THAT IS FREAKING AWESOME. Chad, thanks. I am in some august company there, for sure! I will say, though, that if that shining day ever comes when a studio head hands me fifty million dollars to make my show, I will be making that show with my writing partner, Erin Maher, who's been smart enough to stay the hell away from the Internets. She is a shadow being, witty and articulate in anonymity. I, on the other hand, am the loudmouthed, opinionated one. We share many of the same philosophies about all of things TeeVee. She just hasn't been insane enough to post about it on the Internets.
It's great, and weird, to know that people read the blog and parse the words and whatnot. This isn't a message board, where everybody has an equal say and you spend most of your time arguing with people, usually saying things like, "No, MasterBlaster45671, that's not how it works." In the old days, MasterBlaster45671 would be a minion of Gharlane of Eddore and then you'd just be fucked. Because let's face it, people feel perfectly comfortable stating opinions about TeeVee no matter what their level of knowledge. But they wouldn't do that to a doctor, right? Because doctors go to school. They have to learn things. TeeVee and movies, well... if someone can string a bunch of words together, what's to learn? So blogs are great for writers, because they allow us to say what we want about the business and OWN it.
And to a certain degree, I think TeeVee needs to be like that. It's been like that a little. On Millennium, we got to tell stories we really wanted to tell. There was more originality then. But it's the opposite now. Shows aren't made and then shown to the audience. The audience is always there, even though they don't know it, directing what goes on the air. So more often than not in these times, shit goes on the air. And the audience, which was unaware of this process, goes "Eh. No thanks."
The audience shouldn't know what it wants. That's the whole point of having an audience. We either entertain them, or we don't. But why don't WE give it a shot, instead of trying to anticipate what they want? Because that, gentle readers, ain't working. Why has nobody at NBC -- well, the two people who are left -- admitted that the failure of their scripted programming has more to do with the fact that it just simply wasn't very good?
EDT has this to say:
In the face of all irony - this was the rule in the post-WGA strike world. Whereas conventional wisdom would have the TV business shift toward the prolific younger/newer/hungrier writers who could come in with fresh ideas for 80 cents on the dollar, the POD deals not only continued, but thrived. And worse still - in my world - the serious pitch meetings (the ones that amounted to actual work) were disproportionally doled out to the top-heavy brand names who continued to produce the same... material... as before.
Despite all the AMPTP's ire toward the old guard for both the current plight of the business and the strike itself, when held to the fire, they readily ran back to the dinosaurs that - at the least - contributed to the systemic problems which put them in their crisis in the first place.
Its of little wonder that the new 'outside the box' thinking is to dump 5 hours off the schedule.
Someday someone will see the forest.
Well said. But since executives don't seem to get irony, the obvious reality results in blank stares. I think people need to get pissed about this. Because one of the first things they said when development opened up for that brief window was that they were going to save money by giving shows only to experienced showrunners. But what they meant was show CREATORS, which has become an entirely different animal. So, as you said, we wound up with the exact same effing process. And look! It failed! Wonderful.
I do understand, in an executive mindset, why you would give shows to people you've deemed "established." In tough times, you want to go with a proven track record. But the fact of the matter is that because of its subjectivity, there really IS no proven track record in TeeVee. I guess you could ask Anthony Zuiker to give you another CSI, but that's not really what we're talking about. Even Bruckheimer shows fail. But if a studio and a network give a show to a new showrunner, they're in the position of explaining to their shareholders why they've handed a fifty million dollar corporation to some sweaty-palmed newbie. So I get it, in a business sense. But trying to make TeeVee purely a business, trying to remove all elements of creativity and talent from it, isn't working. I don't know if they'll ever get to the point where they decide to let writers be writers. Maybe the Internet will get there first, and then TeeVee can suck it.
Bruno asked about midseason shows. I have been totally disorganized about what's going to rear its midseason head, so I think I'll just mention shows when they premiere. Which leads me to Leverage, TNT's new heist show from the inimitable John Rogers, and the possibly inimitable Chris Downey. Episode three airs tonight. And so far, I'm liking the show. Everybody tries to do a heist show, and nobody does it right. They're always heavy and portentous and angsty. They're never Ocean's 11. Leverage is a breezy, witty show with enough heft to keep it grounded. The characters are fun and distinct from each other, and I was utterly thrilled to see that the cast included Gina Bellman, who played the wife to Jekyll in the BBC miniseries and had one of the most memorable scenes I've seen in a TeeVee show. The cast is fantastic, the writing's clever, the jobs are fun, and the show looks much more expensive that I'm guessing it is.
A network would've simplified the show and would probably not have cast Gina Bellman, so there you go.
Speaking of networks, one thing I've noticed regarding the NBC thing is how people are conflating show budgets. According to Robert Reich, each episode of TeeVee costs about five million dollars. What's wrong with this is, no episode of TeeVee costs that kind of money. Heroes gets closest, but we've seen what happens to execs when budgets get that high. Now, maybe he meant including development costs and the costs of other pilots that didn't go to series. But he doesn't say so and anyway, that's sorta like saying the auto workers make seventy-five dollars an hour if you factor in their health care. It's bullshit.
In another article I read, the price of an average TeeVee show was pegged at three million. This isn't true, either, unless things have changed a lot in the past year. Bruckheimer shows may cost that much. The aforementioned Heroes, too. And maybe there are a few others. But the "average" TeeVee show? Nope. Average TeeVee shows are given budgets that are pretty tight. There's a lot of deck chair rearranging on average TeeVee shows. And it's gotten much, much worse. It's harder and harder to make shows with these budgets. There are myriad reasons for this, most shockingly that studios charge far more than they should for their own shows to shoot on their lots. And shooting in Canada isn't the cost-saver it once was.
There's also the cost of expectation, which I've mentioned before. A network picks up a show based on its pilot. And pilots generally do cost way more than an episode does. So you can do more in a pilot. You have more time to shoot it, and usually some fancy-pants director. Then, if you're unlucky (and you probably will be), this happens:
NETWORK: Whoa. This shit looks GREAT! We want that every week. Here's your licensing fee.
STUDIO: Hmmm. That fee translates to a budget that's a fraction of what we spent on the pilot. Hope you like interiors.
NETWORK: Hey, where are the fucking car chases? Don't you have a crane?
STUDIO: Crane? Please. Do you know how much we'd charge the show for that?
NETWORK: We bought a show with car chases and exteriors.
STUDIO: Give us a higher license fee, if you're so up in our kitchen about it.
NETWORK: No. Make the show cheaper.
The studio fires a bunch of writers.
NETWORK: Still not seeing our crane. Figure out how to make our show or we'll cancel you.
STUDIO: Go ahead. Our only investment in this show is monetary anyway. We're already moving onto development.
WRITERS, ACTORS AND CREW: Um, guys? Hi, remember us? We're all working our asses off to make this show as best we can. A little help, maybe?
NETWORK AND STUDIO: Fuck you. You're canceled.
Of course, with the change at NBC, this conversation will be a lot creepier because there's only one executive. Will he be angry with himself for not giving the show a higher licensing fee? Will he also be angry because the budget's too high? Will he go all Travis Bickle in the mirror? We'll never know.
BTW, Reich's also on Blogger and we have the same template! Good, or bad? Not sure.
np -- Larry Clinton, "Dipsy Doodle" (On Sirius's Swing Kids channel. Don't be scared)