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Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Friend of the Blog was kind enough to send me the PLAYBOY pilot by Chad Hodge. The series is Imagine/Fox TV's/NBC's answer to MAD MEN, complete with cigarettes and sexism.

Interesting to note that Hodge breaks three important "rules":

a. He casts the show. Characters are introduced with movie actors in mind, actors who will obviously not be cast in the show, but are there just for type, e.g. "a ditzy Amanda Seyfried."

b. He puts music in the show. We've got a character singing "Chicago," and we've got Ike and Tina Turner singing some of their hits.

c. In the Act Five act out, he explains, in the action, who someone important really was.

(a) is generally deprecated as a crutch. If you say "Amanda Seyfried," then you aren't forced to write a character with her brand of slightly disturbing vulnerability. Also, you aren't going to get Amanda Seyfried.

(b) is generally a no-no because everyone may not have the same reaction to a given song. And the music can't really "play" on the page the way it does on the screen. And what if you can't get the rights?

(c) is generally considered cheating. Sure, you can write "she realizes it was Ziggy all along" in the blacks, but how does anyone act that? You can act emotion, but how do you act information? A more accurate description of what's going on her face would be "as she realizes something shocking" or "putting two and two together, with horror."

So does that mean the rules are off? Well, "There are no rules, but you break them at your peril." Chad Hodge obviously believes he can get away with them. Can you, if you're not a showrunner working with Brian Grazer? I don't know.

I think it does mean, though, follow the rules until you need to break them. Hodge did not want to put the realization at the end of Act 5 in the dialog, because the character would never, conceivably, say it to anyone. And, arguably, if the scene is shot properly, the information will get through to the audience.

It also means that, hell, if you can get away with it, go for it. J. J. Abrams doses his scripts heavily with f-bombs, obviously feeling it pumps up the energy. If that's "you," maybe try it, and see if you get away with it.

The show, interesting, is quite daring for prime time. It's period. It's serial. It shows us another world. It has a style. It's intelligent. No one solves crimes. I can imagine watching this. I am very far from being "the audience," but NBC is apparently hoping that intelligent scripted drama will pull it out of the rut it has dug itself into through cost-cutting and reality series.



I enjoyed the pilot script. My biggest wonder about the project as a series is how hamstrung the writers will find themselves because of the show's relationship to a living brand. Will they be honor or dollar-bound to pay fealty to Hefner's (kinda gross, outdated) self-image as a cuddly, good-guy exploiter of women? The pilot may deal with the sexism of the era and the clubgoers, but would it ever be free to suggest the dark side of the Playboy brand? Or of Hefner himself?

I don't have a particular axe to grind with Hefner/Playboy, but it still seems like it could be a major liability to the show's creative and thematic license.

By Blogger Bobo, at 3:51 PM  

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