So we're a mere three days away from what looks to be the biggest inauguration in the history of everything, George Bush is going through the couch cushions at Camp David, and the heroic efforts of everybody involved with that US Air water landing are being dismissed as "miracles." Bleargh. Really? Can we just stop using that stupid word to denigrate actions? It's not a miracle. And Rachel Maddow had a terrific rant on this, too, where she talked about the training and preparedness of the pilot, flight crew and rescue workers. I say that as of Tuesday, we no longer use the word "miracle" to define things that happen because people are good at what they do.
I love how there were Harry Potter fans who commented on the last post, but no Twilight fans. Interesting. Speaking of which, I just do not find Harry an interesting character. He's passive and colorless, yet every other character in the series is obsessed with him. They don't exist unless he exists.
About light detective shows, Lee Goldberg sez:
You are so right. Even the one network that IS doing those shows...USA...doesn't want to hear those pitches. The other non-starter it seems, despite LEVERAGE, are shows about con men.
I really don't understand that. I'm not completely sure where TNT is as a network right now because they're still kinda new at it. I don't see their identity yet. It seems like they're trying to straddle the line between FX and USA, but I'm not sure there's a real line to straddle there. But with USA... isn't their tagline "Characters welcome?" And their shows support that. So why wouldn't you be mining the crap out of that genre? USA has a real opportunity to grow and with the apparent demise of NBC, well... why not, right?
I wish there was a way we could all get together and decide that, to a writer, we were going to go pitch super-fun detective shows. What would the networks do then? What would an exec do if ten people came in and pitched an art theft show? How many times CAN they say "What are the stakes" IN ONE DAY?? Would they go insane? Would they die??
And Stephen Gallagher remarks:
I think your point about BONES could apply equally to CHUCK and THE MENTALIST - high-concept shows where the premise quickly fades into the background and the audience stays around for other reasons.
That's probably true, and I wish the studios and networks could figure this out. TeeVee isn't like movies. The whole point of the light detective shows was character anyway. Procedural-only shows like CSI have kinda wrecked the genre, but even the folks who watch CSI watch, in part, for the characters. And I think it's pretty safe to say that people who watch The Mentalist are really just tuning in to watch Simon Baker. And Chuck... is there a higher concept show out there that's also just an impossible premise? But the characters are really appealing.
I also don't think it's a coincidence that the networks are casting their shows with much different actors than they used to. They're choosing character actors to lead these shows, and then casting pretty people around them. Well. Except for Simon Baker, who is fortunate enough to be pretty AND really, really good. I think Hugh Laurie was the harbinger of this because he IS that show. Rufus Sewell's on Eleventh Hour, and now Robert Carlyle is the star of the new Stargate series, and Tim Roth is in that new Fox show that starts this week. Which I will faithfully watch, because I friggin adore Tim Roth. And it's about time he went to TeeVee. I'm now on Gary Oldman watch because where one goes, the other soon follows.
But that doesn't help you sell a show, does it? Sure, I could go into a network and say, "Okay, so it's Sam Neill with synesthesia." But I don't have Sam Neill. Just the idea that he would be sensational in the show. Which does me no good at all. I wonder how the creators of Magnum PI, Rockford Files and Simon & Simon pitched their shows. I don't know if they had James Garner already for Rockford, or Tom Selleck for Magnum. I get how Remington Steele was sold because that's a high-concept premise, but even still, the actors were crucial to the success of that show. I can see the pitch behind Leverage or Psych.
But how do you distinguish your pitch if it's completely based on character, and you don't have the actor when you go in to pitch? Oh -- and you're not a giant ape or a feature writer? I'm not sure. They really do want to hear high-concept shows and I can't blame them for that. The execs have to pitch these shows to their bosses, and a high-concept premise is a much easier, snappier pitch than something that's built purely on character. But still. It's TeeVee. It SHOULD be based on characters, CSIs be damned.
Really? A light detective series?
You couldn't pay me enough to... well, okay. You could.
But I thought what writers all want is to write an intensely serialized drama with a set end date. You know, a BATTLESTAR, a MAD MEN.
Well, sure. But a light detective show too, please! I think when you're coming up with pitches you tend to react against whatever you just worked on. So if you were working on a straight-forward procedural, you want to go lighter. And if you were working on something that was fluffier, then you want to go darker. But really, I think it's even harder to sell a serialized drama like that. I mean, that's clearly the high water mark for most writers. But good luck trying to sell one.
What's weird is, I think it's equally tough to sell a light detective show as it is a serialized drama. And I'm not really sure why. I'd love to do something serialized and every year, we come up with some good ones. We have a super one this year and the producers we've pitched it to love it. But the automatic response is to find a way to make the episodes closed-ended before we pitch it. What I find amusing about this is that the majority of the pilots that get ordered don't seem like shows. But getting pilots ordered is a whole other psychological mash-up. It's not so amusing when you're in the writer's room that first month trying to figure out the show, however.
np -- Bunny Berigan, "Candlelight." Which is on the Sirius right now.