Thursday, May 3, 2012
The Grim Reality
Yes, it’s all my fault. Blame me. I’m the one who ruined the market for scripted TV by watching reality shows. I like the competition shows best, like Project Runway and Top Chef and all the knockoffs they spawned. Catfights and meltdowns aside, there’s something about watching raw, unbridled creativity on display that gives me hope for humanity.
So far we’ve had singing shows, dancing shows, cooking, fashion, art and interior design shows. The one thing glaring in its omission is something for us writers.
That’s what we need—a reality competition show for writers! Twelve hungry wordsmiths eager for fame, recognition and huge sales. Okay, mostly huge sales. Really, how many people would be doing these shows if there wasn’t a huge monetary payoff? The winner would get a hefty advance and contract from some big New York publishing house. Sounds like a winner to me.
Imagine the drama. Writer’s blocks! Stolen ideas! Creative burnout! A storm knocks out the power and nobody can use their laptops and they have to finish a chapter longhand with a deadline looming. That’s TV gold!
The camera zooms in our contestants, following their every move, every word hurled back and forth at each other as they … uh …
Sit there. Stare at their laptop screens. Get up to use the can or go for coffee. Lots of trips for coffee. Consequently lots of trips to the can.
What do the viewers get so see? A growing stack of papers. If the writer decides to just save it on the hard drive, maybe not even that.
I think I know why there haven’t been any competition shows for writers yet.
Okay, so writing’s not the most visual career in the arts and crafts basket. It can still make for exciting TV. We could follow a group of writers as they create and polish their masterpiece, then send it off to an agent or publisher and … well … wait. And wait. For months. Or thirteen episodes, whichever comes first. Probably the thirteen episodes.
It’s a shame writing doesn’t lend itself well to TV, because without writers there wouldn’t be any TV, scripted or not. That’s right, “reality” shows have writers just like any other show. Somebody has to take those hours and hours of footage and edit them down into a coherent forty-five minutes of show. People like their entertainment tidied up and making sense because real life is chaotic and makes no sense at all. That’s where the writer comes in.
Our lives aren’t exactly the stuff of riveting drama, but without us you’d have to make up your own stories. Good luck with that.
Actually, there is a new reality show that shows writers in competition, sort of. It’s called The Pitch and it’s on AMC. It’s about rival agencies coming up with ad campaigns for a business. The final product utilizes graphics and video and multimedia, but it all starts with the idea. Guess who comes up with the concept?
That’s our reality. No glitz, no glamor, little recognition. We don’t even get a TV show. Sometimes you get to make a living from typing your fantasies onto a screen. You won’t get the fortune, or even the fame if you’re using a pen name. You get the satisfaction of knowing you gave somebody a break from reality for a couple of hours, maybe entertained them or made them laugh or (God forbid) even think about life differently. It’s not $100,000 and a contract with a major talent agency, but it’ll have to do.
Anyway, I like to write while sitting in bed with the laptop and wearing my ratty old bathrobe. I don’t think I’d want a camera on me. Maybe it’s all for the best.