Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

The Best of the Best…Part 1 of 3

Many People (Mom this is for you) think that Television is a waste of
time.  There is nothing good on and it is not worth watching.  My
mother tells me this on a regular basis and really, it kind of hurts
me personally (seeing as this is what I really want to do…write for
television).  Even when complete strangers tell me that they don’t
watch T.V. because everything on T.V. sucks I get a little hurt.

So as many of you probably know I was a Lit Major (among other things)
in college.  Well in my Literature classes we were constantly
discussing a principle of Mimesis.  Basically, Mimesis is an
Aristotilean artistic principle that says that the main purpose of
drama is to emulate real life.  That’s incredibly simplified, but it’s
the basic jist of the arguement.  So I ask you, what’s more realistic
a two hour movie, where you are forced to develop characters in the
first 10 minutes (something has to happen in the first 10 pages
because that’s how much an agent/director/anyone will read in this
business).  Or do we achieve a better glimpse at how humans change,
how they stagnate, how they behave in any particular environment or
situation by watching them every week for 1 to 5 to 10 years?

Suffice to say, I actually think that Television is the higher of the
two artforms.  Film takes it’s time.  It takes three months to shoot a
movie.  They shoot about a page and a half of dialogue a day (with the
exception of Robert Altman, and maybe someday I’ll write a good 20
pages on him cause he’s the master).  In Television it takes 8 days to
shoot a One Hour episode.  The shoot upwards of 15-25 Pages a day
depending on the scenario.

Television doesn’t have the schedule to painstakingly agonize over
every single camera angle in the way that film does.  Still, and I’ll
get to this more in Part III of this email, a show can do extremely
artistic camera work, even with it’s inevitable time constraints.

So this email series is aiming to point out, what I think, are the
three best shows on NETWORK television.  When I get emails back, I
will talk to you about Entourage and Big Love until the cows come
home, but I am not including them in my top three shows.  These
non-network channels include HBO, Showtime, USA (you Monk fans), TNT
(Closer people), or F/X (If anyone watches Nip/Tuck I’ll be honest,
I’m now a little bit disturbed by you).

So I’m going to start off with Grey’s Anatomy because last night’s
episode nearly killed me.  Seriously, at one point I was actually
curled into a fetal position on my bed sobbing, as though MY dad had
just died, not George’s.

I know I’ve alluded to how great Grey’s is, but here’s the real
rundown.  Basically, what I look for in a One Hour Drama is writing
and acting.  If the writing is clever and the acting is superb I’ll
usually tune into the show, even if I’m not a fan of the premise.
That being said, there are only three one hour dramas that I actually
watch, so you do the math on how annoyingly picky I am about what
constitutes great writing and great acting.

The best part of Grey’s Anatomy is that it’s not really about Meredith
Grey.  I’d kind of like to bow down to Shonda Rhimes, not only because
she’s a woman who created the number one show in the United States,
but because she created a truly flawed character who, though her name
is in the title, really isn’t the star of the show.

Many people I know, don’t like Meredith Grey (perhaps this is because
Ellen Pompeo is not the nicest of people in real life, and thus it
comes through in her acting) but I love her.  She’s a deeply flawed
character and she’s flawed in only a way having a team of mostly
female writers make it okay for a woman to be flawed.  The problem
with many teams of writers in Television is that they are mostly men
so they are afraid to make women so intensely fucked up.  Grey’s
Anatomy has a majority of women on their writing staff so all the
women are totally screwed up in ways that women are not afraid to
write about.  Meredith, when she’s depressed, gets drunk and sleeps
with the wrong people.  Throughout season 2 she did this repeatedly,
culminating with her tryst with George.  In fact, when we meet
Meredith for the first time it is the morning after a one night stand
with, we will soon find out is, McDreamy.

Ah yes, Patrick Dempsy.  Let’s put aside the fabuolus hair and
wonderful charm.  By the way, at the press confrence I was at on
Sunday Shonda Rhimes said that before Patrick got the part, he wasn’t
called McDreamy…let’s just stew on that shall we.  Dr. McDreamy, Dr.
Burke, The Chief, and Dr. Karev fill out the cocky asshole
surgeon/wannabe surgeon (in the case of Dr. Karev) quartet of the
show.  Yes, they can all be assholes, but we find that they can all be
sweet and gooey marshmellows when confronted with Meredith, or
Christina or Izzie.  What I’m really trying to get at here is that all
characters on the show are three dimensional.  At first Dr. Karev
especially seems like a complete smarmy (sp. ?) ass.    But we see
change, we see layers, we see a real person and it didn’t take two
hours to get there.  It took weeks and months and even years for us to
see that he’s not the total dick that he started out as.  That’s what
television does.

Now, the best thing I heard Ms. Shonda say at the press conference
was, when talking about how she pitched the show to the network, ‘they
are surgeons who care more about themselves than about their
patients.’  Damn straight they are.  They are surgeons, they are
doctors, they do care about their patients, but their own problems and
their own character takes precedence over (in true E.R. fashion…NBC
please cancel that damn show already) the cool new accidents that come
in.  Sure they have an uncharacteristically high number of amazing
accidents/consults with patients that have weird and crazy things
wrong with them, but in all fairness, it is T.V. and it has to have
some of that stuff.

Where the show really succeeds is when, in the middle of these
tragedies and surgeries and hopes and heartbreaks, the essence of
humanity is touched.  At it’s core the show is about humanity, it’s
about how we move up in the world, what people are willing to do in
order to accomplish their dreams, how people take care of each other,
how people get too involved in the lives of people they really
shouldn’t be involved with at all.  It’s about how we are not perfect,
even the best of us, we are far from it.  This show is about so much
more than a 2 hour movie could ever be about.

And the thing that really makes the show as fantastic as it is (it did
just win a globe for best drama on monday) is the writing.  The reason
I really started becoming attracted to this show and eventually made
it a must see was the fact that there are a good 10 main characters
and every week each of them has a pretty good story line.  Now writing
10 give or take good story lines (sure some of them involve 2 or more
characters, but still) every single week is an absolute work of
genius.  In T.V. you have 43 minutes and I think it’s 11 seconds to
tell your story from week to week.  Now, think how difficult it is to
pack all those story lines into that 43 minute show.  And People (read
mom) let’s give them some damn credit.

It’s not trash, it’s not crap, it’s an amazing work of art and a
complex jigsaw puzzle.  Take last nights episode, for example.  Not
only was there the big story with George’s Dad (which actually took up
ALOT of screen-time for a single storyline, but I thought it got the
credit it deserved), but we had Christina and Burke, Meredith and
Derek, Addison (who is my favorite character) and Dr. Karev, Meredith
and her dad, Izzie and the patient that she’s getting too involved
with yet again with Dr. Bailey added into the mix.  Then we also had
all the stuff surrounding George’s dad, with Dr. Torres, Dr. Bailey,
the Chief, that fanatatic scene at the end (that damn near killed me)
with Christina and George where she says she’s sorry he had to join
the dead dad’s club and my favorite line in the episode ‘I don’t know
how to live in a world where my Dad doesn’t exist.’  Cut to Julia with
snot running out of her nose in the fetal position, rocking herself
like she was just beaten with a baseball bat.  That’s all one episode,
and that one wasn’t even as jam-packed as they can get.

Ok, so it’s about time to wrap this up, but I guess what I’m trying to
get across is that maybe more goes into a T.V. show than you know.
Let’s not automatically assume that becasue it’s on Television it’s
crap because the best stuff that’s out there is on television.
Remember too that when you say ‘you don’t believe in t.v.’ lowly
underpaid, overworked writer drops dead.  So let’s all chant it ‘I do
believe’  ‘I do believe’  ‘I do believe’

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June 14, 2007 - Posted by | Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood, Television

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