I also spent a shocking amount of time following the fallout from the Bobby Jindal Republican reaction after President Obama's speech to Congress. Jindal was from another planet during his rebuttal. The last time I saw somebody implode this badly involved orange juice, a quart of Vodka, and Danny Bonaduce.
The Dodgers got Manny (MANNNNNY!) and SoCal racing fans got The Pamplemousse. It's been an interesting week.
Which means that I've been horribly remiss with comments. I'm doing ALL of them today. Strap in, y'all!!
I completely agree with you about Twin Peaks and Lost. Twin Peaks was always going along saying "Look, you're not going to get the answers, but you're going to enjoy the characters trying to find out those answers." Who killed Laura Palmer always remained the central reason to watch the show. I think Happy Town exhibits this, and I hope it continues as a series with the same light touch.
I think it does, too. "Happy Town" is an impressive piece of writing, with a LOT of characters to handle. And they're well handled. You get just enough mystery, and just enough intrigue, to come back. I like the set-up a lot; it makes sense that the show starts when it does. And I also like the fact that the mystery feels complex, but that doesn't bog the pilot down. I'm looking forward to this one. "Twin Peaks" was maligned because it was assumed that the reason for the show was ONLY the question of who killed Laura Palmer. But the show was never just about that. And it worries me that TeeVee has to be so specifically about the Big Idea. A high concept works for a movie but it just doesn't work for TeeVee. Even when there IS a high concept, shows tend to move beyond that.
Mr. Burnett says,
Loved your comment about the "pile on" nature of the show's mythology. I'd bet when the pilot was first produced, none of the elements of LOST's current mythology was even considered. In fact, if the show runners knew then what they've written today, the network probably wouldn've laughed in their faces. Can you imagine..."See...there's this WHEEL at the bottom of the Island which, when turned, MOVES IT THROUGH TIME!"
Yeah. There's no way. One thing that I've struggled with in regards to this is how to trick them. Because that's basically what's happened here. You sell them a show they understand, and then you sneak in your cool shit later. It's tricky.
Regarding Rucker's comment there are no new story ideas...perhaps not, but I find the work of Charles Stross rather compelling. I remember first reading Stevenson's SNOWCRASH and thinking it was full of new ideas. Also, if you haven't read it, Steven Hall's THE RAW SHARK TEXTS is worth checking out. Love to see THAT movie.
What I was reacting to was the notion that the only ideas of value were new ideas, and if someone took a Heinlein-ian approach, say, then the book was uninteresting because the idea wasn't new. I dunno. I really liked "Old Man's War," and the Jupiter novels.
I still think great televised science fiction will continue to happen, but only by accident. Scheduling Sarah Conner Chronicles and Dollhouse on Fridays, when their target audiences are seeing the latest genre fare at the multiplex, will always be a plague on their ratings, especially as the age demographic of viewers who tend to go out on Fridays instead of staying in, continues to climb. 40 is the new 30 and all that.
And then the Live + 7 comes in, and "Dollhouse" jumps 26% while "Sarah Connor" jumps 30%. THIRTY FUCKING PERCENT. Maybe the networks aren't taking this seriously yet because TeeVee is still bound to commercials, but you would think they would be working very hard at trying to find a way to advertise to all of those people. If the fates of either of these shows are determined in part by these numbers, things are going to get very interesting.
And what about all those viewer who now wait until an entire season of a show comes to DVD? I'd have never seen FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS without reluctantly seeing the DVDs...and now it's a show I buy first week it's released...although I've never watched it during it's regular broadcast run. Same goes for DAMAGES and NIP/TUCK.
This is crucial to TeeVee right now and if the networks continue to ignore it, then the Internet will pick up on it, I think. I didn't see "Damages" when it ran but I watched the first season on DVD and loved it. More people are doing this now, I think partly because they don't want to invest in something only to see it canceled. The viewers are expected to be loyal to a show, but the network doesn't have to be loyal to the viewers. So I can't blame anyone for waiting for DVD. Especially with genre fare, because it tends to be more serialized and can be better appreciated on DVD. I kinda wish they'd just start making shows for DVD. Make 13 episodes, air it if you want, but make it primarily for DVD. I wonder what would happen then. Would there be as many close-ended procedurals? What's the "CSI" Live + 7?
AJ, you're welcome! And thanks back.
I've thought about the space show thing myself. I think it's just that spaceships, and future settings in general, are unfashionable at the moment. I don't think there's any permanent problem with setting a show in space - the various Star Trek shows didn't do too badly.
They sure didn't. But they went to the well once too often and that changed the perception about the franchise. Also, it's a franchise, so it doesn't count when you're talking about space shows. Ridiculous, I know, but that's how they think.
As for Heroes, it's fascinating how someone with no comics background can end up duplicating all the worst parts of superhero comics. It's not just bad TV, it's bad comics, on TV.
It actually makes perfect sense. You have to know the rules before you can break them. At the top of my list of annoyances: the insufferable, know-nothing snobs who are going to elevate the genre.
How would you compare the DOLLHOUSE pilot to the pilot script that was floating around last year? I felt the script was stronger, more coherent, and less jammed with expo. The pilot felt like it was drenched in network notes. You?
Couldn't agree more. And I see that Joss is threading in some stuff from the original script. In the original, I get the show. He's setting up a lot, but he does it in that script. A pilot is like a house of cards. Because you're creating a brand-new world, you have to build a very intricate foundation. And the second networks start taking individual cards out, well... I refer you back to the Great Trading Stamp debacle involving Marcia's bracelet and Tiger.
Would love to hear your thoughts on Day One vs. the V reboot. I know both writers and thus am hesitant to discuss in a public forum... having just learned my lesson from you quoting my faux rant on your blog. :)
You have yet to rant!! I have read "Day One" but not "V" yet. I will read it soon and then both of us will be quite civil and lovely. Because we are.
The complexities of Lost's plot don't do much for me, but I do love the way everything that happens has emotional resonance for the characters involved, and each character has changed and grown over time.
Yup!! Same thing with "Twin Peaks" & Laura Palmer, and that's what networks don't always understand. I know everyone LOVES procedurals, but really... the audience STILL won't watch a procedural if they don't like the actor or the character. It's not as important in a procedural as it is in "Lost," but it's still a factor.
'Dollhouse' - well it doesn't reach out and squish a viewer with a feeling of awesomeness; however, it's Joss - more like a slowly being eaten away by a lightly acidic awesomeness.
Nothing to add. I just like the way you said that.
Your comments about LOST are interesting. It's a show that I stopped watching regularly a couple of seasons ago, not because it made me think -- I like that part -- but because I felt the creators were jerking me around just to jerk me around, rather than having a specific vision for the overall mythology. The way it layered felt false to me, I felt like they broke my trust, and that was it. I like the writing, I like the scene work, but I don't trust the creators to fulfill the promise of the mythology. There was a point where I could see three possible trajectories for the storyline, and they picked the one I liked least and the road I hoped they wouldn't go down. I realize it's all overly personal, and it shouldn't be, but that's what turned me off to the show.
I think this, in part, speaks to the idea of character. If you're not hooking into the characters, then yeah, you are totally being jerked around. I haven't spent three seconds thinking about what the mythology means. If I did, I'd probably want to kill someone. But I've been here before, with "X-Files." I DID spend more than three seconds thinking about the mythology, but back then we didn't know any better. And there wasn't the interactive component that there is with "Lost." But as soon as the characters began to change, that's when I checked out. It wasn't because of the mythology.
Oh, and some people known to both of us are now in a "reality show" --but that's probably something we should discuss off the board! ;)
OMG, I am LOVING it! I really am. It makes me want to write an ensemble pilot SO MUCH. I think Animal Planet has done a wonderful job with the show. I also love that they shot it last year, so it's all incredibly relevant. And seriously, I would watch it every day forever. That's how much I love it.
For those of you who suddenly went, WTF??? The show is "Jockeys," a docudrama that follows the Southern California jockey colony during last year's Oak Tree meet.
Thanks for the great post. It scared me a little though.Whatever great script one manages to brew up, what really matters seem to be how lucky one is for it to be picked up.
I have a question: is it common for producers/directors to have preference for hiring writers that they've worked with before?
First of all, yeah. There's a point at which it's up to luck and the capricious whims of the higher-ups who weren't involved in the development process. This is almost as hellish for the development execs as it is for the writers, because it's those execs who were won over in the pitch, who shepherded the project, and who lived with it. And yes, it's extremely common for producers to hire people they've worked with before. It's so common that it's getting impossible to just get hired. But hell, if I got a show on the air, I already know who my staff would be, so it's not like you can blame anyone for that. I do wonder how many brothers Joss Whedon has, though. Seriously. Stop already.
There were a lot of comments from people who don't hate "The West Wing." Cool. What I'm not loving when I'm reading pilots and pitching is how everything has to have an ironic distance to it. There was also an incisive intelligence in that show that's very hard to get away with anymore.
so why are tv programs given more slack than films? films not only have to give you their entire world in 1.5-2hrs, but also have to do it in one episode. why can't tv pilots accomplish the same thing? (fully acknowledging that many films don't accomplish it either).
In a movie, you have a very specific issue that you have to set up and resolve. Your characters exist within the parameters of the movie, but they don't need to exist outside of that. In a pilot, you have to set up the possibility of an endless series of issues while also introducing characters and relationships and intimating that they will also have myriad places to go. A pilot has to be both finite and infinite at the same time. A film doesn't have to do that.
A View From My Couch sez,
Well my blog is a graveyard, like Friday night TV, so I'm back here to annoy.
Have you checked your DVR ratings? You never know.
Please oh wise TV woman, please write a blog talking about how mid season replacements go down (ie; what execs have to consider, processes, stuff like that). Gracias.
Midseason shows are usually pilots bought for fall. When the networks are deciding what pilots to shoot, they always shoot more than they need. Around January/February, they start picking those pilots. There are pilot scripts they will flat-out pass on, but there are others that they won't shoot, but won't officially pass on either (this is annoying, BTW). If you don't get an official pass, then that could mean that your pilot is still in play and that they may decide, after they've finalized their fall schedule during May upfronts, to shoot your pilot for midseason consideration. Alternately, they could decide to order their midseason shows from the pilots they've shot. A lot of the time what happens is, they make the calls one by one, and they'll call those whose pilots don't get a fall slot and say they're in midseason contention. Then comes a frightfully long, drawn-out process where they'll make one decision, then wait awhile and make another... it can be really painful. They normally don't just order stuff that they know will be midseason right off the bat, but there are exceptions. They'll occasionally make pilots and then push the shows to the next year, so they'll reshoot pilots, recast, that sort of thing. Basically, there's no hard and fast rule. You can't really develop something specifically for midseason. Hope that helps!
Lee says about Dollhouse,
And after two episodes, is still trying to established its needlessly complicated and uninvolving premise. This has nothing to do with settling for status quo TV. The show just isn't very good.
I agree that it's still trying to find its premise, and I don't think that everyone who don't like the show feels that way because the show isn't conventional. Not at all. I'm willing to stick with it, but then I'm not some super champion, either. There are shows I walk out on really early. Just not this one! I do think Joss is trying something different, and I think it's important that we get different stuff on TeeVee. There's always the danger of failure, I know. If something that isn't a cop/lawyer/doctor show fails, that hurts the chances of something else unconventional making it. Cop shows can fail all over the place and it never hurts the chances of someone selling a cop show. I just wish genre shows had that comfort zone, but it's like the networks are just waiting in the weeds for them, and when they fail (even if it's due to a lot of network interference), the networks jump out and go, "HA! See? Nobody wants to watch this shit." The best case scenario would be for genre shows to be the first to migrate to the Internet but the quandary is that they're usually much more expensive, so that probably won't happen.
Alan Smithee says,
Fringe got good? When was that?
I was with you up until then. Totally agree about taking time to absorb something and reserve judgment. That's what I've been trying to do with Fringe, despite wanting to give it up after that one about the mystery cylinders chased by a man with no motive but had a mind-reading machine AND a super gun from the future. But apparently people lapped that stuff up.
You would be referring to me. As I said somewhere earlier, I'm a sucker for this stuff. I know that, and I acknowledge it. I don't like everything they've done on the show and actually, the engine of the show rarely works for me. But the cool stuff? Works like gangbusters. I can't help it.
Fringe seems to operate with the same pile on tactics as Lost -- throw on the Super Cool Ideas and don't worry about resolution or motivation because half the audience will just assume you're doing something really clever called "foreshadowing" that they heard somewhere without properly understanding. They end with a big cliffhanger of Olivia being kidnapped, then next episode she's out of there without rhyme or reason IN THE FRAKKING TEASER! Does that not cry foul to any writer, let alone those on staff?
We saw her escape, though... I will say that the one network note I have no use for is the introduction of the sister and niece. It's a false attempt to warm the character up. I know most people think she's cold and uninteresting, but I like her. And I don't think she needs to be defined by how much Lilith Fair music they listen to while drinking bottles of Pinot. I just don't.
Fair play to them getting their numbers though, and the production values give it that obligatory lure of gloss, but it's gotta be frustrating for anyone who's read the pilot script -- if that had A.N. Other spec writer's name on it instead of J.J. Abrams, no one would have made it to the end, let alone bought it.
Not that that's a surprise or a revelation, of course.
It isn't, but it's totally true, and I wish I could sell something that has some of the elements Fringe does. But it's just not possible.
Hey, look! Another long post!
Hope everyone enjoys "Watchmen" this weekend. We'll see, Zack Snyder. We'll see...
np - Soundtrack Of Our Lives, "Communion"