevant. Lord, how I wish that wasn't true:
You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it!! Is that clear?! You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance!
You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels.
It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!
Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?
You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.
What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state -- Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do.
We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality -- one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.
Q.E.D. Next time, gentle readers, I will get to some comments. That'll be more fun and less vitriolic. Unless you like vitriolic...
np - IV Thieves, "Higher"