And there's nothing you can do about that.
The entertainment divisions of these megacorps are taking the hit for the failures of the other divisions. It's trickle-down economics, all right.
Even NBC head Jeff Zucker admitted recently that NBC would never be number one in prime time again. And he should know, right? He is, after all, the president of a network that hasn't had a break-out hit in years. His decision-making is legendary. His instincts are, well... total ass. The networks are giving up. It's not only due to what's going on with them. Their parent companies have something to do with that. But it just seems that as soon as things get tough, these pansies just shrug their shoulders and cry uncle. If you can do both those things at the same time. If there was one creative, independent network president, maybe we'd see something different. But they just cave. So it should no longer be a surprise when they abandon shows. This is their pattern and now that they're in crisis, they don't know what to do. The executive food chain must be fed when really, the cuts should come from there and not from the shows. The shows should be protected at all costs but geez, who would write and distribute the memos telling shows to cut budgets if there weren't executives?
Everything these guys do, every move they make, pushes the creative people closer to the Internet. One day these network heads are going to look around at a wasteland of a TeeVee schedule and realize that everybody bailed. Until then, though, we must all make due.
I didn't like Masterwork as much as I wish I did, and I think it's because I wanted a more satisfying caper-of-the-week ending. I mean, I'm all for the overarching mystery of the golden idol or whatever. I just also want an amazing week to week recovery of that lost work of michaelangelo that was up until now only a legend.
I'm a total and complete sucker for art mythology but I get what you're saying. I would love to watch that show. Did you see the Bravo docu series, "Art Crimes & Mysteries?" It was a six-part series about famous stolen art cases, and it was totally riveting. My guess is that even though Fox was eager to buy from Paul Scheuring, even he would've gotten the "What are the stakes?" question if he just pitched an art theft show. I don't know this for sure, but from my own experience, I'd guess so.
I never turn down a drink. Thanks, man!
I'm sort of watching Derby contenders. A few weeks ago, I picked my top four: Quality Road, Pioneerof The Nile, The Pamplemousse and I Want Revenge. I can't believe the4se idiots threw Quality Road out of their Florida Derby picks, especially because of their reasoning. He hadn't gone two turns, and he's by Elusive Quality. I can't believe they ignored the fact that Elusive Quality has already sired a Derby winner (Smarty Jones), and Quality Road has stamina influences Strawberry Road and Alydar in his female family, where Smarty's dam was by miler Smile. Bizarre. I'm fully aware that The Pamplemousse probably won't get the distance but I just love him. What a personality. I also like Imperial Council, Friesian Fire and Bill Mott's horse. Can't think of his name. Santa Anita Derby this Saturday, so that should be interesting!
Alfred the Human Troll wants to know:
I've seen you write before about reading pilots, etc. and this might be (okay it is) a stupid question: how exactly do you lay your hands on these pilots? Do they come to you via your agent or some other means? Or do are they in some magic box marked "pilots?" which I'm unable to find--info would be much appreciated so I don't have to continue breaking every little box I find on the side of the road.
We get them from our agent, usually as pdf files on a CD. I would imagine they'd be out and about on the Internets, being pdf and all, but I don't know where.
You're welcome! Glad you're enjoying it. And I think Galen marooned himself in Britain and built Stonehenge, so he probably quite enjoyed himself.
Anonymous Bosch opines:
For me, it's always been about Exploring Ideas and Concepts first, and good characters are just icing on the cake. I can't name the characters in Asimov's Robots books, but I can name the Laws Of Robotics.
Asimov was definitely about the Big Idea, and I devoured his books as a kid. However, I do very much remember Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw, Susan Calvin, Hari Seldon, the Mule... his character work wasn't stellar and let's face it, Asimov wasn't the prose stylist others were, but I thought his Big Ideas worked because of the characters. I don't think I'm explaining this very well; I don't think he was great with characters, but I don't think his books would have been as effective if they hadn't existed.
Lots to think about with all those concepts. Syfy just continually offers us 'Monster On The Loose'.
When you're talking about TeeVee, you won't get anywhere if you start with the idea first and then the characters. You have to be a giant ape to get this past them, and past the audience, too. I find this very weird, because the procedural shows are all about tech. Characters are constantly warbling about theories behind crimes. But the second you try this within the context of science fiction, you're dead. They will not let you do this. It's frustrating, to say the least. I'd love to do a Big Idea show. Actually, I think an excellent example of a Big Idea show is Flashforward. The book is very tech-heavy. It's got a good deal of hard-sf theory in the style of Asimov. The show, however, is not. The characters are taken out of CERN and put in what an executive would call a relatable situation. The pilot is more character-driven than the book, but the Big Idea is still there. That's the tricky part, and Flashforward has done an excellent job with that.
Besides, does Syfy really have the budget to support Sci-Fi shows? BSG ended up with a lot of 'Ship In A Bottle' Shows, and the money for 'Eureka' seems to have completely vanished, considering how cheap the last season was, and the fact they had to work Product Placement into it to support it.
I honestly don't know. I do know they do NOT want spaceship shows, but that's due less to budget and more to aesthetics. Their testing tells them that space doesn't sell to audiences. It will in film -- Star Trek will be the biggest movie this summer -- but not on TeeVee. Now... I don't necessarily agree with this. I think there's a way to do practically anything, as long as you do it right. But they've made their decision.
I even remember a drama about space travel a while back - not SF, just workplace drama about contemporary astronauts. I wonder if you could pitch that today.
It's pitched all the time. It just hasn't gotten on the air yet. And the people pitching these types of shows aren't necessarily sci-fi people. I think the stigma occurs when you have to say, "After the 33rd galactic winter..." The same stigma applies to high fantasy: "Ephiron of G'nleth had just passed his 12th Hyrelian shrewsday..." Peoples' brains just snap. It's not a world they're familiar with, and that means there has to be a lot of brainpower put into marketing and advertising because they're starting with nothing that's familiar. The real trick is to find something that satisfies your genre brain while being familiar and comfortable to audiences and executives.
When I look back at the science fiction books I read as a kid, it's all Asimov, Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Pohl & Pournelle, Zelazny, urban fantasy like Madeleine L'Engle... you get the picture. And what a lot of those books had in common was a relatability. Heinlein's juveniles frequently had Earth protagonists. And if they didn't, they were Earth-like enough to be relatable to kids. Why Heinlein has not been successfully adapted is beyond me. Why Asimov's robot novels haven't been turned into a series for Sci-Fi is a mystery. But there's obviously still a bias that hasn't been figured out yet.
What you said. All of it. Our frustrations are the same. So the question is -- what do we do about it? How do we get this across? You know, I went to a movie a few weeks ago and the Star Trek trailer came on. These kids were there with their mother. They were nine, ten, around there. And when the trailer comes up, one of the kids goes, "Ooh! Star Trek!" That reaction is something you can't test for. And we could take advantage of it, on TeeVee, but it's not allowed. I think we all need to band together somehow and create what we want to create. Maybe the Internet...
A View From My Couch demands,
The solution is simple, Kay! Pitch and create a fantastic, absolute hit of a science fiction show that destroys all stereotypes and stupidity. How hard would that be?Have it ready by this fall, please. I hate tardiness.
Whenever I think of pitching my craziest science fiction idea, I remember that I should only do that when I want to sabotage my career. I'm not quite there yet!
I loved the BSG finale. I think much of the nasty hostility towards it stems from the impression that the showrunners were improvising to the very end rather than following an outlined arc. Observe comments on rastbm if you're old enough to remember Usenet (the Babylon 5 moderated newsgroup where showrunner JMS can still be found).
But who in their right mind is willing to bet their show will last long enough to follow a five year arc?
As usual, the best solution seems to belong to the Mutant Enemies - arc-ing on the season level and not on the series level.
That's how Morgan & Wong did season two of Millennium, and that season exists as a complete story. I think the fact that series don't have concrete ends causes more problems than anyone knows. It's certainly hurt Lost and, I gather, Heroes. Buffy certainly did it right, and that's the only way you can do a show with a mythology. We've got an idea right now that needs to have a hard end date. I wonder if the BBC would be interested... they seem to do it right.
You get the best drama when someone stands up for it. If there's too much outside input, the show will be watered down and point of view will be lost. But sometimes, a showrunner has to literally put his or her career on the line to get the show they want. It makes me wonder how they're doing it at AMC. How are Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan so letter-perfect with their shows? Does AMC really allow them to protect their shows like this, or are they fighting every day? I'd really like to know. If it's the former, then set a pitch meeting, please!
But on to another show that has been steadily winning me over: United States of Tara. I was glad to hear they got renewed for a second season and then shocked to hear that Alexa Junge, the showrunner, quit! Why would a showrunner leave a show that's been renewed, especially in this economic climate?
I don't know the specifics, but there are myriad reasons. She could have a pilot that's going, which is an optimistic reason. I've known showrunners who left successful shows because they'd done everything they could there, and wanted to develop their own stuff. There could have been a problem between her and the network or studio. Maybe there was too much interference, maybe she wasn't doing what they wanted her to do. I don't know, but if I hear anything, I'll let you know!
silverlain wants to know:
SyFy... SyFy... such a STUPID name. i sincerely hope that this is the ONLY stupid mistake the network is making in their so-called revamp.
an NPR article speculates that the end of BSG might revive Dollhouse. i'm curious as to what you think of this.
I think that's kind of a stretch. While hardcore genre people will watch both, I think they already were. Speaking of Dollhouse, I would have found their game-changer much more of one if Alias hadn't done the same thing in the pilot. I think there are some interesting ideas in Dollhouse but as I said before, if you find yourself tossing your premise to keep the show interesting, then maybe your premise has some problems. I'm still watching, because I wonder how different the show is going to be at the end than it started out to be. I'd wager VERY.
And lastly, the execrable (always a fun word to use) Jonathan Toomey of TV Squad stuck his foot down his craw with this nonsense about Matthew Fox not wanting to do TeeVee when Lost wraps:
According to various reports, the Lost star claims that when the sci-fi drama finally ends, it'll be the last TV show he ever does. Part of me doesn't blame him. He spent six years on Party of Five, another year trying to make something out of nothing on the abysmally bad UPN (remember them?) drama Haunted, and it'll be five more years notched for him once Lost ends.
So what does he want to do instead? You guessed it, the old standby: focus on his movie career. Um... what movie career? Has he ever watched Vantage Point? Did he sit through Speed Racer? OK, so We Are Marshall was pretty good... but that's it. His TV track record speaks much higher of him than his cinematic resumé does, so why the desire to completely snub the whole medium? Something tells me his tune will change when Lost ends and he isn't getting the phone call about his dream job - a Steve McQueen biopic. How about a Wanted: Dead or Alive remake instead?
Jonathan Toomey, you are a fucking idiot. Speed Racer was one of the best movies of 2008, hated mostly by people who went into the movie like the sheep they're created to be, folks who only turn their brains on when they're told, maroons who don't think that a movie called Speed Racer could be anything other than total, utter crap. It's pretty easy to have an opinion when someone else tells you what to think, isn't it? That makes you look smart on the Internet machine. Something else that makes you look smart is ironic distance. You cool cat, you! Conventional wisdom, which is anything but wise, has told you that Speed Racer sucks, so spread that, you will.
That part was bad enough. But then we get to the second part of the case that proves your rampant idiocy: Haunted.
I worked on it and I'm here to tell you, suck is the last thing that show did. I hear your mumbling, Jonathan Toomey: "Riiight, you WORKED on it, so it HAS to be good." Like most TeeVee writers, I don't defend everything I've ever worked on. There are probably three things I would go to the mat for, and Haunted is one of them. You clearly never saw a frame of the show. Either that, or you really are completely blind, you good little entertainment consumer, you.
UPN did such a piss-poor job of promoting the show that NOBODY watched it. Now, my friends know I'm not one for self-promotion, and they get on me about that all the time. I guess all it takes is a clueless little pisher like you, Jonathan fucking Toomey, to drag me out of my promotionless shell.
Our episode of Haunted, "Grievous Angels," was chosen as one of the top 30 episodes of TeeVee for 2002 by The Futon Critic. See, Futon Critic critics actually WATCH TEEVEE. They don't only watch the most popular shit, they watch everything. As a TeeVee website, that's kinda their job. You, on the other hand, are just some asshole pretending to be more than just someone who sits on his fat ass and watches whatever they feed you.
Look, chuckles, I know what you're going for. You're trying to be "in the know," and the only way to do that is to criticize. It's always fashionable to slap actors for being whiny little turds who make too much money for doing something any drooling fool -- including you -- can do. I see your trick bag. But when I worked on Haunted, I saw an actor who came to work every day, who was in almost every scene, and who was always about the work. Matthew Fox fucking threw himself into that show, and he was amazing in it. It's a shame the network didn't know what it had. Matthew going on to notoriety in Lost is an actor getting the acclaim he deserves. And the only thing that should be blamed for Speed Racer's failure at the box office is assholes like you and the other critics who refused to look out of their sad, sick little house of mirrors and see an original, ferocious and subtle piece of work.
Unless you're hiding in Matthew Fox's closet, you don't know if he's had to turn down movie roles because of Lost. And why you feel the need to take shots at him because he just made a freaking DECISION is really mystifying. But then, you just do 24 recaps on a website, so I guess I get it.
I love having a blog.
np -- My rage. And Fanfarlo.