My goal is to write a TV series. One of those 22 minute shows that get people addicted, like Californication, House of Lies, and Orphan Black.
Californication and House of Lies are both American productions on Showtime in the genre drama/black comedy. Showtime in fact seems to have perfected its formula, although I have to say the closing of the second season of House of Lies felt forced and inauthentic. Orphan Black is a sci-fi thriller and because it’s a BBC America production I had assumed it was British, but in the show they reference New York (which you never see), and characters appear from Minneapolis in fairly short shrift i.e. not the time it takes to cross the Atlantic. The characters’ accents, though location neutral, are English… at least to my ear. Where the show takes place is unclear and somewhat of an irritant. Here’s my surprise for the day, BBC America is based in New York. AND, Orphan Black is shot in Toronto. AND, the cast is Canadian.
In a casual survey of my family in Scotland, I learned that they watch American shows, but they have no idea what channels or studios produces them. My nephew watches Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, while his wife watches Dexter, Vampire Diaries and True Blood. My sister watches Criminal Minds, Family Guy, The Following, and Mad Men. Again, she is not channel aware. And here’s something I find interesting, her husband, a taxi-driver, downloads “a lot” of shows so he can view them in the car.
So my question of, “do British shows translate in the U.S. and vice versa?” is clearly yes. Here’s another question, did BBC America deliberately keep location and cast country-neutral?
Picking up on my nephew and his wife’s different tastes, I notice that my friends and their husbands go to different rooms in the house to watch their own shows. Rarely is there a crossover. For example, he likes The Walking Dead (as does their 12-year daughter), Game of Thrones, and various other reality shows like Pickers, Pawn Shop, etc. She watches The Good Wife, Californication, House of Lies, and Luther.
Since I’ve always considered TV viewing as a community activity i.e. the family sits around and watches a show together, I’ve never asked the question of whether TV execs create shows targeted at different audience segments in the way the film industry does, other than the obvious kids, teens, adults segmentation. So when it comes to writing, do I chose my target audience based on gender rather than nationality, which may be more of a relevant question.
In the way that a fellow student wants to quantify the “fear” factor, I want to identify the “crack” factor, which I’ve distilled down to the “shock” factor, as in “did s/he really just say that?” Viewers of Sex and The City will never forget when Carrie admits that she farted while having sex, or had the first discussion of anal sex we’ve ever seen on TV. This week, we mourn the passing of James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, in The Sopranos, the number one television show of all time. Who ever heard of a mobster going to a shrink? We love our characters wrought with angst.
So for my TV show what angst can I wring up that hasn’t been seen or done before? I have this idea about exploring religious beliefs in the setting of a dive bar, kind of like a priest, a rabbi and a monk walk into a bar… except not that obvious. I want it wrapped in dark humor. I want it to open people's eyes to other points of view.
Should I be researching what is it about religion that touches people’s nerve points? Are Catholics shocked by different things than Muslims or Jews? My guess is yes, but I'm happy to be wrong. Is their humor different? My guess is no, but I'm happy to be wrong. Is this what I should be researching? If so, how? I could talk to a priest, a monk and a rabbi and get their take on things. I can talk to muslims, monks and Catholics and get their take on things... and write it all up in a paper… or just, maybe, I can create a YouTube Channel with different religious content from around the world and invite commentary. Or… ????
Suggestions, please? Thank you:)