Things I honest-to-goodness thought this morning:
“What sort of protective measures against zombie invasion could I get for my house? The baseball bat under the bed ain’t cutting it.”
“I was outside for fifty-one seconds this morning, and I’m sweating like I ran The Dreaded Mile from high school gym class. What the hell.”
“Maybe I should move to Canada.”
“Omigosh, there’s going to be a tenth-anniversary panel for ‘Firefly’ at Comic-Con this year! Sucks that I can’t go.”
“I don’t think I’d like Canada. Even if they do have healthcare.”
“Oh, cool, the CW is making a show called ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and there’ll be a panel at Comic-Con. Let me Google this shit…”
“But Canada has to be a cooler temp than here, right? This is ridiculous. Fucking global warming–”
“Wait. Wait a sec. The guy playing the Beast is hot. And his character name is…Vincent? Why does that sound familiar? IMDb, IMDb… A-ha! Ron Perlman, bitches. Ron Perlman, 80s cult television classic, Vincent the supposed-dead-guy beasty-beast who lived in the sewers, and he was a furry motherfucker. And, oh, jeez, are they just remaking the whole damn thing? They are. Why are they doing that? WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT?!”
“…Screw Canada; I’m moving to England. Where there are three TV channels and people happily eat bread without counting stupid carbs. And there’s still national healthcare. Plus, it’s not 100 degrees in London.”
There are three major issues I have with the direction scripted, dramatic television has taken in the US in recent years. I don’t care about reality TV or sitcoms, just like I don’t care about made-for movies or children’s programming — those are all cans of worms I don’t care to open, because there’s no solution for them. But scripted, hour-long dramas…I care about those. Because I care, I have a short-list of Three Major Issues I’d like to share with the American television industry. I’m sure it’s nothing those execs haven’t heard before, nothing they haven’t ignored for years, but I’m operating under the another-voice-to-fan-the-flames-of-change-couldn’t-hurt theory.
Three Major Issues Concerning America’s Scripted Television Dramas
1. There should be a finite number of episodes per season, and a finite number of seasons per series, and THEN YOU’RE DONE. I get it: If you create a show that’s an instant millions-of-viewers-per-airing hit, of course you want it to go on ten-plus years. Of course you want to milk that cash cow for all its worth, until it’s nothing but a dry husk of an entertainment animal, about which fans will always say, “Dude, seasons two through four were the best, and it was just all downhill from there.” Fans will always say that. They will. It’s a sign, yo. Give a season thirteen eps (at max) and a series four seasons (at max), and you will (A) avoid plot pitfalls and season slumps, (B) make a mint in sales and downloads (which is where the future of TV is going, not in actual time-of-airing viewership, and (C) live in infamy as THE MOST AWESOMEST SERIES EVER ZOMG DID YOU SEE THE FINALE??? If your audience is never bored — if they can never afford to miss an episode because they are so damn invested — you won’t fail, not even financially. Think toward the future. Think of backlists and Netflix queues and the desperate fandoms, all out there and waiting with bated breath for you to give them what they want: satisfaction, not gluttony.
2. To paraphrase a quote from Hugh Laurie, “The difference between US and UK programming is that the British cast talent; Americans cast beauty.” I appreciate good-looking people up on my TV screen. I ogle right along with the best of them. But when I look at a show’s cast and see attractive person after attractive person after attractive person, I am…disenchanted. There’s no real skill in being beautiful. It’s either genetics or plastic surgery, and then some upkeep as you move forward. And, seriously, good for them for being gorgeous, the lucky ducks. But there’s a lesson to be taken from UK television and the mini-British Invasion we’re currently experiencing (e.g., “Doctor Who,” “Downton Abbey,” “Sherlock”), and that is this: Pick your cast members not because they are aesthetically perfect, but because they are amazing artists who make ANY ROLE they step into come alive. The constant barrage of pretty is overwhelming.
3. Please do not keep remaking old shows. Please. I know, I know: There are no new ideas anymore, only the same old stuff in new packaging. I agree, to a point, because I am a romance author, and romance authors understand tropes. I get that there is no avoiding them, and, hell, I don’t even want to. Tropes work for a reason. But I know there are literally thousands of writers out there who could, just maybe, take those old ideas and twist them around so that they feel, for a little while, like new ideas. Think of what you could do to stimulate the economy, Hollywood execs, just in hiring twentysomethings with useless English degrees to slog through submission piles and read everything, not simply the stuff by the known entities or the kiddos with “connections.” And even if you can’t justify taking a chance on someone different, at least produce something different (I’m looking at you, CW, and this “Beauty and the Beast” laziness). Because here’s the key to American audiences, y’all: We are not as dumb as we look. Or sound.
Now, there are programs out there that are new, exciting, fresh, non-homogeneous in terms of casting choices, and which abide by the short seasons/series end-date guidelines (AMC is a fantastic example of a network that’s made a lot of very daring but very profitable choices that align very nicely with my Three Major Issues). But there is so much room for improvement.
And I really don’t want to have to move to Canada.