Thursday, March 27, 2008

Depth.


Anybody else catch MISS GUIDED? I saw the pilot and was underwhelmed - I don't think it will last more that a season. I do find Judy Greer (who will always be Kitty from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT to me) amusing and endearing, but the show is a little too silly for my taste. I'm not sure if the show is really ABOUT anything on a deeper level. MISS GUIDED (I have lost the ability to type titles without capitalizing, sorry) reminds me of a sitcom called TEACHERS that aired a few years ago...remember? Nope, neither does anyone else. But both shows shared what I think is a fundamental problem: They both are about teachers and take place at schools, but do not develop students as characters in any meaningful way. What are teachers without students? Shouldn't these interactions be the kinds of things that drive them? My mother is a teacher, and though she deals with plenty of teacher- and administration-related problems, the bulk of her career is about students. On a similar note, ARRESTED creator Mitch Hurwitz also wrote a pilot about teachers called SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP that is set up at Fox. It also doesn't really feature a whole lot of students...but it's much more edgy and bizzare than TEACHERS and MISS GUIDED (and it's going to be animated) so I'm reserving judgment. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

March 12, 2008 - It's another foreign format adaptation for Fox as the network has ordered a table read of "Sit Down, Shut Up," an animated comedy from Emmy winner Mitch Hurwitz based on the live-action Australian series of the same name. If the table read goes well, the project will be ordered straight to series, bypassing the months-long, expensive process of producing a presentation. "Sit Down" focuses on the lives of seven staff members at a high school in a small northeastern fishing town who are preoccupied with their own needs and agendas, which means the students always come second.

So I guess the whole point is that the students fade to the background. But doesn't that seem problematic to you?

Anyway. I saw Jason Katims speak at the Writers Guild on Tuesday as part of the Anatomy of a Script series. The $50 non-member ticket price was a bit hefty, but I thought it would be worth seeing the showrunner of Friday Night Lights, one of my very favorite shows of all time. Sometimes the talk wandered away from the topic...but Jason had some very interesting insights. One thing I really responded to was the idea that you shouldn't be concerned with things like act breaks (and his non-cliffhanger approach is unique but in my opinion, successful) as much as you should be thinking about DEEPENING the characters and plots over the course of the episode. Unraveling. Digging through the layers to figure out what it is all about. He also discussed taking scenes and "messing them up" - thinking about how what your characters want and do might not exactly follow your practical purpose for the scene.

And as for the murder plot...Jason just wanted to give the fantastic Jesse Plemons some tough dramatic material. He was fulfilling a bit of his own geek fantasy. He said, "What would Landry have to do to get Tyra? He'd have to murder someone...I'm only half kidding." Along with many fans, I appreciate this sentiment but think the choice was not entirely successful...but the show has moved on and so have I.

6 comments:

Muffin MacGuffin said...

Have you checked back on MISS GUIDED? I also didn't love the pilot, but I am finding that the show continues to improve (especially with the growing role of Chris Parnell). I recommend giving it another chance.

Jane said...

Teachers was based on a British show, also called Teachers, that I loved. Never saw the US version.

In the Brit version, the teachers were no more mature than their students. They were trying to act like adults but they didn't feel like adults. They managed to explore that conundrum in a pretty weird and hilarious way.

I also like the idea of a show that features teachers without reference to the specific students. Students come and go each year, but the teachers are there for the long haul, so really their lives are more about students as an entity than about students as individuals. It also plays on that whole idea you have when you're a kid, that your teachers only exist inside the school. It's almost impossible to picture them at home with families and kids and lives of their own...

Muffin MacGuffin said...

Congratulations! You were linked in Jane Espenson's blog!

http://www.janeespenson.com/archives/00000546.php

Doctor BS said...

Have you checked out the Creative Screenwriting Magazine screening series? http://creativescreenwriting.com/events.html
They do screenings with Q&A afterwards, usually with the writer, sometimes with directors, actors, or producers too.
Their moderator is Jeff Goldsmith, and he is the best. Great questions. The long annoying wordy ones only happen after it's opened up for questions from the audience.
I like your blog! Linked here from Jane Espenson, and will be back.

Scott Goodwin said...

I came for the Jane Espenson-recommended articles. I bookmarked because your site is great stuff.

Re: MISS GUIDED, it's gotten better since the pilot. I like the wish fulfillment skew--that once you've been out of high school for a period of time you feel like if you went back you could do things differently--whether it's true or not. I also like that at least a couple of times each episode something happens so cringeworthy/funny, it reminds me of ARRESTED.

DanJ said...

OMG! Can you write any more about what Jason Katims said? I'm writing a FNL spec and need all the advice I can get. I, too, noticed that most of the FNL act breaks would be traditionally considered underwhelming, but it makes it easier to write the spec! Anyways, would love to hear anything else he said!