Dan Harmon on the Miserable State of TV

In the wake of his forced separation from his brainchild, Community, and the show’s subsequent showrunners making an underwhelming debut, it’s especially interesting to hear Dan Harmon’s rather bleak take on the state of television.

Positioning viewers as passive consumers of garbage and writers as powerless pawns of corporations, Harmon’s most fascinating commentary is on the level of censorship involved in the TV production process. Claiming that TV writers are patently “not allowed to say whatever they’re thinking” is a bold statement, especially coming from someone who seems to have been so successful in getting his vision onto the screen.

But Harmon’s comments point to a valid question, and one that has often been on my mind as someone aspiring to enter the entertainment industry: What control do writers, directors, and even showrunners really have? Is it possible to ever really see your work come to life in the way you envisioned it? What do you think?

((Apologies for the rather cynical post; I suppose I’m not in the cheeriest of places lately. –MQ))

Dan Harmon Rants About the ‘Garbage’ That Is TV
Jesse David Fox @ Vulture

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When asked why 30 Rock was able to stay on the air as a poorly rated yet very smart show, Harmon goes off, espousing a very “everything is bullshit” message. He calls all TV, regardless of quality, “a bunch of goddamn baby food made out of corn syrup.”

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Why Did Smash Crash and Burn?

Smash had a very promising start, with a great pilot that got us all hooked and excited to see where the show would go. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere. Quickly devolving into uninteresting side plots and melodramatic characterizations, this show simply lost track of what it was meant to be: a story about producing a Broadway show.

Viewers who are interested in the premise of Smash have no desire to see the show be more about the often times ridiculous behaviors of the various characters, but instead about the actual production, about Marilyn Monroe, and about breathing life into her story through song and dance. While some element of the drama behind the drama is of course a necessary part of such a story, Smash has, it seems, totally lost sight of the actual Broadway production.

Check out this great (although somewhat lengthy) article on the various elements of the production of Smash‘s first season that seems to have created the perfect storm, dooming this promising series to becoming a joke.

How “Smash” Became TV’s Biggest Train Wreck
Kate Arthur @ BuzzFeed

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Smash was supposed to be the show that saved NBC — but people laughed at it instead. How did it all go so wrong?

A year ago, Smash began its first season on NBC, critically praised andexceedingly hyped, with the well-funded backing of the network and its chairman, Robert Greenblatt, who considered the musical drama his pet project. Steven Spielberg had dreamed up the concept, and his DreamWorks TV was behind it.

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Can Adaptations Be Better Than Their Originals?

Although we are in an era of shocking un-originality, inundated with sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations, sometimes there is some value in the “derivative” practice of adaptation. There are many instances where an adapted work is much more successful than its original, and the article below lists and discusses 14 such examples, complete with clips for demonstration.

The best example, in my opinion, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon’s original concept was a film that was made in 1992, but was unfortunately skewed from his intentions simply by having the wrong director. Whedon intended the film to be taken seriously, while Fran Rubel Kuzui turned it into a campy, cheesy teen horror flick. When given the opportunity to turn it into a show, then, Whedon indisputably redeemed Buffy, producing the clever, witty, and insightful series that lasted seven seasons and is now in its 9th season in comic book form, continuing to enchant audiences to this day.

What are your favorite examples of adaptations that are better than their originals?

Clear eyes, full hearts, eh, I’ll just wait for the TV show: 14 TV series that usurped their original film versions
Jason Heller, Joel Keller, Noel Murray, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, and Scott Tobias @ A.V. Club

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In the hierarchy of entertainment, television adaptations are generally considered poor relations of the films that spawned them. Oftentimes adaptations of films never make it past the pilot stage, like an ill-fated 1997 television version of Fargo starring Edie Falco. Even when television adaptations do make it onto a network schedule, they seldom make it past a single season. But every once in a while, a television adaptation—official, loose, or otherwise—usurps its big-screen version in the public’s imagination.

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