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Friday, June 12, 2009

That Un-scratchable Itch

There's been a lot of teeth-grinding and such about Mr. John Doyle's recent article where he basically calls a large chunk of Canadian writers 'snobs'.

And then there's this (from here - Page 2 of article):

“There's a snobbery about commercial shows here, among writers particularly,” La Traverse said. “Everyone dreams of doing a dark HBO series. There's a resistance."

Off the hop, this statement raises some interesting questions...

The first - and probably most naive - of them being: What's wrong with HBO-style series? I mean, I guess the biggest/most obvious problem would probably be money. I'm sure they're not cheap to make.

But I can't help but wonder: if there's so many Canadian writers out there chomping at the bit to make dark, HBO-style dramas (and I'm guessing here that it is dramas that she's referring to...?), maybe there's a real reason for it?

Maybe it's not just flat-out snobbery in the vein of "it's Dexter or nothing"...?

I mean, and hey, I may be totally off the mark here - I can accept that - but maybe it's some sort of 'repression' thing? 'Cause I can't help but wonder what we'd be saying if the opposite were true? What if we were flooding the Can-Con market with home-made, dark, HBO-style dramas? Would there be an outcry from writers for more situational comedies and police procedurals?

My gut instinct tells me that this seems to be along the lines of that itch that needs to be scratched. It suggests that Writers - professional or otherwise - are seeing a gap, a niche to be filled and are, themselves, filled with excitement and interest to make something along those lines.

I'm also thinking that the word 'snobbery' might be being confused with 'disinterest'.

Personally, I got into screenwriting because I love Horror and wanted to see more of it on TV (Savage Knights was definitely not for the young'uns). And, well, Horror is kind of like the red-headed stepchild of Drama.

Long and short of it: I like 'Dark', it's kind of in my DNA. That said, I've also learned that being a Horror TV Writer in Canada is about as useful a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

So, yeah, there's that.

I've also had to learn that being a (employable) Writer means that you should know how to write for other audiences, know how to connect with people who don't normally hang around your creepy woodland firepit.

The good thing about Horror is that it behooves me to know both Drama and Comedy - and learning how to incorporate both has made me a stronger writer overall. My recent Chuck spec has been making people laugh quite a bit... and yeah, I don't really consider myself that funny.

Basically, I can do 'commercial' (whatever that translates to in a given moment) and I'll enjoy it, but that said, if given the chance to tell a scary story - hell yeah, I'm going to jump at the chance.

And I think there might be a lot of that going around - but from more of the counter-culture stance of 'hey, lets do some of this for a change'.

'Cause I know I see something like Dexter or Carnivàle or Six Feet Under or Sopranos or Deadwood and I go 'DAMN', that was cool.

And who doesn't want to write something damn cool? How can anyone fault a writer for wanting to be a part of something like that? To make something like that here, at home, from our perspective?

To be clear: I'm not saying that 'commercial' can't be cool - and I'm not trying to rip on anyone here - I just think it flexes different muscles. Muscles that, maybe, some are feeling have atrophied a tad in Canadian TV?

What I am saying is that, hey, if there are THAT many Canadian writers itching to do dark, HBO-style dramas... maybe there's a reason.

And I don't think it's because we're all a bunch of snobs.


1 comment:

Peter said...

In a lot of ways I think Doyle has a point. This isn't so much about drama vs. comedy, it's about commercial vs. non-commercial.

"HBO style shows," in this context, are referring to critical darlings that don't capture a large commercial audience (The Wire or Arrested Development for example). These shows are highly serialized, highly complex, and are cat-nip to a lot of writers. It's just a much funner arena to play in than your typical procedural.

Both Doyle and Traverse were arguing that Canadian writers should be more open to writing the next CSI, rather than only wanting to write the next Deadwood.