To: Members of the Writers Guild of America, West
From: A Concerned Citizen
We are all very worried about the events of the last week. A writers strike is traumatic for everyone &
the writers, the networks, the viewers. Already we have lost late night, and it is only scant weeks before many of our favorite shows are replaced by reruns or reality TV.
But where a pessimist sees a strike, an optimist sees opportunity. Really, how else should one react to the news that "Big Shots" will cease after the 10th episode, except with exquisite relief? It can only be hoped that those of you writing for these shows will use your time on the picket line to rethink the obnoxious nature of some of your characters and the sexist, and un sexy, tenor of your plots.
In fact, given the disappointing ratings of many of this season's new shows, a strike isn't necessarily a bad thing. All of us can benefit from a break now and then &
look at "The Sopranos," perpetually hopped up on hiatus. Consider those hours in front of the studio gates as much-deserved, if ill-paid, Me Time.
You writers have put down your pencils, not turned off your brains. So much of the creative process takes place in the mysterious recesses of the central nervous system; there's no reason you can't use this raft of new free time to solve the many problems facing your shows. Why, this strike could turn out to be the best thing that could happen for some shows, including:
"The Bionic Woman"
Clearly the biggest disappointment of the season. Promising pilot, stunningly lame follow-through. I know there have been staffing issues, and no doubt studio issues, but honestly, you all have to get things moving. Literally. To make a show about a superhuman warrior girl boring takes some doing. Perhaps you could figure out what the show is actually about. Is Jaime (Michelle Ryan) going to stop kidnappings and diffuse bombs or is she going to continue to have an existential crisis? The "Matrix" grays and shiny blacks are great visual top-notes, but you need way more super-cool CG-enhanced fights and fewer sister scenes. You also need to acknowledge the fact that most bad guys prefer guns to hand-to-hand combat. And who is the star here? Jaime or Sarah? Requiring Ryan to watch some "Lara Croft" movies might help, but in the end the actors can do only so much soulful staring and tae kwon do sweating to make up for lack of plot.
There's so much going on here that every week is essentially a new show, and not in a good way. Is this a procedural with Dan the time-traveling reporter unraveling mysteries? A sci-fi love story in which the dead fiance turns out to have been an astrally challenged alien all along? An exploration of marriage in which we are all haunted by past loves, or perhaps a metaphor for modern life &
multitasking has become so entrenched that time no longer has meaning? I'd watch any or all of these shows, only what I've seen so far looks more like "Starsky and Hutch in Space" with more cryptic dialogue than the law should allow on network television. In the Thank Heaven for Small Mercies Department, no one is named Chuck or Darling or both, which they seem to be in every other new show.
What should have been a show about the strange and accidental intimacy between strangers turned out to be about a bunch of middle-aged guys poorly channeling Lucy and Ethel. How can a show written in L.A. not have better jokes about driving? Silly people can be funny, but they must be grounded in pathos, not whining. It might be too late, but try downloading "The Bob Newhart Show" onto your iPhones and court the muse as you walk the line.
The numbers are good, but you have to think of the long haul. Enough with the semi-insulting single-gal frustration motif &
the cake bingeing, the dream obsession, the whole shower head thing. (The shower head thing! Writers have been shot for less!) If you insist on making Addison a romance-addled Everywoman (instead of the experience-tempered brilliant doctor she was on "Grey's Anatomy"), then pattern yourself on the master. You had the temerity to make the hat-in-the-air reference in the pilot, so when you hit a narrative roadblock, ask yourself: What would Mary Tyler Moore do in a situation like this? Make up little "WWMTMD?" wristbands as you picket, because I guarantee you it would not involve shower heads.
I keep getting e-mails telling me that this is a good show, although all evidence remains to the contrary. A vampire detective is a fine idea, but I at least hope for something more along the lines of "House" or "Monk" and less along the lines of Count Chocula. The show works when Mick is able to use his "special skills" to sense things others would miss &
why not do more with the ageless immortality bit? He's pretty old, so wouldn't he have a greater understanding of human nature than most people, in addition to the ability to move fast and smell vampires? The brilliance of "Interview With the Vampire," which kicked off the modern wave of pop bloodsuckers, was not just the humanity of the main character but the richness of his experience and the wisdom that it brought him.
Just thank your lucky stars your little stinker premiered pre-strike; otherwise you would be off the air permanently by now.
Don't despair. Don't panic, and please, please, don't lose the groove. Keep doing what you're doing and pray the strike ends before we miss a week of Charlie Crewes. Because that's what I'll be doing.
Put the picket line to good use
To: Members of the Writers Guild of America, West