Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Originality is dead...

Any good writer worth their salt will tell you that there is no such thing as a new story. Oprah may gush that “Juno” is “so fresh” and new, but ultimately, there are two age old stories that won’t change: boy gets girl; boy loses girl; man triumphs over evil; man is defeated by evil. Granted, there are infinite variations on how man or love prevails or fails.

All of that aside, it’s still downright flabbergasting to see that television executives and writers have lost their drive to create something new. (Do execs really strive to make anything new?) Technology has finally caught up to imagination, and instead of the industry embracing the CGIs and green screens in an innovative way, we get re-vamped series with “Knight Rider,” “American Gladiators,” “Terminator,” “Bionic Woman,” two versions of “Sex and the City” in NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle” and ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia.”

I remember watching “Knight Rider” as a child, and while the idea of a car so technologically advanced, it can talk, still ranks high on the Bad Ass meter, it’s not exactly appointment television. Sorry, Hasselhoff.

Admittedly, I understand that the lack of technology hindered the aesthetics of shows like “Rider” and “Bionic Woman.” The advancement in digital photography alone revolutionizes how fast film can be edited and enhanced. It’s natural for fans of those cheesy hits of yesteryear (and now creators of TV shows) to want to revisit said shows and bring their fancy, supped-up arsenal of technology with them…and hope the fanbase will come too. I don’t understand why that technology hasn’t been applied to more inventive shows, like “Heroes” and the painfully underrated “The 4400”—a now canceled USA Summer Series.

I can concede that the visually flashy, albeit stale “Cashmere Mafia” and promising “Lipstick Jungle” (based on the book of the same name by the “SATC” author, Candace Bushnell) could be considered shows in a new genre of television—Power Women Chic—that “Sex and the City” invented.

On the contrary, cable networks like USA, TNT and FX have built new and stronger reputations by unveiling edgier, riskier shows. And people are watching. USA’s “Monk”—a show about an OCD-ridden ex-detective—has brought the network more viewers and three Emmy wins for actor and star Tony Shalhub. USA has gone on to forge a fairly impressive schedule of shows that are usually a twist on traditional cop shows. “Burn Notice” is the latest to the USA family and dominated summer shows.

“The Closer” starring Kyra Sedgwick launched TNT from a network for old movies and re-runs to a network that created the strongest, most independent female character on television who was not an ice queen, but a caring, hard-edged woman with a sweet-tooth who solved murders with a holstered gun and a southern-lilted, “Thank you.”

FX carved out their own niche of uber-risque programming with “Nip/Tuck” and most recently, “Dirt” created by Courteney Cox-Arquette.

With the writers’ strike finally over, and writers returning to work, I hope that transfer their professional victory into new shows with original, risk-taking formats, instead of falling back on the old ones. Hollywood loves going green, and recycling is fantastic for the environment, but lazy for television.

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