Other Ten Percent 7/2/14

Jul 02 2014

Hello, I am feeling less bummed but no less strapped for topics. I think it’s that I’m actually writing fiction at a pretty healthy clip so most of my good ideas are kinda being funneled into that and by the end of the day I’m kind of operating on a “so, trees are weird” level of insight. Though, to be fair, as once again confirmed by Dinosaur Comics today, trees are actually pretty weird. Anyway, I think we’re going M/W/F for a while so I have stuff to talk about when I write these up. We’ll see if that makes me more or less productive on the off days and then go from there.

I kinda skipped out on talking about the Community deal on Monday because given everything that was going on my reaction was less “hooray” and more “truly nothing is ever certain in this inconstant universe.” That’s not to say I’m unhappy Community’s coming back. I’m not. I just kinda already did my mourning and decided it was the blood for the blood God that was demanded to get me a third season of Hannibal.

It remains to be seen if this is all spin and “most of” means “slightly over half” but right now the thing I find most intriguing about the Community deal is that Yahoo seems to have as much disposable cash to spend on Community as NBC does. Everybody seems to be saying the budgets aren’t dropping anyway.

On some level that’s not surprising. House of Cards certainly LOOKS as good as any HBO show even if the writing is more “late season of a Showtime series” most of the time. But the weirdness of the source (Yahoo!?) along with the direct 1:1 comparison with Hollywood money makes it feels like a new thing. Or at least the signpost to make me finally notice something that TV has slowly been evolving into for a few years now.

We’re entering the Venture Capital era of TV development where what seems like tremendous amounts of money get thrown at things that don’t seem all that likely to succeed just to see what happens. Of course, just like in Venture Capital investments, what seems like a lot of money to me is probably just chump change corporations find in the seat cushions of the couches that all corporations have because corporations are people.

Community is likely a pretty cheap show to produce. Despite Community’s love of weird genre-bending episodes its still mostly shot on standing sets with a regular cast that’s gone through a few rounds of contract negotiation and that means Community’s single most expensive effect at this point in its run is almost certainly getting Joel McHale’s abs to show up for new episodes.

The thing is though that sense Yahoo doesn’t have to put Community on against anything and because (again, relatively speaking) it’s so cheap the resulting mindset isn’t “Are we absolutely sure this is the best plan and we won’t get fired for green-lighting it” its “screw it, let’s try it. Maybe it’ll work.”

This honestly gets into a larger thing about how people are fundamentally mistaken about what is and isn’t screwed up about VC culture but the weird thing about this approach is it seems pretty likely that this will produce BETTER TV than a lot of people whose entire job is to focus entirely on only making TV shows they think will be successful.

I mean somebody just penned a deal to have Bryan Fuller helm an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel for Starz, and, while I am psyched as hell for that, if I were a TV executive I’d think that sentence was basically a fill-in-the-blank on the theme “I hate having money.” But what the fuck do I know. Even Netflix clearly thought Orange is the New Black was kind of an afterthought project they just made it in a format where when they were wrong they were rewarded for it and not punished.

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