Friday, March 7, 2008

Everyone Loves An Immortal

“…See, we tried explaining that to the writers, but they just don’t get it. Just like they don’t get talking to girls. Or making eye contact.” - Parody of a producer, from a writers’ strike video

This quote serves as proof that fiction writers, by and large, seem to be more or less what you’d expect them to be: basically me, or nerdier.

(“Nerdier than him?” I hear you scoff. “Surely not – he is clearly their king!” Quiet, you. I’ll bet you didn’t know that we here at the ISTV Global Stronghold have special brainwave satellites devoted to trolling for such impertinent thoughts. “Nerdy.” Please.)

If you are like me (or nerdier), you start to notice pet ideas developing independently among such writers. One of those perennial ideas is the TV Show About An Immortal.
(See also: "Forever Knight," "Angel," "Highlander: The Series," "Dark Shadows," or a buttload of others I'm too young to remember.)

Indulge your creative side for a second. Try to seriously imagine a man who’s been alive for centuries, with no end in sight. Think about what he’s seen, what talents he would have developed over the years. How different his concept of time and place would be from a person with a finite lifespan.

He would be a fascinating character to write about. And what better format for it than TV? You can set up long-ranging story-arcs, lay out themes about life and death, and spend a good amount of time putting those ideas to work, creating a vast tapestry on which to display your statement of what the world might be like for a man who can't die.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? If you’re a creative type - say, a fiction writer, or even better, a sci-fi or fantasy geek - the possibilites would be pretty mouthwatering.

Now imagine you’re a producer. Your job is to pay for the damn thing, and ensure that someone watches the show your weirdo production crew put together. But you know how to get people watching. So you come to your writers and say, “Listen, we’ve got a shot at airing after ‘American Idol.’ We need to sex this thing up, and people like what they already know. So, uh…what if this guy solved crimes or something? How’s that sound, nerdo?”

That "hypothetical" conversation echoed in my brain during the pilot to Fox's “New Amsterdam” the other night.

It hits a lot of the right beats with its lead character, John Amsterdam. He has a wide range of obscure talents, from lip-reading to wood-working. He has first-hand knowledge of New York City’s history and geography. He's experienced familial loss. And maybe most interestingly, he doesn’t really bother hiding (or explaining) to people the fact that he’s older than Manhattan (frequently citing past experiences, claiming decades of sobriety at an AA meeting, etc.).

So with all that in place...why is the lead plot about a fairly dull murder investigation?

This is, in all seriousness, a plot that could be found on most any episode of “Law and Order.” Your lead character saw Times Square built. He builds furniture that scores big money on the auction circuit because it’s identical to one built by a "dead" master. What about his solving a by-the-numbers murder seems at all more interesting than the rest of his life?

There are even more important questions to ask about "New Amsterdam." But because I have read that the second episode is an improvement over the pilot, we nerds at the ISTV Global Stronghold will power down our atomic video-feeds, hit mute on our super-speakers, and leave further deliberations until we've had a chance to watch episode 2.
("Nerds." Feh!)

Can you believe it? Is it true? Is this column going…



Becky said...

So as soon as you mention immortal characters that are interesting I automatically think of whats-his-name from Sandman... (I looked this up online to no avail...) You know...the guy that is there to the end and is so damn interesting...who meets Death in a bar and asks for immortality...damn his name is on the tip of my tongue. Anyway...he is one of the best immortal characters ever written.

Oh and by the by, did you delete my Tina Fay comment about Bust magazine or did I never actually post it?

Becky said...

No wait, asks Dream for immortality. Come to think of it, Dream really shouldn't have been able to grant that wish...

Anney E. J. Ryan said...

whenever i hear the name "amsterdam," i hear daniel day lewis in my head, going "amsta-dam." in that awful old new york accent.

thechicgeek said...

I think its pretty funny (and unnerving) that you speak as if their are more than one of you in your global stronghold. But we all know the truth. We know.

ISTV Global Stronghold said...

What? The impertinence of you! Minions, sieze him!



molson said...

I may be one of your ISTV Stronghold minions, but I'm also really REALLY lazy. So is Tad...