Slings and Arrows - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lisa and I are watching Slings and Arrows on Showcase -- down South you can watch it on the Sundance Channel. It's up for a stack of Gemini Awards next week. This article talks about how this utterly funny and charming comic drama was greenlighted and then mysteriously killed at the CBC, after which The Movie Network, a specialty channel akin to HBO, picked it up.

I'm going to guess some executive said something like, "the mainstream audience doesn't care about Shakespearean theatre," not getting that the show is about crazy actors and directors doing most of their acting offstage. The show is 10% about Shakespeare, 30% about the Theatre, and 60% about adorable crazy people who act on their every impulse. The Shakespeare festival is just the venue. People don't watch Gray's Anatomy for the medicine, either.

TMN is very happy for the show to end "gracefully" after three seasons, but that seems to me only a cheerier version of the original rejection. Why not keep it going? I can't imagine that the writers are sick and tired of the characters after 18 episodes. [UPDATE: apparently they really did always intend only three seasons.] And if they can't figure out where to take the narrative, find writers who can. There is a perception out there that successful Canadian shows run for three years, and then are taken to the vet and put down. Same thing happened to my show, Naked Josh -- three good seasons, good audiences, good night.

Why, why, Lord, why?

7 Comments:

At the NSI Totally TV course this year, several of the key people involved in Slings & Arrows were brought in for a case study: producer, story editor, broadcaster (Showcase). Very interesting stuff.

They only ever wanted it to be 3 seasons, tops. It was meant to follow Geoffrey through three stages of character growth, represented by the three plays covered: Hamlet as the young innocent, Macbeth in the middle, and Lear as an experienced veteran. After that, the story they wanted to tell is done.

No judgement on this, it's just their creative vision.

Interestingly, it was Showcase that rescued the show and took the show on after CBC let it go, and TMN came on afterwards. But due to the agreement -- TMN never takes second window -- Showcase is showing it almost a whole season behind the premiere broadcast. (And are they ever bitter about that.)

By Blogger M Hand, at 9:38 AM  

Yeah, I can't say that Slings should go any longer. The conception of Young, Middle Age, Old Age really does suffuse the series. The ending of Series 3 really is the natural ending of the show -- there's just nowhere to go from there.

And much as I love the idea of work for writers, this is not one of those series. Everything I've read about the process of writing this says to me that the team of three that did this -- well, it was theirs. Two of them also acted in it. The third's now on Broadway.

You could say the same thing about the UK Office, that it could have gone on and on, but sometimes I think that that more limited run isn't necessarily a mistake either. No chance to wear out the welcome. I'm pretty sure that as much as I like LOST, I would have LOVED it if it was a three season thing. Lot of handwaving otherwise.

But supposedly the Sundance success means people are courting Bob Martin and the Slings people about a behind the scenes Broadway series...so there may yet be life in the old girl...

By Blogger DMc, at 10:30 AM  

Yes, when I interviewed Bob Martin about S&A in July, he told me he was in "serious discussions" to create an American/Broadway version of the series...
I would love that as S&A is one of my fav shows of all time, alongside Homicide and The Sopranos.
I wouldn't expect it for a good, long while though, because he's still on Broadway in The Drowsy Chaperone and will be coming with it to the West End in London, likely in the Spring...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 PM  

I'm delighted that there's a third season of Slings & Arrows -- I'm assuming we'll get it down here in the States in a few months -- and I'm disheartened that that's all there is.

The show's the reason I kept Showtime after the channel's initial promo come-on, since the Sundance Channel is part of that bundle (Weeds and Dexter are making the monthly bloodletting worth it now).

Mmm, an American version. A veteran of several nutball theater companies in this exact vein, I'd lightly maim someone to work on that.

What do you think, Alex? Could such a series fly in the current development environment, esp. with Studio 60 circling the drain?

By Blogger Kira, at 10:00 PM  

Alright. First Denis McGrath and now you. The two of you recommending, plus Mark McKinney starring and writing is enough for me. Season 1 is in the Queue. And near the top.

By Blogger Tom, at 10:19 PM  

Well, Kira, I see no reason why it couldn't fly, esp. coming from Mark McKinney. But I am not a network exec!

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:53 AM  

I, like Denis, have no problem with a series running a specified length and then leaving. We can count the number of series on all hands and feet and other appendages that stayed too long and had nothing new to say.

Be the responsible guest at the party and know when it's your time to leave.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 3:41 PM  

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