When I was a student at Northwestern University I took an independent study with my favorite professor, Edward B. Hungerford, AKA Ted (although I could never even think of calling him that until we both were much older).
At our first meeting I told him I was going to write a novel, about a college student who…
He stopped me before I could go any further. “You may have noticed,” Dr. Hungerford said, “that most novels are about adults, handling adult problems.”
“Uh, yeah, now that you mention it,” I said.
“The reason for that,” Dr. Hungerford said, “is that adult problems are more likely to have high stakes. Life, death, love, loss, disaster, despair. And high stakes are much more effective for getting readers involved.”
“I don’t know much about adult problems,” I said. “Just about trying to look cool, getting up the courage to ask a girl out, cramming for a test in a class I despise.” I stopped. Dr. Hungerford was looking at me knowingly.
The independent study became an individual tutorial on Othello, which I didn’t despise at all.
If that conversation, and that class, were occurring today, none of that would have happened. Instead I probably would’ve just shrugged and said, “In that case, I’ve got this great idea for a TV drama series…”
Back then, most television, especially drama, featured people who looked like adults, and for the most part behaved like them too. Heroic adults. Or villainous adults. But adults.
You don’t see that so much now. When immature people grapple with serious issues while behaving in the silliest possible way, I lose sight of the stakes and become overwhelmed by the, well, stupidity usually, of the heroes’ approach. TV drama is filled with sophisticated twists and turns, puzzles and surprises, but even those can’t disguise how trivial so many of the characters are. And while I like trivia as much as the next guy – maybe more – I still need the characters to have more going for them than the ability to banter. I need them behave like real people who have something more than their cool to lose.
Or, more succinctly, to behave the way I think I would in whatever situation they’re in. (I could spout about “audience identification” and all that, but my deepest, darkest fear is that, simply, I love shows that seem to be, you know, all about me.)
What shows meet those ill-defined criteria for me? What do I watch? Well, my DVR records the following:
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (I know it’s off the air and I’ve seen ’em all, but it’s the only show ever that I keep watching anyway)
Looking over this list, do I detect a pattern? Are most of the shows I like really just ’80s style retreads? Reminders of what we did “back in the day?”
Hmm, no, I think not.
Because here’s what the list would have been just a few years ago, before the following series either were cancelled or, sadly, seemed to me to jump the shark:
BOSS (Jumped the LB shark: too much irredeemable evil for me to sleep after seeing it now)
DEADWOOD (Jumped my shark and went off the air, a double whammy)
DEXTER (Jumped my shark when they killed Rita; sob)
HOUSE (Gone, but I really thought this one was all about me)
JOHN FROM CINCINATTI (Gone)
LIE TO ME (Gone)
SAVING GRACE (Gone)
THE GOOD WIFE (Jumped my shark when I couldn’t understand the behavior of any one of the characters)
THE SOPRANOS (Gone; another sob)
THE WIRE (Gone but to me the Best of the Best; totally immersive)
If anyone out there has been watching a show – drama or action, whatever you want to call it – that you think I can get addicted to, get in touch. Tell me when it’s on. I’ll give it a try. And if it grabs me I’ll owe you. I will.
Otherwise – oh God, not this – I suppose I could get a life.
Upset because you can’t get funding for your film? Think how Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader must have felt.
The Canyons is a contemporary thriller written by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho, etc.) to be directed by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Affliction, Auto-Focus, etc.) The Canyons documents five twenty-something’s quest for power, love, sex and success in 2012 Hollywood….
The Canyons team has realized that Kickstarter is indeed a part of this new independent change, and is seeking to connect with our fan base even further with this campaign. Raising money will assist us in the production of our film in addition to increasing awareness of it. There is a distinct value in having an intimate relationship to those who care most about our work, and we are thankful to Kickstarter for helping foster these relationships.
Don’t worry about Ellis and Schrader. They got their money June 9th. And because the internet is indeed a wonderful place, “The Canyons team” never even had to specify what they’re going to do with the dough.
Shakespeare had a few thoughts on the matter. We should too.
Self Plagiarism, Ethics and the Case of Jonah Lehrer
by Jonathan Bailey
Jonah Lehrer is widely-heralded as a rising star in the science writing community. He’s written columns for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe. He also recently left a job writing for Wired Magazine to write for The New Yorker, often considered one of the most prestigious publications in the U.S. This is on top of his three books, including the recent best-seller “Imagine: How Creativity Works”.
However, that promising career and stellar reputation is now in peril. Allegations were brought forth that Lehrer had reused language from an earlier column of his in the Wall Street Journal in a recent column for The New Yorker. The allegations spread like wildfire through the blogging world, which in turn found at least 13 other instances of language reuse by Lehrer, each pulling from earlier works of his in newer columns.
The New Yorker, where much of the reuse took place, has since added an editorial statement, expressing regret at the duplication, to each of the columns involved. The publication’s editor, Nicholas Thompson, has said that “It’s a mistake. We’re not happy. It won’t happen again.”
A “Hell” of a deal, the end of the world, a magic monkey and a plaid sheep — these are the first projects selected for the Amazon Studios Series Development Slate. One is a children’s show, three are comedies and all four were discovered via the Amazon Studios site. (Learn more about how to submit your own ideas here.) All receive $10,000 option extensions.
Premise: In this animated comedy, Hell desperately needs new customers. And Mort Grimley, new to the Underworld after accidentally taking his own life, is offered a deal; get Hell’s numbers up and maybe get a transfer out (and up), or face eternity in fire and brimstone alongside the cruel mother he tried to escape.
Why We Like It: Angel has created a world and characters that are imaginative, visual, hilarious and different than anything that’s out there. It’s dark subject material, but handled with a deft and smart comedic hand.
Premise: Buck Plaidsheep chronicles the adventures of a courageous little critter named Buck. Whenever there’s a problem on Fleecy Farm, Buck races full-speed into action in one of his souped-up vehicles. And although things may not always go as planned, it’s Buck’s “never give up” attitude that makes him the sheep that always saves the day!
Why We Like It: This show features memorable characters (like a plaid sheep and a paisley sheep), strong narrative threads and adventures, and good qualities for young children to emulate, such as perseverance and helping others.