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Monday, September 05, 2011

What Can We Learn From Press Gang?

So, you've all had a chance to read a script or three, right?

I've made it through four so far:

2x06 - At Last A Dragon
2x07 - Something Terrible Pt 1
2x08 - Something Terrible Pt 2
5x06 - There Are Crocodiles

There's still about another eight to go through, but I'm already starting to get some pretty clear pictures here.

You see, Press Gang, ultimately is about the young romance between the American juvenile delinquent Spike Thomson and the hardass, ball-busting Editor of the Junior Gazette, Lynda Day.  Sure, there's school drama and interpersonal conflicts between the staff, but what really rises to the surface is the relationship between these two leads.

Especially Lynda.  There's something about Lynda Day.

At first I couldn't quite figure it out, here I was reading these scripts, and feeling this odd sense of familiarity with her.  So I go back and re-read her scenes and as I do so I start to put together just who Lynda Day is; I start to notice some familiar traits: the tough exterior with the momentary lapses of compassion; the hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners, do-what-must-be-done-no-matter-what approach; the massive attraction to mysterious, somewhat edgy men.

Hell, Lynda Day is pretty much the Proto-River Song.

And yes, I do mean 'proto' 'cause, well, our dear Lynda has some serious rough edges -- her personality at some points pretty much borders on 'monstrous'.

Yet there is, at least to me (and, granted I'm looking at this through a filter) a strong outline to be found here.  It'd be interesting to take a look at other series like Coupling or Jekyll or something to see if there is some sort of evolution... but for now its an interesting tidbit to note.

What I also found interesting about these scripts was how he managed to take an otherwise straight-and-narrow teen program and insert moments like the one found here at the end of 'At Last A Dragon' (after Spike receives his first kiss from Lynda):

But then, in the episode 'There Are Crocodiles' we get this dark, brilliant monologue:

In the two-part episode "Something Terrible", a story about a young girl suffering from sexual molestation by her father, Mr. Moffat takes a story that pretty much screams 'after-school special' and elevates it by having that little girl go not to our leads (who we would expect to make everything better) but by having Colin, one of the secondary characters -- a young hustler and liar, someone who no one else on the show takes seriously -- figure out her predicament.

Watching him suffer with this information, as he comes to realize her plight as well as just how little his word means with others because of his antics, is truly an intriguing turn.  Not only does it stray away from -- well, okay, it does sort of get preachy near the end... but a great portion of the two-parter is refreshing because it's not just a tale about a girl being abused and then 'saved'; this guy, who Lynda calls an "immoral, dishonest,  tasteless little hustler", faces the real repercussions of his actions.  His past ends up being the main obstacle to him trying to do good by this little girl.

It's a pretty bold choice, especially when you consider the time period and the would-be audience.

So, yes, I've still got some more scripts to read but there are some interesting lines that can be drawn forward even at this stage: the kinds of decisions that he makes; what he does to elevate a story; how he adds layers of complexity or hints of darkness or wonder to accentuate and punctuate his scenes.

True, it's not exactly world-changing insight at this point... but it is a great start.

More to come!


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