Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #803: Television Tidbits


The CBS Television network is run by geniuses. It has to be. They just bought a simply brilliant idea that came to them right out of the blue.

You see it's a modernized retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.

Isn't that brilliant?

I bet you dollars to dingbats that Stephen Moffat, Mark Gatiss and the BBC are kicking themselves that they didn't think of it first.

Oh wait....

Not only was this a hit on the BBC, it did very well on PBS's
Masterpiece Theater, which is probably the reason CBS is going for it. Why bother doing anything original, when you can just regurgitate what someone else has had success with.

So here are some other new shows that CBS is developing:

APARTMENT MD: Dr. Greg Apartment is a brilliant eccentric physician who battles exotic diseases as well as his personal demons, including an addiction to painkillers because of a malformed toe.

STAR TRIP: A cocky Captain James T. Church leads the crew of the USS Enterprising through a bunch of wild and wooly space adventures.

MUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAPPER: Muffy Autumns may look like a ditzy teen, but she can take out vampires and other monsters with her devastating power slap, for she is the Chose One, the Vampire Slapper!


The Fox TV network is developing a drama series based on the DC Comics character The Spectre.

For those who are not hep like me, The Spectre is the ghost of a murdered police officer sent back to Earth as a spirit of supernatural divine vengeance on those who escaped justice.

Which brings me to my point and the problem I think will probably sink the series.

Spectre is literally god-like, he knows all, he sees all, and can reshape reality itself at will if it serves his purpose of doling out hot steaming bowls of rich creamy justice on evildoers. There's nothing he cannot know, and nothing he cannot do, and that's the problem.

Weekly TV drama is at its best when it's about characters who face situations that test their limitations, physical, intellectual, and emotional. Spectre doesn't have limitations, he just shows up, turns an evildoer into something unpleasant, and that's that.

That's why he was never considered anything more than a C-List character, whose solo adventures didn't catch on as big as the others, and served better as an enigmatic, and sometimes dangerous entity hovering around the fringes of the DC Universe. The people behind the show may have written a brilliant pilot episode around the character, but I just can't see the show lasting any major length of time before becoming repetitive.

Then there are the villains. I don't even know if The Spectre has any villains that survive their first encounter since all it takes for him to wipe them out is to think about it. A good superhero show is dependent on having good villains. Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has the Joker, etc... etc...

This leaves the maker of the show these options:

1. CHANGE EVERYTHING: Essentially de-power the Spectre to the point where he actually has limitations to give the episodes some dramatic heft. Basically only taking the name from character and dumping everything else.


2. GO ANTHOLOGY: Center each episode on either the victims the Spectre is avenging, or the evildoers that he's laying the vengeance upon. Though even this method have traps. Centering on the victims may repulse the audience because who wants to see a show where they know the character they've spent a good chunk of the episode getting to know is going to die horribly. Aiming on the evildoer is also a trap, because unless you make them cartoonishly evil and unlikeable the viewer is going to feel some sympathy for them, and then end up seeing them get magically obliterated in the end every week can also be a turn off.

So I'm just not feeling it as a series. A movie maybe... or a mini-series at most, especially if there's some sort of story arc planned, but not an open ended series.


  1. Isn't that House?

  2. There are cases where an all-powerful force is able to be entertaining. Think of Touched By An Angel, It's a Wonderful Life, or Tales from the Crypt (is there really any doubt what's going to happen to the evil-doer?). Or for that matter Mission Impossible.

    Or the all-powerful Specter could be toned down just a little.

    But in general I agree with your statement. And I doubt a Hollywood which lacks the ability even to come up with a new Sherlock Holmes concept will be able to pull off the creative thinking that a Specter show would involve.

  3. ILDC- It is not House it's Apartment M.D. which is a completely different show and a totally new and original idea. Now all we need is a freakishly tall English comedian who can do a believable American accent.... any suggestions?

    Sandy- The Angels that went around touching people on that show did have limitations. Chiefly they were bound by their angelic morality to not melt the skin off an evildoer because they thought it was a fitting punishment. ;-)

  4. Doesn't the Spectre have some kind of limit? Like he can only turn you into a tribble if you have done some terrible deed? No?

    Well, in any case the idea of doing a Spectre movie is idiotic because about 10 people in the universe are Spectre fans. Why not just do a movie about a supernatural avenging force and skip the royalties?

  5. Because Hollywood suits follow a set of rules, ones that if you follow allow you to avoid blame in the case of failure. Since the majority of both movies and TV shows will fail, blame is only apportioned if the people behind it think outside the box.

    This is why Hollywood is so slow to drop the idea of highly paid 'movie stars,' in an era when they are less important than ever, and even though on the face of it would seem to be in the studios' interest to rein in these costs. Films with lower budgets need less box office revenues to break even, and are more profitable if they make the same amount of money.

    However, while such thinking would benefit the studios as entities, they wouldn't benefit their highly-paid staffs, since it would then require more than a standardized checklist to put a project together. Two of those checklist items right now are "pay for the rights to pre-assembled concepts, even if they are basically generic in nature" and more to the point, "comic book characters are hot right now."

    Going back to the TriStar Godzilla movie, this answers the question of "Why pay a lot of money for the rights to a specific character / monster, only to then abandon everything that makes that monster unique?" The answer, because it's safer to work off the checklist.

    Same thing here, I imagine.