Last year before staffing season started I read all the pilots. One in particular stood out. Not because it was good, but because it should have been good but was terrible. The writing was awful. It felt like a first draft. It needed a rewrite or five. But the potential was obvious. It was a fun idea for a show. They just didn’t try to make it good for some reason.
I had a “general” meeting with the network that was making the pilot, and all I wanted to talk about with them was this show. I told them how cool it was. How fun it was. How great it could be. And for some reason I also told them it sucked. The writing, at least. That it could be good if they just went over it again.
Well, they didn’t listen to me and it didn’t get a rewrite. And that show, of course, turned out to be “Empire”, aka the biggest hit of the year.
But here’s the thing: I was right! That shit did need a rewrite. And then I realized something:
It’s not supposed to be great, it’s supposed to be “campy”. And I don’t like “campy”. I don’t understand it. I like things that are trying to be good, not trying to be so bad that they’re good. So that’s why I was confused by this script.
But whatever, it clearly worked. However, I think the problem they are going to have is that they started at extreme camp. There’s nowhere to go but more campiness, and that’s a serious issue. By their very nature, TV shows get crazier and wackier. Look at the last 2 seasons of “Seinfeld”. Or better yet, don’t. Cause it’s bad. Look at “Friends” and some of their insane story lines in the final years. They started at a grounded place, and they ended up with Joey finding his identical hand twin. That’s understandable in season 10. But when you start with identical hand twin, you’re in trouble.
I was watching “Melrose Place” on the newly formed Pop network today. I haven’t watched it since it originally aired. It holds up! Or at least the end of season 1 does. Now there’s a show that was campy. But it started grounded. So grounded, in fact, that it was straight up boring. It didn’t start getting good until Heather Locklear showed up. And that’s when the crazy started to creep in, little by little. But it didn’t start there! It was a slow, gradual process, that memorably climaxed with Kimberly taking off her wig to reveal that scar.
It was all downhill, and exploding apartment complexes, after that. Point is, you don’t start with Kimberly taking that wig off!
But maybe you can’t have that kind of patience anymore. And Empire is okay, for the most part. I just worry it will burn itself out very quickly.
I looked it up and “Melrose Place” did 32 episodes in its 1st season!!! And 31 in its 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. I don’t know if you understand how utterly insane that is. By episode 50 of Empire, Terrence Howard’s character should be in a wheelchair getting spoon fed jello by a nurse. The way the entire show is setup in the pilot, they aren’t planning for the future. But we shall see. I was wrong before, could be wrong again. Until then, Jake may have given you AIDS…