Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #844: Good Idea / Bad Idea

Today I'm going to take a minute to talk about what I think is a good idea, and what I think is a bad idea.


TNT, or Turner Network Television, a cable facet of the Time-Warner empire is ordering a movie based on Patricia Cornwell's novel Hornet's Nest.  But that's not the good idea I'm talking about, just part of it. The overall good idea is that TNT is expanding their weekly mystery movie features based on popular book series.  

I think it's a good idea, because if these TV movies are done right, it can be a win-win-win for the channel, the publishers, and the writers.

Here's how...

THE CHANNEL:  Mystery novels and thrillers are a lot cheaper to produce than special effects heavy comic book movies, and they don't need big stars to sell them, because they have a built in audience among the fans of the original books, and all they ask is that the movies be well done and relatively faithful to the books they love.  If they are, then you'll have positive word of mouth to spread beyond the core fans to others who can tune in.

THE PUBLISHERS: First there's the money, they get a piece of the fees paid for the movie rights, but it goes beyond just that.  A popular and well done series of TV movies based on a book series they publish can attract new readers and boost sales.  It also makes the publisher's "mid-list" titles look more attractive, because the network's going to run out of books by the major sellers to adapt, and will have air-time they need to fill.  If the adaptations have a good reputation with audiences, they will give those mid-list authors a chance, and thus create potential new readers and sales.

THE WRITERS:  First, like the publishers, there's the money.  While not as generous as a big money movie deal for a monster Harry Potter level best-seller, it's still better than nothing.  Plus, when the network a series of TV movies, and needs to keep fresh content coming to maintain ratings, the odds of it actually being made, and producing royalties grows exponentially.  That's because in TV they don't spend 2-10 years debating first if they're going to adapt a novel they bought an option, then waste more time on how they're going to adapt it.  The development time in TV is a lot shorter than in feature films, and with it, the odds of it being butchered into something almost completely unrecognizable go way down.

And that's if you make the sale in the first place, the major studios are aiming more and more towards youth oriented blockbusters, and not of crime thrillers unless the project already has a big star attached.

And let's not forget the other opportunities this can offer authors interested in screenwriting. They can work on adapting their own books, adapt the works of others, or write original scripts. It's all about speed, cost, and convenience when you're making television, and an author who can present all three can do pretty well.

So let's hope that this all works out, and that it pleases the audience, because without them, there really isn't any point.

Personally, I'd like to see the idea spread to other genres, like horror, fantasy, and science fiction.  I'm sure there are lots of works out there that can be adapted for television in a way that can work for all parties involved.


NBC is committing even more to the reboot of the 1960s sitcom The Munsters.  They have Bryan Fuller, the creator of Pushing Daisies adapting the show into a one hour drama, and have brought in another Bryan, X-Men director Bryan Singer, to direct the pilot and produce the show.

Now I know that I'm being cynical, jaded, and a smug know it all bastard, but I just can't see this becoming anything more than a boondoggle.  Yes, Fuller did Pushing Daisies, a show that blended darkness and whimsy, but I found it a tad too precious and wrapped up in its creator's own cleverness. And let's not forget that those who loved the show were neither numerous enough, or loud enough to get it past its second season where it went from the middle of the pack, ratings wise, to pretty close to the bottom.

Then there's the source material.

It was shit.

A bad sitcom, created as an excuse for MCA/Universal to market new versions of their old movie monsters that ran for two seasons before before it was finally cancelled.  The only reason it's even being considered is the fact that NBC/Universal already owns it, and baby boomer nostalgia.

I just don't see it having the sort of Battlestar Galactica style revival that Universal wants.  At least BSG had lots of dramatic possibilities that went beyond the original show.   

The Munsters looks to me like it's going to have a really eye-popping pilot, followed by episodes loaded with forced whimsy that the audience will find extremely grating after a while. The network, in an attempt to recoup the millions spent on it, will try to keep it going hoping that it will eventually catch on.  It will end with the network finally declaring surrender in the second season and pulling the plug.

I'd have preferred seeing the people and the resources involved put to work on something original and different.


  1. I have but one comment/question.

    "one-hour drama"


  2. Ted Danson can handle three shows, right? That dude was born to play Herman Munster, especially on this version of the show.

  3. Of course it's going to be a one-hour drama.

    Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Being Human, Tru Blood...

    One hour dramas about monsters are "in" right now and this has the "bonus" of being an established brand. You can see the execs committing to it right now, no matter how bad of an idea it's going to be.

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