Back a few posts, about novelists who will save TeeVee.
What happens when you let novelists write TV scripts:
1. The Wire.
If you're only going to mention one guy, you forgot about Homicide and The Corner (a mini, but still TeeVee). But, erm... are you REALLY only going to use ONE guy to prove this misguided notion? Because I found something for you. What Simon had to say (heh) about Homicide:
Simon was asked by Mutrux to write the show's pilot episode but declined, feeling he did not have the necessary expertise.
Hey, look! Someone who wasn't just all focused on how brilliant he was. He actually DEFERRED to the PROFESSIONALS. Then what did he do? He learned how TeeVee worked. By the time season four of Homicide rolled around, he joined the staff full-time. But he was NOT running the show. He wasn't even a PRODUCER until season six. So unlike this Peter Watts asshat who thinks that TeeVee writers need to be guided by novelists who don't even own televisions, David Simon was sensible enough to recognize that television is also a profession, and that there are professionals in it. Therefore, your entire point just flutters away because by the time The Wire came around, David Simon WAS a showrunner because he'd learned from TeeVee writers how to actually do the JOB. Thanks for trying, though.
What gets me is the notion that the audience should be happy with what they got. The writers knew what the viewers wanted and had two seasons to deliver the goods. And to many, they didn’t.
Right. But to some, they did. Why is this so hard to grasp? Millions of people aren't going to agree on what they're getting out of a TeeVee show no matter WHAT you do. The thing is, Lost DID try to deliver on what a portion of that audience demanded. And that led to several uninspiring seasons. But when they went back to what interested THEM in the first place, the show took a breath and relaxed and I for one was MUCH happier with the show. So ironically, what you're suggesting already took the show down a bad path. As for writers knowing what the viewers wanted... well, fuck 'em. The SECOND a showrunner starts changing his or her show to suit Internet opinion is the second that show dies. I don't expect every human watching to love everything that I do. That's an impossible task. There's only one choice to make -- Do the show I want to do and hope people watch. The episodes and scripts I'm most proud of happen to line up with what the audience thinks, too. You simply CANNOT listen to people about this. Of COURSE showrunners are trying to please an audience, but that has to come out of THEIR inspiration. If the only inspiration is the audience, you're fucked. I'm not sure you can understand this until you fuck it up.
While all this is very interesting from a writer's POV, it's totally irrelevant from an audience's POV. A great majority of the loyal viewership wanted to know what the island was and the show denied the answer. The End. And by the way, they also wanted to know more about some of the characters, like Eloise and Widmore, but I forgot - Fuck it, right? Riiiight.
Completely irrelevant? Really? No. And if you didn't poll everybody who watched Lost, you can't insist that "a great majority" of the audience wanted every answer. The show didn't work for you. Fine. But the show worked for other people. And this may surprise you, but it worked for people WHO WERE VIEWERS OF THE SHOW. I am also an audience member, Johnny. Therefore, this is NOT totally irrelevant. Don't be an idiot.
Very interesting, and maybe you do have a valid point....
So Fucking What?
Doesn't change the basic feeling of being cheated, and no reiteration of "It's the characters, stupid!" is going to change that.
Not for you. But seeing as how this is my blog and I am giving my opinion, then... well, it's my opinion. Isn't it? It's not YOUR opinion, nor am I asking for it to be. It's mine. And for me, for the Goddam hundredth time, it WAS a character show, the characters DID work, and I LOVED the finale. Apologies for not having the same opinion you have. I'm not trying to shove my opinion down your throat. If you'll look back at the numerous times I've stated that this worked FOR ME, then you'll see I'm not pulling your leg.
This was supposed to be a shortish post, but GEEZ, guys. How many times...? Ah, forget it.
I think this is a fantastic post. What it can seem like to people who don't like the finale is that you're just trying to rationalize the show's faults. Maybe?
But what's really going on is a good dissection and discussion about expectations and disappointment.
Thanks. And I don't think I'm trying to rationalize anything because I've said exhaustively that it works for some people, and doesn't work for others. What I've been TRYING to do is show you WHY it works for me.
Two words for you: Babylon 5. All that pre-planning you think is impossible? It's been done.
Well. One word and a number. I didn't say pre-planning is impossible. I said you have to give yourself room to work. You all seem to be making everything I say into either/or and I'm not saying that. Now when you talk about something that's SO planned, as Babylon 5 was, I have to say that it didn't work for me. I found the show too dry. I'm not saying it's wrong, but if your point is that because Babylon 5 did it Lost should have too, I'll point out that they are two completely different shows. You can keep trying to trip me up but if you continually try to force hard-and-fast rules by offering exceptions, then you're not doing it right.
The fallacy to your argument is that I don't think Lost failed. Sorry it failed for you, but it worked for me. I'm puzzled as to why you keep trying to change this...
He lost me when he admitted he had never seen an episode of Lost and doesn't really watch any TV (with your standard "I don't even OWN a TV" comment thrown in for good measure -- though I'm confused on how he's keeping up with Dexter and Sons of Anarchy if that's the case). Yet he knows how to fix it? That takes some balls.
Man, I LOVE it when some pretentious knob says he doesn't even own a TeeVee. I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING ADORE IT. Because it negates EVERYTHING they say. Especially now, when TeeVee can be downloaded and bought on DVD. If it really offends folks this much, then they shouldn't watch ANY of it. Be true to yourself, Sport.
It's funny. I just saw an article about FLASH FORWARD on this subject. It claimed that when the show was sold, it came with a five year outline. They were trying to avoid some of the perceived pitfalls of doing a LOST. But now that FLASH FORWARD has fizzled, the article reasoned that maybe having such a detailed outline actually hurt the show because it hindered the writers from expanding on the aspects of the show that were working and dropping those that weren't now that the show was a living, breathing thing instead of just an outline.
You can have that but you HAVE to be willing to roll with it, too. And when you plan something out too extensively, you fall in love with things that you're either not willing to change, or unable to see how it CAN be changed. Likewise, if you don't plan something out at all, then you have TOO many options open to you and nothing against which to compare them. This leads into...
It's interesting you use Buffy as an example of planning not being necessary.
It IS interesting, because that's not what I said. But then that seems to be the theme with all the talk about Lost. NOBODY seems to be able to figure this out. Are you guys even trying?
I used the Jenny example as an example as inspiration. God, if the Internet does ONE thing extremely well, it somehow transforms EVERYTHING into black and white. I can't say that Yes, planning is important but that there's a fine line between too much and not enough? I mean, seriously? Because that was the entire POINT of the example! You simply have GOT to feel free enough to change things. But you also must have something there to CHANGE. I don't know how much simpler I can put this.
I could tell you that whenever I pitch or write a pilot, I've got a lot of stuff figured out. I think it might surprise you.
I don't think every minute answer needed to be jammed down our throats, but on a certain level, we have to recognize that Lost wasn't just a character show. Lost was, from day one, a mystery. Mysteries like Sawyer's letter and the smoke monster were equally important from the pilot on.
Sawyer's letter was a character point. And as far as I'm concerned, Lost WAS a character show. I've already said a zillion times that it was NOT a character show for some folks. And that's fine. But for ME, the finale worked because for ME, it WAS a character show. If there's another way for me to simplify that, lemme know. I mean, JESUS. How many times do I have to say this before it sinks in? I'm not asking for you to agree with me but GEEZ. To wit:
Doesn't work for me.
EXACTLY MY POINT.
Tell me when you want to go after Mills and Stronach & I'll join you. That man should never have been allowed to buy ONE racetrack, never mind multiple ones, nor own a horse.
Whenever one of those asshats is at the track, which will probably be NEVER. I eagerly await the ass-smacking Stronach is gonna get at the next CHRB meeting. I hope it's EPIC. Jerry Moss is on the board and you DO NOT FUCK WITH JERRY MOSS. Especially now. And as soon as I have come down from yesterday's incredibly historical moment, I will blog about it. Hopefully before Zenyatta wins #18.
I work in finance at a large entertainment company and have an MBA. I know it's easy to lay the blame on "those corporate types" and "Harvard MBAs" (the biggest douchebags on the planet btw especially the ones that come from consulting), but some of us actually love TV. Love it unconditionally and irrationally and do what we can to make a case for quality to survive. It isn't easy and we are bucking the system and are not rewarded for taking chances, but we try. I know I do in the tiny little corner of the business that I can influence. Daily.
Let me be a little more specific, because I wasn't before. Sorry about that. I've often said that there are marvelous executives that writers deal with on a daily basis. Just as it's not those executives I blame for the problems with the business, I don't blame people like you who work at these studios. The MBAs to whom I'm referring are the folks who are making decisions purely at a financial level, because they are beholden only to shareholders and boards and CEOs and the like. YES, television is a business but it's also a creative endeavor. Those two elements used to be able to duke it out a little and find a middle ground. I don't think that's happening anymore.
Roy Cooper writes:
As a novelist who's finding it an assload tougher to write the pilot script I've been asked to write than I thought it would be, I think this may be my favorite rant ever. If it helps any, not all of us novelist sorts are A) stupid enough to publicly admit we've never watched an episode of a show we are now going to tell you how to fix and B) elitist enough to think Tee Vee is a hive of writing inferiority and showrunner villainy, but rather a very different form of a very similar art. Jazz and Rock, baby. Greats in both venues who change the face of the world, be their tunes improvisational riffs or rock operas written in a grotto with a pen dipped in blood ink.
I know you're not all like Peter Watts, and bless you for it. Good luck with the pilot!
And yeah, actually, I have written in a room with random spewage from what was euphemistically termed "a roof." I think that's why I decided to become a novelist instead. Well ... that and the fact that I wanted to write about exploding dinosaurs, and I heard Tee Vee didn't have the budget.
TeeVee doesn't even have the budget for two people to talk in a room anymore, unless it's in Atlanta or Buenos Aires. Can one person do all the talking and the other guy just nod?
Sasha, regarding Gossip Girl:
The unreliability/inaccessibility of Chuck’s POV for the second half of the season (and sort of the first half) was weird enough, but I figured his thinking/actions would be explained at some point…I guess because I bought into the “omniscient camera” of the show’s first two seasons/almost every TV show. But now the season’s ended and we STILL have no explanation/access to his POV. Instead they left him bleeding out in some alley?
Much as I hate to be stodgy and concrete, I’m really unhappy that the writers cut this character off from the audience. I miss him! And am now totally not only confused as to what’s going on with him, but (more importantly?) what’s going on with the “rules” of the show. I don’t understand why they’d want to break their POV "pact"…or if they even realize that they did?
That's interesting. I don't think you're being stodgy. I think the writers switched things up on you without telling you they were going to. And that's not really fair. Gossip Girl is ostensibly a soap with the gossip girl voice-over. It didn't seem to set itself up as the type of show that could screw around with POV like that. So it seems kinda lazy to me, like they hadn't REALLY decided what they were doing with Chuck. Strange.
More later. Tired now.