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“A casual relationship with reality”

A Slave to Television

Regular readers probably have the idea that I might watch too much television. You're right. It's actually kind of pathetic how I spend my week looking forward to "The O.C.", even when they don't have lesbian plotlines. Or that I spent quite a bit of thought trying to decide which two of three Monday night shows, "Las Vegas", "24" and "Everwood", I would watch ("Everwood" lost). Or how relieved I was that Luke and Lorelai got back together on "Gilmore Girls".

Don't judge me. Just be relieved I've got the good sense to stay away from "Wife Swap", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and never fell under the spell of "Law & Order".

Ah, but March is rolling around, and that means it's time for cable to restart some shows in the post-sweeps haze, two of which I'm really looking forward to. That begins this Sunday with the second season premiere of HBO's "Deadwood", which is a hell of a good show. "Deadwood" got seriously Emmy-screwed when Ian McShane didn't get a nomination for his amazing performance as the profane and brutal Al Swearengen, although, Brad Dourif did get nominated as Doc Cochran.

The latest "Entertainment Weekly" has an interesting article on "Deadwood". The most interesting I learned is that the showrunner and head-writer for "Deadwood", David Milch, regularly writes the day before shooting, and that he doesn't make long-range character or story arcs up ahead of time. I'm amazed that on a show that complex, with such richly drawn characters and such involved plotlines is made up almost on-the-spot. I'm even more amazed that he can single-handedly write Alma Garret's erudite,restrained, nuanced dialogue and Swearengen's tough, funny, blunt dialogue without spending hours pouring over each line.

Ah, but does he? According to the TVTome.com Deadwood page, Milch is credited as writer on only one episode. Now, generally the way the writing process on television works is that the core team of writers all collaborate on each episode, pitching ideas and breaking down the storylines, and various writers will take various parts and write them themselves. Presumably the credited writer is the one who takes the overall rein for making sure that it works as a cohesive whole and probably writes at least the A storyline. Of course a lot of that is the showrunner's job as well. At any rate, even though a lot of the "EW" article is probably more hype than journalism, it's still surprising to whatever degree it's true.

The other returning show I'm really excited about is FX's "The Shield", which will return for its fourth season on March 15th (the same day "The Incredibles" comes out on DVD). Here's another show that got rogered when the Emmy noms were announced. I just got the third season on DVD, and amongst the special features is a little documentary on the "breaking" of the season finale ("breaking" as in breaking down the story). It's a really fascinating look into the process of writing an episode. Most "Making of" docs focus on the actual production of the show or movie and don't look at the writing process, but, especially on television, the collaborative and pressure-filled schedule is actually very interesting. And the DVDs also made me notice something about the titling of season three's episodes. Many of the episodes are poker terms. These include (in order) "Playing Tight", "Streaks and Tips", "All In" and "On Tilt". Cool. Anyhow, I've really enjoyed all three seasons of "The Shield" and I've been pretty impatient for the fourth to roll around, so I'm really happy that it's almost here.

Incidentally, I posted about the return of both of these shows about six weeks ago. So, yes, I'm kind of repeating myself here. But this is the better post anyway, even if it does sort of ramble and run out of steam at the end. Brevity was never my strong suit.

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