Well with cancellation season nearly over in US TV, at least as far as most of us are concerned, and pitch season approaching I expect we are all dreaming up new ideas and wondering why our favourite series has bitten the dust. To be honest I’m not fully clear on the cycle of creativity in Hollywood, but there does seem to be a cycle which culminates in the commissioning of series in November and the cancellation of series in late Spring. The ever hungry television machine chomps through ideas and characters with the indecency of an uncontrolled population explosion, creatives young and old, try desperately to work out the magic formula that will be the next hit. Most of us just dream of course, some of us try pitching and all of us are an audience, so all of us have an opinion.
I started this blog with a whinge about the demise of Jericho and how the fans of the show bombarded the network with tons of nuts, yes nuts, to get at least a resolution to the show’s long arc and they succeeded. No such luck so far with Outcasts and Firefly remains the daddy of all network mistakes. On the plus side, in my early years of teaching teenagers I asked them the same standard introductory question at the beginning of their AS year “What is your favourite TV show?” in one year a massive 60% across the genders said The OC. Whether that is the Holy Grail of TV shows, I don’t know, but still students who missed it first time round will smile and admit that they love The OC and like to catch it on DVD. The current success of the BBC series Episodes unpicks this round of pitch, create and destroy with ascerbic honesty, depicting a world where focus groups and research are the modifiers of story lines and character – perhaps they should have asked my students.
But just as curious as the shows that are cancelled are the shows that are commissioned. This season’s offerings included Unforgettable that used to be called The Rememberer (The Rememberer? Is that really a noun?) By the way if you look up The Rememberer you get a short story, plus study guide on a short story by Amiee Bender about a man who evolves backwards – a kind of Benjamin Button of evolution – that is presumably why Unforgettable did not use that title. Unforgettable was a vehicle for Poppy Montgomery (Without A Trace) and Dylan Walsh (Nip Tuck) and featured a woman who could remember everything, demonstrating a penchant, at the moment for people with odd foibles, such as photographic memories or aspergers (Suits, Whitechapel, The Bridge). Quite why and how the executives come to their decisions is a curious almost magical process, I hope they won’t mind my dropping their names but Jonathan Coe once described to me the process of offering a pitch to Hollywood executives, which involved him preparing a detailed idea, only two sides long, which he began to offer, within thirty seconds the executive had said ‘Too political! What else?’ and expected another 30 or so ideas. ‘Don’t they know’ said Jonathan to me, ‘I only have an idea once every two years.’ One suspects that the quality of the idea is not the point, which would account for Unforgettable. Brian Sibley on the other hand, pitched any number of ideas to BBC radio for drama serials and put at the bottom, as a forlorn hope, Lord of The Rings, and he got the Radio 4 adaptation which had its influence on what was to come.
Personally whilst I enjoyed Lord of The Rings and its fantasy friends what I miss at the moment is anything space travel. Stargate Universe was an honourable, if not slightly more thoughtful (and that was probably its problem) story of travel in space, as was Firefly, as was Battlestar Galactica. I have already rushed out to see Prometheus and I gather the next Star Trek is on its way and I have hopes of Blood and Chrome the prequel to Battlestar Galactica but now there is news that there is only the pilot and SyFy will not run the series, bad news for our local hero Luke Pasqualino who went from the murdered Freddie in Bristol based Skins to Adama and bad news for those who have long admired the writing of the reimagined Galactica series including Caprica. Not only that the trailer is not available in the UK dammit! Luke P is our local boy – I have taught students who were in that series of Skins, no wonder SyFy are getting cold feet! NBC Universal don’t want to publicise it for “copyright” reasons – those reasons will prevent it being sold at all at this rate, and there goes the money! Mind you if we can’t look I thought we could look at Cookie (Jack O’Connell) as he avenges (or not) the death of his friend played by Luke Pasqualino – apparently not but – in the meantime -lets look at what we can get – at the moment – and good luck to both of them I say!
AND FINALLY in all that what of the series that last? CSI Miami has bitten the dust after being the most watched TV show in the US. While CSI New York and Las Vegas survive, NCIS goes on and on and Dexter keep going. Mind you perhaps not one the longest series out there but one of the most consistent, whose popularity is both a mystery and easily explained, is Supernatural, two young men
(and there’s the explanation – there’s a lot of eye candy for those who like the scopophilia of women, but not so much for those who fancy men) so two brothers, now not so young,
fighting demons in a quiet corner of television history, perhaps soon to be challenged by Grimm, go on to season 8 and they’re gunning for a season 9 – the demons of middle age beware!