Monday, 28 June 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #542: Will Marvel TV Be Marvelous?

Welcome to the show folks...

Marvel, hot from the success of some of their movie properties, have decided to expand into TV, and have tapped TV and comic book writer Jeph Loeb to head up the effort.

I think it's a good idea. Not every Marvel character has the cachet needed to carry a $100+ million budget big screen release, but they might just click on the small screen. As I wrote about DC's Jonah Hex, it failed as a big fantastical movie, but it could have had a good healthy life as a more down to Earth and gritty TV series on a cable outlet like HBO.

It also gives the people making the shows the chance to work on the longer, more involved, story arcs that you can't do in the uncertain world of big budget movies. Situations where hundreds of millions of dollars to make a trilogy with one continuous story arc are extremely rare. Usually you much need decades of fan anticipation to guarantee that sort of situation, like
The Lord of the Rings, because without it, the risks are just too great.

Television is different. If you have a full season order, you have 22-26 episodes where you can play with longer sub-plot story-lines, while still being able to do one and done episodes.

I wish them good luck with this, because they're going to need it. TV networks are as bad, if not worse than dealing with the studios, so it's going to take a lot of brains and diplomacy to pull this off.

So here's some advice on handling these sorts of shows:

1. Keep the core fans on your side. Does anyone remember the CBS series The Amazing Spider-Man from the late 1970s? I do, because I actually first saw it from a hospital bed right after a spinal tap, which tends to be a day you never really forget. Despite decent ratings it was canceled and pretty much instantly forgotten by anyone who didn't have a spinal tap that day. Why? Well, the official reason was that CBS had 2 other super-hero shows and dropped Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and kept The Incredible Hulk, because they didn't want to called the Super-Hero Channel at the network playground. Personally, if they made me money, I'd say screw it, but that's me.

However, the main reason it didn't survive was because the hard-core comics fans couldn't work up enough passion to make them fight the network for it.


Because the show's producers decided to drop Mary Jane, all of the super-villains, and they even made J. Jonah Jameson pleasant.

So they took a character, but removed pretty much all the drama and conflict that made that character interesting. Not a good strategy if your going to get the core fans passionate about the show, and hopefully bring new ones to the printed product.

2. Have a plan for the show. The problem that sank the similarly themed Heroes was that its creators didn't have a single clue what to do after the first season. If you're going to do a science-fiction/fantasy/superhero themed television show, you must need a plan. You must chart out a plan for each season before a damn thing is shot, yet remain flexible enough to handle things like cast changes, and other situations my grandfather dubbed "the imponderables" that tend to pop up.

3. Plan the ending. Not only must you plan the show's story-lines, you have to plan for an ending. I suggest aiming for seven seasons maximum, it's a good run, gives you a healthy syndicated rerun package, affordable box-set packages, and allows you to wrap up before the actors become too old for the action, and the plots slip into self-parody, grasping at straws trying to keep the damn thing alive for one more year.

Those are my suggestions. Does anyone else have any suggestions for Marvel's TV division?

1 comment:

  1. Blast Hardcheese29/6/10 9:17 am

    A couple of over-arching ideas I would recommend for such a venture:

    1) Quality over quantity. Don't worry about how many shows the studio is producing. They should start with one show, and really get the whole process working well before trying to add more. This will be helped tremendously if they don't hire any top management currently working in TV. Get some new blood in.

    2) Make them heroic. Leave the 'anti-hero' Rob Liefeld crud in the 90s. We need moral paragons to look up to, not thugs in spandex.