A few comments to start out the new year.
John Rogers sez about Leverage,
It's nowhere near as expensive as it looks. Which unfortunately only convinces people you can do it for even cheaper next time.
Well, it's your fault for being so responsible. Which for some reason always winds up screwing showrunners. Yes, you get no credit for actually doing the job right. But keep doing it. Just in case it starts to count. Fingers crossed for a renewal!
Lee Goldberg goes,
My God, that brings back some memories. That Gharlane guy and his acolytes loathed me. I was writing/producing SEAQUEST at the time and he didn't much like what I was doing. His tirades inspired me to name a character after him in my 1995 novel BEYOND THE BEYOND...which was about homicidal, crazed fans who terrorize the producers of an SF TV show.
I had just been talking to someone SeaQuest-affiliated about Gharlane. I had a very small run-in with the guy, one of those, "Ahem... actually..." things that inspired him and his minions to disproportionately torture me for several weeks. I can only imagine what it was like to be a regular Gharlane target. I love that book, BTW. Much fun.
I thought I should do some typical end-of-the-year stuff, just because everyone's doing it. Of course, I waited until all the lists were already out before I did mine.
Best records, in no particular order, keeping it strictly to ten even though it's painful:
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
The Courteeners - St. Jude
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll
Frank Turner - Love, Ire & Song
Glasvegas - Glasvegas
The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement
Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
Razorlight - Slipway Fires
Yeti - The Legend of Gonzales
And movies, then a rant:
The Dark Knight
The First Saturday In May
Here's the rant. WTF is wrong with the Speed Racer haters? Seriously, this movie showed up on almost every Worst Of list. Are you fucking high?? Speed Racer is a GREAT film. Easily one of the best of the year. And just because y'all hated the last two Matrix movies and think Joel Silver needs a comeuppance, you arbitrarily decided that this thing had to suck. It's really easy to dismiss something while being part of the herd. But if you actually WATCH Speed Racer, you'll see how good it is. But hey, critics, maybe it's just a little too subtle and subversive for all y'all. Which is ironic, considering that much of the criticism goes, "IT'S SO COLORFUL! AND FRENETIC! AND LOUD!" Why don't you try watching it again, and pay attention to the fucking story, huh? Ghost Town, an absolutely charming, lovely film, was similarly dismissed, although not with quite the derision and misplaced hatred that accompanied the Speed Racer reviews. If people didn't read movie reviews and base their filmgoing on them, this wouldn't be quite so irritating. Hopefully, both Speed Racer and Ghost Town will find new life on DVD. Oh, and Wall-E isn't the genius film y'all make it out to be, either. Rant over.
I don't want to make predictions because at the end of 2009, someone will be able to look back at this post and see how wrong I was. So instead, a few TeeVee hopes.
1. That Leno fails.
Not that I have anything against Jay. He did what he had to do, and he can't be faulted for that. Now, his show will probably succeed on the level Zucker and Silverman are aiming for -- it won't lose them as much money as a drama -- but my hope is that the industry and the GE shareholders and board of directors or whatever the fuck won't be satisfied with that. Along the same lines...
2. That producers and writers take their projects everywhere else first before going to NBC.
It's not a boycott, it's common sense. Why would you take your project to the NBC Universal studio-network multiverse first? You pitch it there, you have no other options. Why waste your time and hang your project up?
3. That Sci-Fi becomes an actual channel that shows science fiction.
They develop it all the time. They just don't air it. Although Galactica's coming up to its last season, they will have Caprica. And Warehouse 13, while not truly science fiction, is at least a step in the right direction. Hopefully. But Sci-Fi has a real opportunity here to carve out a niche, and they haven't done it yet. Here's hoping they do.
4. That everybody wises up about show budgets.
Maybe, if all the other networks and studios decide to do what NBC Universal did and merge, the whole idea of PODs will then be somewhat necessary. Because if you don't have to go through two sets of executives at both the studio and the network, then producers make more sense. But not yet. The only people who should be paid out of TeeVee budgets are the people who actually, you know, MAKE THE FUCKING SHOW. If they started cracking down on executive producers, we would see budgets become slightly more manageable. Now, the whole issue of what things really cost is another matter, but this is a good place to start.
5. That writing staffs get bigger.
If you deal with the top-heaviness of budgets, then maybe the money can go back into the production, and increasing writing staffs is a good investment. Part of this is selfishness on my part. We are, after all, still stuck at the fucking midlevel, even though (I say modestly) we have far more experience than most people do at our level. Yes, staff writers are cheap but there's a reason for that. It's great to have staff writers and lower level writers on a staff that's actually populated with mid and upper level writers. But if all you've got are staff writers and executive producers, that puts a strain on everyone. Bring back the midlevel writers. They can contribute, too.
6. That somebody manages to finally get a light detective show on the air.
Talk to almost any TeeVee writer about what show they wish they could sell and they'd invariably say a light detective show. Remington Steele, Magnum PI, Hart To Hart, Simon & Simon, hell, even Riptide. We all want to do this show! But it's virtually impossible to sell. And believe me, we've all fucking tried. But executives turn a deaf ear to these pitches. They do NOT want to hear the word "detective." I think you have to sneak it in, like they did with Bones. Because Bones is basically Remington Steele with, well, bones instead of cat burglary. Although I do still want to do that art theft show which, if you pitch THAT, will kill you even deader than a detective show. Seriously, go pitch an art theft show and see how far you get. So here's wishing and hoping that we all figure out how to fool the execs with our light detective show pitches.
7. That TeeVee veterans get more respect.
I think an awful lot of our best showrunners get taken for granted. Their experience doesn't just stop at production. They aren't always given the opportunities to create shows, but they're asked to save shows. I think you could solve a lot of TeeVee's money problems by not handing a fifty million dollar corporation to someone who's unprepared. Yes, an experienced showrunner is necessary to any show and an inexperienced writer can certainly sell a fantastic, viable show that runs forever. But a TeeVee veteran who's been around and has run shows and writers' rooms, they might be able to come up with a long-running show, don't you think? So this year, let's allow the unsung heroes of TeeVee a shot.
8. That the Cartoon Network experiment works.
They're moving into live action, and they're buying science fiction. Yes, REAL science fiction. I don't care where innovation starts, let's just get it going. A few years ago, who would have thought that AMC would become a force in drama? Although one network taking chances doesn't result in others trying new things, I like to think that the more good shows we have on the air, the better it is for our business. Call me foolish.
9. That Fox's Friday night fools everyone.
They're dumping Sarah Connor and Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse, on Friday night. Remember when Fox Friday used to be the X-Files? Now the network is too big for such things, with their American Idols and their Houses, and they don't have much use for what they call underperforming shows. But Sarah Connor's been one of the best shows on TeeVee. And Fringe, though not without its problems, has really started to find its feet over the past few episodes. If Sarah Connor and Dollhouse can perform respectably on Friday, and Fringe continues to be thought of as an interesting show that, while expensive, is valuable to the network, then maybe Fox will be buying to complement those shows, and genre will become re-born. A girl can hope.
10. That something we haven't seen in awhile hits big.
Not a procedural. No more of that, thanks very much. CBS can have its niche, but the other networks can and should be searching for their identities. We can probably write NBC off for the moment, until we see what's going to happen there. Although wouldn't it be funny if Kings hits big? But ABC and Fox should be taking some chances. The CW, well... I don't know what's going to happen with it. Will it even be a network? Who knows? I love the idea of the CW, and I just wish they had a bit more money. Because if any network had a real opportunity at reinvention, it's the CW. I do think it's important that something hit on a network, but if cable continues to explore the innovative (Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica) and reinvents what we're used to (Mad Men, Leverage), then at least that'll keep people in clover. Unfortunately, though, our industry's happiness is dependent on the happiness of the big three -- four, with Fox. And one of the big networks is going to be feeling quite a bit of pain for awhile. So, other networks, here's your chance. Don't follow NBC's "we're scared shitless" model. Be responsible, but have fun.
Here's to a great 2009, where I will be watching more CSPAN just to see Al Franken.
np - Count Basie, "Midgets." There's a jazz flute in it. Seriously.