Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ideas for prime-time television that would put more screenwriters and fiction writers to work

The local NBC station runs a news program at 11 a.m. that they cheerfully call "Midday News." I'm now sure how it is midday at 11 a.m. or really "news" since it's their sixth straight hour of news broadcasting. This is the same local station that has a new 4 p.m. news show that features an hour of stories mostly pulled off the Internet, in addition to its 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. hour-long broadcasts.

All that "news" gets a little repetitive, even with the cute kitten videos from YouTube they show during the 4 p.m. broadcast.

NBC Prime Time isn't much more creative, currently with only two hours of non-news/talk show programming each night, some of that taken up with reality shows like The Biggest Loser.

So NBC—and, really, all network and most basic cable TV— is ripe for a creative renaissance. It's time to bring back theatrical productions like Studio One and high-quality screenplays like those written for the Twilight Zone.

Yes, I know, many of the best-written shows are or have been on HBO, like "The Wire," which I'm currently watching on DVD. But I don't want to assume that the average American viewer is always the lowest common denominator. And I don't want to have to pay for premium cable.

Here's the rest of my Wish List:

• A show that would, each week, feature short plays that are currently in production in the U.S. (Maybe PBS has done something like this already?)

• A reality show that could be a contest for playwrights, where portions of the plays are read, analyzed and voted on by both audience members and critics. I'm not assuming that millions of Americans will watch and vote for their favorite plays or playwrights, but you might get a dedicated core of fans who will watch every week. [This could be a short-run show every year, in the style of American Idol, which doesn't start broadcasting until January].

• Likewise, an off-the-air contest for writers to submit stories to be adapted into screenplays, with winning screenplays showcased for one night or over several nights. Or, readers could vote on their favorite short stories they'd like to see adapted for the screen.

• A show that would each month produce three to four hour-long or even half-hour-long production of stories by a well-known writer, e.g., four short stories by Philip Dick become four different shows or one of his stories becomes four half-hour-long shows in a month-long series. They could have a famous actor introduce it, in the style of Masterpiece Theatre, giving a little background on the author and why this particular story was chosen.

• An early prime-time show that would feature stories for young adults adapted for the screen--sort-of like a short version of The Wonderful World of Disney. I'd like to occasionally see high-quality shows for kids in the early evening, not just silly Nickelodeon cartoons or insipid Disney sitcoms.

I'm tired of seeing people shooting and yelling at each other on TV, whether in dramas or reality shows. I'm tired of superficial people tittering about sex and boobs and getting drunk. I'm not watching this stuff, but I worry about the people who are and what a steady diet of crap is doing to their minds.

Maybe I'll start a Facebook or online petition demanding the screenplay contest as a show, or the return of Studio One, featuring new dramas. Let me know if there is interest.

No comments: