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Thursday, December 08, 2005

More of my interview with John Rogers...

CTVW: How do comic book stories compare with TV stories?
JR: One thing that's changed since they've started collecting comics in trade paperbacks is a sense of the continuing series. In a way each adventure of two or three books is one episode of TV. Some guys in comics don't buy that -- get your filthy video metaphors out of my art. But in some ways, each comic book issue is one act of a TV show. At the same time, you tell a complete story, establish a complete rhythm within each book. Each issue has to feel like a story even if it's part of a bigger story.
CTVW: A comic book adventure can take place over six to twelve issues. TV shows are either episodic, where each story is resolved at the end of the hour, or they have a season arc, where all the stories aren't resolved until the end of the 22 episodes that make up the season. Do you think any TV shows will go to the adventure/episode format, with story arcs of six to twelve episodes?
JR: Well, some shows are evolving that way because a lot of shows are going to 13 eps a season. Rome, for example. So two seasons of Rome is one season of Lost in terms of structure. TV as a whole is in a rough transition going from episodic stories. Some series adapt, some don't. There's a paradigm shift. TV isn't really TV any more, not in the broadcast sense. People are timeshifting on their TiVo's, they're buying the DVDs, they're downloading.
CTVW: And to pick up what you said, the British model is series with six episode seasons.
JR: And there's an awful lot of really good TV in those six eps. Of course they work in a different format. British actors will take any job. They don't have the showrunner structure, as you've written about. The show is a much more limited idea, and the stories are what are driving it. Really, six episodes you can bang out in a couple of weeks.
CTVW: We did eight on Naked Josh. Felt like a lot of work to get it up and running, and then we were already done.
JR: Eight feels like exactly the wrong number.
CTVW: On the show we're developing now we've got 13, thank God. Which feels ideal, because I suspect you can get enough episodes in the bank before you go into prep that when you inevitably fall behind, by the time you're out of stocked episodes, your season is over. But if you're doing 22, you've still got nine more to do.
JR: And then you're f****d. Galactica does batches of ten. They know they're doing 22. But they do 10 every six months. That gives everyone a breather. You're still gonna shoot all 22 but you're going to start getting lost in the batch once you're in ep 11 ... why not just end it there, wait for the midseason hooha to die down, come back in January while everyone's waiting for sweeps. I think it's much smarter. Of course, Galactica is financed oddly. It's a SkyOne-Sci Fi international coproduction. I was talking to an exec at the WB about The 4400. He was saying, "We always hate those networks who only advertise one show at a time." That's like, "Damn those natives and their dirty jungle fighting. Why don't they come out and fight like gentlemen?" You know what their big lesson was this year? The lesson they got out of it was, "You can make only one show a hit." That's the lesson they learned. Whether it's My Name is Earl or Supernatural on WB. That's the rocket science? Don't roll out one show at a time and get it right. Blow your whole advertising budget on one show while everyone else is also rolling out their big shows, and know you can only get one hit.
CTVW: So what's going on? Because network execs aren't stupid people when they go into those jobs.
JR: No, they're not.
CTVW: So what is it? Something in the Red Bull?
JR: I think we're still dealing with the last of the 70's and 80's people. They're used to these huge ratings. One of my showrunners on Cosby, David Landsberg, was talking about CSI. They have a 22 share. It's huge. That would have got you canceled in the early 90's. ER's down to a 14 share. But you've got me distracted talking about TV.



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