It's been a busy few weeks, gentle readers. We've been rewriting our pilot and pitching which, by the way, has been a blast. We wanted to take the show on the road but there are only so many networks. We've never gone out with a spec pilot before, and we've never had talent attached. So the entire process has been new and unexpected. But now we wait and see if anyone bites. NO idea how long answers will take, but probably longer than normal. Whatever happens, we met new great people and it was satisfying to dive back into an old pilot. I'll update it in the file section at some point, so anyone who read the earlier draft can see what great notes and fantastic collaboration can get you. Shooting this pilot, with these people, would be a freakin' dream.
Anyway, apologies for the lack of rant. But fortunately, Hollywood has been a busy little bee these past few weeks. It has not let us down. There's plenty to rant about.
SyFy debuted its new spelling last week and they aired their first newly spelled show, Warehouse 13. Numbers-wise, it did well for them. They need the show to work so it would have to seriously tank to worry them. I generally liked it, especially the leads. I didn't think I would at first, but both leads do more with their stock characters than you'd expect. However, I'm not terribly fond of the uptight female character, and the "let's share our private pain" scene had too much of a list-making quality to it. It feels like they went for type first and character second. Plot-wise, too, I think they could have done better. Maybe knowing something about Lucrezia Borgia would help? There's a simplicity and a cleanliness of story that marks excellent pilots, and Warehouse 13 lacked a bit in that department. But as a show on TeeVee, it fits in nicely. If any viewers had other expectations, you're looking at the wrong network. SyFy HAS to re-brand itself away from the darkness of Battlestar Galactica. They had a taste of the critical acclaim and it didn't mean as much as numbers do. They're okay with that and an audience that tunes in to their shows should be okay with it, too. They wanted a lighter show with close-ended episodes that would be a companion for Eureka. That's what Warehouse 13 is.
If you think about what scrutiny this show has gotten from the network (it is, after all, launching Y's), then the confusion and wishywashiness of the pilot is understandable. This is a concept that wasn't delivered to screen by the person who actually came up with it. And that's always going to cause some trouble in TeeVee. I'm a firm believer in TeeVee being creator-driven. TeeVee, however, has a different opinion. The execs seem to be in line with film execs, where a literary vision just isn't important. Since the whole POINT of TeeVee is that it's creator-driven, that is just plain unfortunate.
So I watch Warehouse 13 and I'm fine with it, but then The X-Files comes on. It's Ascension, the episode after Duane Barry when Barry kidnaps Scully and they use that awesome Nick Cave song, "Red Right Hand." And I'm thinking, "Was it REALLY the right decision to have X-Files anywhere in proximity to Warehouse 13?" X-Files is the show they're always trying to do. But networks are rarely about the sensation of a show. They're about the hard realities. So the elements of X-Files that supposedly work are two FBI agents chasing weird shit. Never mind the zeitgeist of the moment, or the fact that we hadn't really seen a show that had mythology AND standalone episodes. Forget about the feel of Vancouver, the gray rain and the forest. That was all NEW to the viewers. The tone was new. The pacing was new. Woman-as-skeptic and not emotional basket-case was new. Mulder being bat-shit crazy was new.
Incidentally, for all the talk about X-Files being inspired by Kolchak, its real inspiration was The Invaders. Fox Mulder is David Vincent without the proof.
Anyway. X-Files was described as a show where the two leads were believer and skeptic. Great, right? A perfect pitch. A pitch that has completely fucked up television forever, by the way. Because now you're expected to put your characters into those particular boxes, especially when you're pitching a genre show. And that leads to types and not to actual characters.
I think that when there are zeitgeist shows, they exist for several reasons. One reason, and this is something that you can't manage or predict, is the timing. Not only for that particular show, but network timing as well. You need a network that is primed to let the show be the show. Fox did this with X-Files, and the WB did it with Buffy. We don't really have that network now. Oh, AMC's shows are brilliant, but they only have two (and a new one coming on eventually). So that doesn't help creators. There's simply not enough product. But the bigger reason for zeitgeist shows is that there's something in them that we haven't seen before. Buffy's another example of that. Buffy was a metaphorical high school show in which the metaphor was something we hadn't seen in a high school show before.
But see, you can't just make it happen. It's not the specific, obvious elements that makes these shows work. It's that intangible creator part. THOSE decisions, which are made by the person who DREAMED THE SHOW UP IN THE FIRST PLACE, take the show to a place that can't be replicated.
Nobody seems to get this. And nobody seems to get how important characters are. How integral were Mulder and Scully to their world? How about Buffy? You can't just cynically plop down characters in a world we've seen before and expect people to get excited. But that's exactly what the networks are asking of the writers and the audiences. They don't REALLY want Mad Men or Breaking Bad. They want the acclaim.
To wit: SyFy's relieved at the numbers for Warehouse 13. And good for them and the people on the show. I hope it works. I no longer, however, hope it works so that we can shoehorn more genre onto the TeeVee. Because that's not going to be happening. SyFy is not, as you would hope, opening the floodgates to fresh, original voices. Instead, they'll be remaking Alien Nation and Quantum Leap.
Okay, see, when someone goes, "Hey, they re-run all these great genre shows," that is not an invitation to remake them. Instead, it should make them want to hear ORIGINAL pitches in that specific genre. But network and studios don't seem to be operating that way anymore. In fact, this has been the worst few weeks EVER for movie and TeeVee announcements (except for ours, of course, which isn't a remake or a board game). I just have to wonder if ANYONE is embarrassed by these announcements. I mean, do they know, deep down, that they're putting another nail into the coffin of entertainment? When a studio goes, "So yeah, we're developing Hong Kong Phooey as a movie," is there even a twinge of awareness?
What's even more worrisome about this is that they make these announcements. Because if you WERE going to develop something stupid into a film, and you knew it was stupid but you have to feed the corporate machine and it doesn't care if money is stupid or not, wouldn't you NOT make a huge trade announcement?
Besides Hong Kong Phooey (I mean, FUCK!!), we'll also see big-screen adaptations of TJ Hooker and The Big Valley. I shit you not. The Big fucking VALLEY. Which they won't, BTW, SHOOT IN THE ACTUAL BIG VALLEY. That's bad enough, but now they have to cast someone as Victoria Barkley. If you're a zygote, Victoria Barkley was played by the great Miss Barbara Stanwyck. If you're stupid and have never heard of her, well... fuck you. And actresses? I know you need work. I know it's tough out there. DO NOT STEP INTO BARBARA STANWYCK'S BOOTS. Seriously. You don't want this.
When I worked at Universal, we used to play this game where we'd fake-cast TeeVee shows as movies. Almost all of those shows have been made into films. What we didn't do, though, was cast toys and board games as movies (stupid us, apparently). But now we're going to see the ViewMaster movie. I can't WAIT for the Comic Con panel on THAT. I figured, Hell, if studios are all into buying games and toys for adaptations, lemme get IN on this bitch. So I worked up a few loglines:
SLINKY: When the Anderson family's car breaks down, they're forced to stay at the spooky, mysterious Staircase Inn, which was built by a Winchester cousin. The two inquisitive Anderson children unknowingly unleash the Slinky monster and must team up with a local Slinky hunter to destroy the monster.
CONNECT FOUR: In the future, a holographic four-dimensional game determines whether a person lives or dies. But when a mild-mannered holographic tech discovers a nefarious plan to fix the game and kill the President, he teams up with a game designer to foil the plot.
UNO: While on a dig in Egypt, an archaeologist digs up an ancient deck of cards that unleashes a terrible power, which can only be stopped by playing a medieval card game, the instructions to which were lost centuries ago.
SIMON: A community living in a state-of-the-art incorporated town are terrorized when SIMON, the computer that keeps the town running, short-circuits and begins exercising ultimate control over the town's residents. It's up to a former Navy SEAL and his estranged genius son to stop SIMON and save the town.
MONCHICHI: An alien race of -- oh, fuck it. They were too creepy.
And for nostalgia's sake, remember when they'd just make movies out of rides?
SPACE MOUNTAIN: A grieving Commander Rip Griffin, whose wife was killed in an asteroid accident, is sent on an undercover mission by the Space Corps, where he must pose as an illegal miner so that he can gain access to the lair of an evil overlord who is using black hole technology to build a series of space mountains, which he will use to crush every planet in the system.
Seriously, don't be concerned when Inch-High Private Eye and The Far Out Space-Nuts surface. Because they will. I just wonder what they'll wind up with last. Cereal, maybe. Are we looking at a Count Chocula-Cap'n Crunch team-up??
Rant over. FOR NOW.
np -- The Jam, "All Mod Cons"