I rarely watch network television anymore. I know I sound like a snob when I write that, and I know there are network shows that probably deserve my attention and support, but sooner or later I can probably watch them on Netflix or Amazon.
(I don’t watch reality television at all. That’s another post, but mainly because it’s not reality and also because that particular industry screws over the people who work for it.)
All that being said, I’m fascinated by the television process; specifically, the journey a script takes from inception to completed episode. In a previous life, I was a professional writer and editor. A simple press release would take weeks to approve, from internal passes to legal review to that one lunatic who needs to see everything and no one can quite understand why–everyone adding their own fingerprints along the way until the document becomes completely unrecognizable to the person who originally wrote it. (This laborious process occurs even when the press release is just two paragraphs long, contains no original quotes and the company boilerplate easily is three pages.) I can’t imagine how many meetings and draft revisions a Hollywood script must go through.
Before Google shut down its RSS reader, I would follow Hollywood writers’ blogs. One person revealed that Hollywood prioritizes scripts that are based on material that already has proven popular; namely, books.
At any given season, I probably record one or two programs and watch them within a few days. But this month, I’m watching Shadowhunters, The Magicians and The X-Files reboot. (Since December, I’ve also watched Luther and Sherlock, but those were one-time events and not technically series. I’m also watching Downton Abbey–but it’s got the substance of marshmallows (pretty people in pretty clothes in pretty houses)–so I’m not even going to link it here.)
I’m going to save The X-Files for another post, because I have many, many thoughts about the original series and its reboot.
Shadowhunters and The Magicians are both shows based on series of young adult novels. Since The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I think authors have been pressured to put out series of books. Sometimes this works great, like with the Shadowhunters and Magicians, and other times it really fizzles out, like with Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner. I’d also argue that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fizzles out, but I think that has less to do with the material and more with the fact that the author keeled over immediately after handing in his manuscripts and the stories read as though they weren’t properly edited.
The Shadowhunters was made into a movie a few years ago, and it was all right, but nothing to write home about. The television show, which has been heavily promoted on Freeform (formerly the ABC Family network), is a force to be reckoned with, from impressive sets and special effects and costuming to a pretty good relationship to the story line. Overall, I like the casting better than the movie, and most of the actors aren’t big names. I think that’s where the network saved its money, but that could be opinion on my part.
The same could be said for The Magicians (airing on SyFy), which is sort of like a grown-up Harry Potter, in which the main character goes to graduate school for magic instead of a middle school and high school. The characters in The Magicians are older than the Shadowhunters, so they are more complicated and complex.
I don’t know how long these shows were in development, compared with shows that aren’t based on any previously published material. Were their scripts harder to bring to the screen? At any rate, I like the results of both efforts so far, but my expectations are higher with The Magicians, simply because I thought the books were better.