Getting to some comments, but not all of them, because what fun would closure be? Next time, I'll blather kindly about upfronts. No real surprises there, because networks are always going to develop what they develop. But there were some surprises regarding renewals, and one fall show has already premiered. I watched it. You don't get to know what I thought until next week.
"gentle readers" - Way to go all Jane Espenson on us!
I was actually going all Isaac Asimov, which I suspect she may be doing, too!
I'll be curious to see what you think of Damages season 2. I love virtually everything about the show--cast, tone, scene-for-scene writing--except for...the storytelling. I find the flash-forward bookends to every episode kind of a cheat, a way of maximizing and extending the shock value of what is actually a solitary twist/cliffhanger. And I don't find that the bookends comment all that meaningfully on the particular episode we've just seen, although I suspect I maybe haven't paid close enough attention to that. But I'm grateful to Damages: swanky, smart, upscale, educated, cutthroat NYC (with blood and sex) is a combination I've ALWAYS wanted to see on television.
I agree about the bookends, but I still like them and think they're effective for this particular show. They add a great sense of dread to the show. And that's really what I love most about Damages (and the acting, of course). Dread infuses every moment of the show. This show is about the unreliable narrator, the skewed point of view character. Because we weren't really sure how far Ellen would go this year. She was unreliable, too, and that enhanced that sense of dread. I just love it. I think it's such an underrated show.
Rob, from WAY back:
On another note... are you excited about the upcoming GAMES OF THRONES adaptation? It's kinda' flying under the radar, but if done correctly, this could be the LOTR of television.
I haven't read the books, but I know they're supposed to be fantastic. The biggest issue is going to be money. This shit's expensive, and we'll see if HBO can actually afford it. What's good about HBO doing it is that it will hopefully lend the genre some critical cred. I don't know if this will be another example of a genre show that isn't going to help the genre or not. Time will tell.
EDT -- Kings was a good-looking show. Luck to your friend.
Yes, Bridget Regan can act. Lots. She has star quality, that one. Now, getting into a discussion with pisher, gentle readers, isn't always the best way to go. Don't try to convince him that TeeVee can live without Joss Whedon. He's on a Whedon-hating kick right now. Just let him have it. So I'll comment on only a few things:
I'm sorry, TV is full of itself. Everybody wants to write the Great American Novel, when even real geniuses writing novels with no network suits to deal with couldn't manage that.
Everybody wants to make the best show they can. There's nothing wrong with aspiration, regardless of whether it's an aspiration to do a great drama that wins awards, or make something that's purely entertaining. It's been proven, especially this season, that the spectrum is alive and well. I'm tired of our whole humble American thing, where we're not supposed to aspire to anything because it's unseemly, and intelligence is arrogant. That's bullshit.
Burn Notice is basically genre (okay, no magic or superscience, but c'mon--it's sure as hell a fantasy), and it's the #1 scripted show on free cable. It's been renewed for another 16 episode season.
Burn Notice is not genre. Are you also going to appropriate Jane Austen as romance? Because I've already won THAT particular fight.
Whedon started out with the WB, which gave him a lot of room to run. Maybe it gave him a false impression of what it's like to work on a real network, but then again--he's a third generation TV writer. How could he not know? So maybe the REAL problem is that the WB, through Buffy, gave us slightly impression of how good a showrunner Whedon really is?
There are flashpoints in TeeVee, and Buffy/WB was one of those flashpoints. Another was X-Files/Fox. And right now we're looking at AMC, with Mad Men and Breaking Bad. When a network is starting out like that, the sky's the limit. The executives are hungry and enthusiastic, and they'll take chances they won't take later because they don't have that development box all set up yet. I know what it's like to have a great first experience and then be smacked with the reality stick. I know what it's like to trust people, and how hard it is to stop doing that. I honestly believe that Whedon tried like the devil to work with Fox, but his default is trust. Even more than that, though, has to do with something you mentioned. He's from an industry family. The last thing you want to be known as is a complete asshole. There's certainly a fine line. You can be partly an asshole. You can be a big asshole if your show is a huge hit. But if you choose to be a complete asshole, well, that's gonna hurt you eventually. Whedon grew up in the system. He works within it. He worked on Roseanne, for God's sake. Those writers learned a little something about bad experiences. No matter what, you HAVE to be at least somewhat accommodating, or they won't hire you again. And I think that hurt -- but didn't destroy -- his show. Ironically, it also may have helped. More on that next week.
We each fight as much as we can, and we pick our battles. Sometimes we're wrong, but at the end of the day I think we all have to be true to who we are.
I haven't seen the Trek movie yet, so my only comment is that Dorothy Fontana says she has no intention of seeing it. This being the same Dorothy Fontana who was story editor on the original series, and played an important role in creating Next Generation, and was one of 5 women credited on 16 of the 79 original series scripts (20% of the show). In the 60's. And here we are in the 00's, and there are two men credited with writing the script for this film, seven men credited with producing it, and Roddenberry gets exclusive credit for creating the characters, even though we know it wasn't quite that simple.
Ah, I love it when have the gall to whine about how there aren't many women writing for TeeVee or film. Hilarious. Also, I have this bizarre thing of making up my own mind about going to see something. I know. Like I said, bizarre. But that's how I roll.
Finally, as to samples, I often wonder if writers know which samples their agents are sending to which shows. Somehow I doubt it.
You'd be correct. Sometimes an agent will ask you what to send, but more often than not they will send what they think is the right sample. On a list of ten things that gall me about staffing season, the search for the perfect sample is way up there. If someone doesn't know how to recognize good writing, then yeah. The perfect sample is crucial. I wish it didn't matter as much as it does because at the end of the day, good writing should win out. But it doesn't always.
A few ways to at least try and put your best foot forward: Read all the pilots. Know the shows. Send your agent a list of what sample works for what show. Also, if you want to be submitted to a wide range of shows, you need to have a wide range of samples. It's retarded but true.
Regarding Heroes, I can't speak to specifics because I don't watch the show, but based on the pilot, what others have said about it and what Kring himself has said, it seems to me that he bit off something he just didn't want to chew. I don't think I could create a legal show, because I don't have a background in that world. When Kring sold Heroes, by all accounts it was a rich, detailed, wonderful pitch. He was excited about the idea. But see, if you're a genre writer and you come up with that idea, you already know that you have to make it different somehow, because there have been sixty million comic book stories about a group of modern-day superheroes. I feel somewhat justified in talking about this because we sold the same kind of show years earlier. And based on our knowledge of the genre, we knew we had to change it up and make it fresh -- and that was just because of the comic book world, not the TeeVee world. Because it hadn't been on TeeVee all that much at that point. We also knew that we had to create arcs, for the characters and the story. We had to keep everything organized, and all the rules clear. I honestly don't think Kring knew what he was getting himself into. You can't break the rules unless you already understand them.
As to procedural creators not getting it in the neck from procedural like Whedon has done from some genre fans, I'd humbly suggest it does happen. David Milch's John From Cincinnati caused all sorts of head scratching and angst from fans of Deadwood and NYPD Blue. But those communities are far looser knit and less vocal than genre fans, in my experience, so maybe the noise wasn't so deafening...
They do if they stray from what they do best, but when they're actually IN the crime/procedural drama, things settle down. I just think genre fans demand different things than procedural fans. For a procedural fan, a satisfying mystery with some character work is exactly what they're looking for. But genre fans, well... it runs a little deeper than that, which sadly leads to jokes about parents' basements and virginity.
That's my main problem with the show. It's not exploring the harsh realities of the very loaded ideas it raises, but engaging them in only in the most superficial, glossed-over shiny-background, cool-sunglasses, endless-back-flippy-fights-where-nobody-gets-bruised-let-alonehurt, alt-rock CW montage way.
I think they've gone away from that with the season finale. And not that I know from the inside or anything, but based on how I do know TeeVee works, I believe this was a function of a network trying to make the show into what it wanted. The show struggled all season, but that's what happens when you make the wrong compromises.
Anonymous attacker guy,
Well, thanks! I think I've only rejected two comments, and that was because they were obvious trolls that had nothing to do with the blog. Don't try and push that envelope or anything, but I said early on that I didn't want to be a blog Nazi. I mean, I approve pisher's posts, for God's sake!
I think you are overlooking some cool genre shows on TV. Supernatural started out looking like Buffy with dudes, but really became something cool, and supposedly they're having the balls to end it next season even though ratings are good. Also, Eureak really is a quality show, and it's one of the few shows with a positive outlook on the future. Also, Smallville has had some great moments. What about True Blood(which I don't actually like but it is a genre show you left out?
I haven't seen True Blood yet (no HBO), but I will watch the first season. Because there's so much shit on, and also work to do, I can't watch everything (I know. Sad). But I do sample as much as possible. Supernatural has definitely filled that void, and my understanding is that they're doing some cool stuff and constantly reinventing the show. Smallville is what it is, and what it's been for the four thousand years it's been on. I sure liked what I saw of Eureka. Of those, though, I think the only one that's relevant to the conversation is Eureka, because SciFi is really trying to build the network around it. Bringing up the eight million seasons of Smallville isn't going to get you anywhere. That show exists outside of any conversation about genre. See, the networks like to make exceptions, which means that if something like Heroes works, the network will make up some excuse for why it works, which precludes anyone pitching anything in the same vein to NBC. You simply can't go pitch a superhero show to the CW.
I had a question. You have written that network shows are viewed as being more prestigous. Why does it matter who's signing your check? I would think, writing good TV would be the true measure, but I could be wrong.
Well, I agree with you. But the business is still focused on the big networks. It's the major leagues, baby, and sure, you can make your quirky little show on cable, but the networks... that's where you rake it in! This is mostly, at this point, an agent discussion. The agents LOVE the big networks, because THEY make more money. For writers, though, the majority just want to get a show on the air. I would put myself in that majority.
My one (very minor) critique with STAR TREK (and MI III) is that the villian was only okay. It's tough, with everything the movie accomplishes, but a great villian would have nailed it for me.
Not that I've ever written a great villian either...
I see this complaint a lot and from a storytelling point of view, it makes sense. You can't have a great hero unless he's fighting a great villain. But I don't think that's as important in a franchise like Star Trek. This movie in particular was a pilot for a new franchise, and in that sense the most important element isn't the fight between the hero and the villain. It's the coming together of these characters.
Geez. Long. Again.
np -- Doves, "Kingdom of Rust." It really is an excellent record.