pageok
pageok
pageok
Big Love "Threat or Menace?" Comment Board:
With the success of The Sopranos comments board below, I thought I would solicit reader comments on Big Love, the new HBO series on polygamy. What do you think?

In response to some of the comments on The Sopranos, I wanted to add that, for me, The Wire is a far more realistic depiction of crime and law enforcement. I view The Sopranos as more surrealist than realistic in a highly (for me) aesthetically pleasing way. Deadwood, in contrast, I view as Shakespearean in its investment in dialog, which includes the inability to understand some of it without a quick backup on the Tivo™ to hear a line again. It is even better in second viewing when you do not have to concern yourself with the plot and can focus on the words. Then there is Entourage. . . an awesome show. These are my four favorite series.

Do I sound like I watch too much TV? After all, there is also 24, the amazing House, Rome, and the far inferior but still entertaining, Prison Break, to keep up with. Well, perhaps. But the Tivo™ allows me to be very selective. [In response to a comment, I have been and remain a genuine Tivo™ owner since the product was first introduced.] Choose the shows to which I want to commit and keep up with them late in the evening when I am too drained to do anything else. And the other nice thing is that there are new episodes of different series throughout the year, not just from Fall to Spring, so there are at any one time probably no more 3-4 shows to watch per week.

This may well be the new Golden Age of television, with the medium finally being used to accomplish story telling that cannot be done in the traditional "series" format or the traditional 2-hour movie format.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Big Love "Threat or Menace?" Comment Board:
  2. Sopranos Comment Board
John Stossel (mail) (www):
Do you think that disclaimer-like statement at the opening of the end credits will appear after every episode?
3.14.2006 10:25am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Wow Randy, if you find out about FX (The Shield, Nip/Tuck, etc.), you'd really be lost. :)

Anyway, the performances were great, and it has the makings of an engaging high tension drama. I'm on board.

My biggest criticism has to due with HBO's marketing: They really put it up as some sort of comedy. While it does blend in some very clever, albeit dry, humor, it most certainly NOT comedy.
3.14.2006 10:32am
Raw_Data (mail):
I'd suggest that anyone who thinks that 'Big Love' casts polygamy in a favorable light simply hasn't seen the show. (At least based on the first one.)

I know that the producers somehow believe that the show is going to promote new ways of looking at "the family," but based on what I saw it's going to reinforce the idea that one man and one woman is quite enough, thank you.

Btw, I am NOT against polygamy for competent consenting adults and where the legalresponsibilites (inheritance, divorce, children etc etc) are considered.
3.14.2006 10:50am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Legal trivia: the enabling act for my state (Arizona) forbade the state ever to legalize polygamy. As a practical matter, there were quite a few polygamists (my father knew one, an old man in the 1930s, who officially had a wife and a "live-in housekeeper.").

The state constitutional convention skirted it somewhat, by inserting a constitutional provision that children born out of wedlock be treated equally with those born in it (which required some modifications to the Uniform Probate Code when it was enacted here).
3.14.2006 10:57am
Geoff Barr (mail):
Let me add to the plug above for The Shield on FX - I've been glued to the past 4 seasons and the current 5th is just as good and maybe even better. Just make sure to watch it from the beginning (the first four seasons are out on DVD already), since it relies a lot on interconnected plot threads that run throughout the series.
3.14.2006 11:01am
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
I'm concerned that Big Love casts monogamy in an unfavorable light.

No, the non-pilot-season-opener episodes are not likely to have an informational splash before the closing credits.

Pullman and Tripplehorn are very sympathetic, Sevigny is excellent and disturbing, Seyfried as the oldest daughter is very good, and the supporting cast - family and Roman - are wild.

I expect the show to be showered with awards.
3.14.2006 11:02am
Richard Bellamy (mail):

Legal trivia: the enabling act for my state (Arizona) forbade the state ever to legalize polygamy.


This is not intended to be silly, but wouldn't this act be unconstitutional under Dred Scot? I mean, the slavery part of Dred Scot was overruled by the Civil War and 13th Amendment, of course, but what about the reasoning behind the "Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional" part? Can Congress constitutionally withhold rights to some states that are given to others?
3.14.2006 11:22am
steve k:
As long as we're talking about great shows and storytelling, how about LOST? It truly is a serial. I could tell a friend to start watching HOUSE or even THE SOPRANOS right away, but I'd insist he buy the first season LOST DVDs to catch up.
3.14.2006 11:24am
Kevin Murphy:
TiVo is like a dishwasher. You can live without one, but never willingly once you've had one.
3.14.2006 11:30am
Cornellian (mail):
Entourage is an awesome series. I just wish they'd make more episodes.
3.14.2006 11:38am
B. B.:
Another vote for The Shield, though with only two weeks left in this season, you should wait for it to come out on DVD, and you definitely need to watch the first four seasons before watching this one as it reaches back to an event in the pilot episode among other things from previous seasons.

Nip/Tuck is an entertaining show, but I hardly can put it in the category of Sopranos, The Wire, and some others. I'm very interested to see how Thief turns out (another FX show forthcoming). I loved Andre Braugher on Homicide, I think it's got a good shot to be added to some of the other quality stuff on FX.
3.14.2006 11:38am
JLR (mail) (www):
Pilot episodes are always the toughest episodes of any TV series to make. The writers need to establish all the main characters, and give a hint of what is to come not just in future episodes, but also over the arc of the entire series.

No matter how great or "it's not TV, it's HBO" a series is, a pilot episode needs to hit all those points.

The only pilot episode I've ever seen that managed to intelligently and artistically evade that basic pattern was "Lost." The official name of its pilot episode, as is the case with most TV series, was "Pilot," but it used that generic name AND made it fit the actual plot of the pilot episode. The main characters' goal in that episode was to find the pilot of Oceanic Flight 815. And they did. He provided some scary but necessary exposition. And then he got killed by the "monster." (Is it really a "monster"? Recent episodes imply that it is not.)

"Lost" in my opinion is the best series currently airing on television.

But I believe "The Sopranos" is a close second.

"Big Love" could reach the level of "Lost" and "The Sopranos." But we need to see how Harry Dean Stanton's character develops before we can say for certain whether it could reach those heights. Otherwise, it'll just be "Desperate Housewives," except all the housewives are married to the same guy.

I'm cautiously optimistic about "Big Love." The pilot was well acted, and the writing showed enough spark to prove that it could be a very good series.

We shall see what happens.
3.14.2006 11:44am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
But the Tivo allows me to be very selective

But is it a genuine Tivo or is it a DVR supplied by a cable company or a satellite service? Poor Tivo -- more use the name than the service!
3.14.2006 11:46am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
If you can look past the fact that lately their "trials" have been so over-simplified as to be almost insulting (Especially if you lean to the right politically,) Boston Legal is one of the best shows out there.

Shatner, Spader, and Bergen are amazing together
3.14.2006 11:54am
Questioner:
What I don't understand about the laws against polygamy is this: If one can only have one spouse legally, then how is someone breaking the law if he goes through RELIGIOUS marriage ceremonies with several different women? After all, the RELIGIOUS marriage ceremony should be a legal nullity, no?

I guess the moral of the story is that a man can live with several women and father children with them out-of-wedlock, but he DARE not go through any RELIGIOUS marriage cermonies!
3.14.2006 11:56am
Houston Lawyer:
I stopped recording TV shows back in the late 80s. I used to record LA Law, but found that I never took the time to watch it. I would probably enjoy a DVR, but I watch too much TV already. Tonight I will have to miss The Shield, which I only started watching this season, to go see Larry the Cable Guy at the Rodeo.

I turned off the pilot for Julia Louis-Dreyfus's new sitcom after about 10 minutes last night. CBS needs to find something to go between Two and One-Half Men and CSI Miami.
3.14.2006 11:59am
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
What. No Battlestar Galactica???? It has everything that Soprano's has (maybe less sex and blood), but also tackles (tangles) war and religion in a completely compelling fashion.
3.14.2006 12:11pm
rbj:
I second Battlestar Galactica. As I don't get HBO, I've got no idea about most of the other shows.
And Questioner, those who officiate at religious ceremonies are usually authorized to also perform legally binding ceremonies. So usually two birds (legal ceremony &religious ceremony) get killed with one stone.
3.14.2006 12:29pm
John Marshall Robinson (mail):
Randy,

Are you a fan of the British sitcom? Also, have you seen Trailer Park Boys?
3.14.2006 12:31pm
Questioner:
I understand that the official may be authorized to perform a legal marriage if the official and the bride and groom CHOOSE to do so, but to do so requires marriage licenses, forms to be filed by the officiant and other paperwork. If absolutely no GOVERNMENT paperwork is ever filled out, then why isn't the RELIGIOUS ceremony a legal nullity?
3.14.2006 12:40pm
jallgor (mail):
I have also been enjoying the HBO series "Extras" It's from the guy who created "The Office" (another Genius show).
3.14.2006 12:49pm
SLS 1L:
Isn't Big Love about polygyny, not polygamy?

I've never really understand why people use the more general term to mean the more specific one - what about polyandry, line marriages, polygon marriages, and so on? People have no imagination.

Just to be clear, by "polygon marriages" I mean a structure like this:

a--b
| |
c--d
3.14.2006 2:02pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
As far as polygamy although it is against the Utah constitution there is no direct criminal penalty. They prosecute under bigamy(76-7-101, felony), cohabitation (103-51-2, felony), and adultery (76-7-103, class B misdemeanor) statutes
3.14.2006 2:18pm
rbj:
Questioner, if there is no legal paperwork filled out, then there is no legal marriage and no penalty for polygamy. It's similar to two gay men (or lesbians) having a ceremony in a church that performs those types of weddings; the law is just not going to recognize them, it'll just be a guy living with his wife and another woman. Odd, but usually these days it isn't prosecutable (and post Lawrence might not be at all prosecutable).

At least for some of the Latter Day Saint break away sects, some members who engage in polygamy do so with their underage nieces -- the law does come down on those folks. (Not to be taken as a blanket condemnation of all polygamous situations across various religious beliefs).
3.14.2006 2:36pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Does Utah have common law marriage? If they do, then polygomous marriages could be prosecuted on that basis, i.e., the polygamous spouses were holding themselves out as man and wives and were therefore legally married.
3.14.2006 3:07pm
Brendan (mail):
Shield
Wire
Deadwood
Rescue Me
Rome
24
Lost
Entourage
Nip Tuck
The Office
3.14.2006 3:09pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Since nobody else has mentioned "The Wire" since Randy B.'s original post, I'll say that I think "The Wire" is excellent: realistic, nuanced, atmospheric, and generally very well written and acted. The second season, especially, I thought was great. Maybe the McNulty character is a tad cliched, but everything is is terrific.
3.14.2006 3:10pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
Oh yeah. I forgot about Rescue Me.
3.14.2006 3:16pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
JLR: I think you have the purpose of a pilot a bit confused. In the case of Big Love, episode 01 is the pilot. But it's more the exception than the rule.

A pilot serves one purpose only: to sell the concept, in prototype form, to the network. (In most cases, they've already been sold enough on the "pitch", which generally includes a pilot script, to put up the money to produce the pilot.)

Generally, pilots are cheaply produced, won't well fit the story arc of the series (mostly due to changes demanded by the network execs), and are never aired. Frequently, networks will order one or more additional pilots before they give the go-ahead for the series.
3.14.2006 3:22pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Jaligor:

I have also been enjoying the HBO series "Extras" It's from the guy who created "The Office" (another Genius show).

That's Ricky Gevais; he's very big in England.
3.14.2006 3:33pm
Questioner:
So, if when no legal paperwork whatsoever is filed, there is no legal marriage, then the savvy polygamist will have religious ceremonies only and only with legal adults, not file any paperwork, and not live in common law marriage states. QED. ;P
3.14.2006 3:41pm
JLR (mail) (www):
Mr. Connors,

I'm not sure that you are accurate.

I believe what you're describing is the exception, not the rule.

Networks do engage in the practice of taking 22 minute sitcom pilot scripts and asking writers to convert them to 15 minute pilot "presentations" for production. See the short-lived Bravo series "Situation: Comedy" for more information on how pilot presentations work. Those 15 minute pilot "presentations" never see the light of day if the series is picked up; usually such "presentations" never get green-lighted to become series anyway.

But most full 22 minute pilots that get green-lighted do become the first episode of the series, with the same acting, writing, directing. What changes between March/April and September/October (when the first episode airs on television) are the post-production elements, such as music, ADR, and opening credit sequences.

Occasionally some scenes are added or deleted. However, pilots generally are not reshot from scratch. But there are some pilots that are, and those pilots usually become the first episodes of series that serve as midseason replacements.

For example, the very short-lived sitcom "A.U.S.A." which starred Scott Foley as an Assistant US Attorney, was originally shot as a single-camera sitcom (pitch: "Scrubs" but with an A.U.S.A. instead of an internal medicine resident).

However, NBC decided to have the pilot episode of "A.U.S.A." be reshot as a standard multi-camera sitcom (mainly to save on production costs). The new pilot episode, however, included single-camera sequences that were part of the original pilot that NBC commissioned.

NBC aired eight episodes of "A.U.S.A." from February to April of 2003 before officially cancelling the series.
3.14.2006 4:33pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
I hate to say it, but I'm addicted to Wildboyz on MTV2. Yes, I enjoy all these other great shows, but watching two idiots in a hammock 15 feet off the ground with pieces of meat hanging off of it, in the middle of Africa, at night is simply awe-striking television.
3.14.2006 4:37pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Generally, Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists will have one "legal" wife, other wives are married "in the church," but not legally, save for how they are bound by other domestic contracts which they may agree to.

Stanley Kurtz just did a pretty good NRO article on the Canadian polygamy movement. As a libertarian, I don't agree with his predisposition (he's against it). But, as usual, he makes a good case.
3.14.2006 4:45pm
o' connuh j.:
House is all I watch.

Brilliant.
3.14.2006 5:01pm
First Time Long Time:
A quick, interesting answer to those who have questioned how a state may attack a religious ceremony designed to skirt the state's marriage requirements:

In Utah, it is a third-degree felony to perform a marriage without a marriage license. Utah Code Ann. 30-1-13. It is also a third-degree felony to "knowingly, with or without a license, solemnize[] a marriage of a minor prohibited by law" and a class A misdemeanor to "knowingly, with or without a license, solemnize[] a marriage between two adults prohibited by law . . . ." Utah Code Ann. 30-1-15.

30-1-15 was passed in 2001 and was specifically targetted at those who perform polygamous marriages. I am not, however, aware of any prosecutions under this section. In any case, these two laws only target those performing the marriages and not the actual participants who could be prosecuted under the laws mentioned earlier.
3.14.2006 5:04pm
SenatorX (mail):
Ahhh the Masons..I mean the Mormons, what an interesting group. Everytime I have met one out and about he was very friendly. I got into a discussion with one once on a plane about baptizing babies and whether they really should go to hell or not(he said Not and I am an athiest-we bonded against the Catholics). It was a blast, he mailed me a bible.

The nagging thing that won’t stop buzzing in the back of my brain though is that whole Joseph Smith translation of the golden tablets thing. The ones that vanished right after. It is just so L.Ron Hubbardesc...if you know what I mean. That and the Masons. Can anyone say Secret Society? Can anyone say Sacred Geometry? Can anyone say Plato? Give me a Plato...
Chorus : All hail Plato! All hail Plato! All hail Plato!

As far as polygyny goes(homage to SLS 1L) what’s the point of an all male secret society if you can’t have money and bitches? Or am I mistaken and the woman are/were allowed multiple husbands?
3.14.2006 5:33pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I think the pilot for the original Star Trek had a character named Captain Pike rather than Captain Kirk, a woman played the first officer role later filled by Spock, and neither William Shatner nor Leonard Nimoy were featured.

(Subject to correction by Trekkies.)
3.14.2006 5:51pm
SenatorX (mail):
Oh yeah and Lost. Great show! The reruns kill me though.
3.14.2006 5:59pm
JLR (mail) (www):
Elliot -- I'm not a Star Trek expert, but the pilot episode starred Jeffrey Hunter as Christopher Pike, Captain of the starship Enterpirse. Captain Pike was later integrated in a two-part flashback episode entitled "The Menagerie." Therefore, Captain Pike and the pilot episode are a part of the Star Trek canon.

Mr. Spock was a character in the pilot, and was played by Leonard Nimoy. As far as I can remember, however, the only other actor from the pilot who went on to be in the regular Star Trek cast was Majel Barrett, who in the pilot played an unnamed first officer known as Number One (foreshadowing Commander Riker in TNG). In the regular series, Majel Barrett played Nurse Chapel. Barrett was Gene Roddenberry's girlfriend at the time of the pilot, and Barrett and Roddenberry eventually got married. Majel Barrett also played Counselor Troi's mother in TNG, and was also the voice of the ship computer in TOS, TNG, and DS9 (as opposed to the DS9 station computer voice, which I believe was voiced by Jodi Durand).

Wow, if I know all this, maybe I am a Star Trek expert, aka Trekkie. :-)
3.14.2006 6:09pm
JLR (mail) (www):
I doublechecked -- the voice of the DS9 station's computer was not Jodi Durand; rather, it was Judi Durand.

No self-respecting Trekkie would get that wrong -- so I was right at the beginning of my 3.14.06 6:09 pm post; I'm not a Trekkie after all. :-)
3.14.2006 6:13pm
Fern:
I thought there weren't any states that recognize common-law marriage anymore?

This is not intended to be silly, but wouldn't this act be unconstitutional under Dred Scot? I mean, the slavery part of Dred Scot was overruled by the Civil War and 13th Amendment, of course, but what about the reasoning behind the "Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional" part? Can Congress constitutionally withhold rights to some states that are given to others?

SCOTUS upheld the requirement that Utah outlaw polygamy in the late 1870s and 1880s (after Dred Scott, the Civil War and the 13-15 Amendments).
3.14.2006 6:40pm
Tinhorn (mail):
What's with all the "™"s after all the "TiVo"s? If you wanted to indicate its trademark status, then (1) using it after every instance is surely overkill (even TiVo does not do that on its web pages), and (2) why not correctly use an ® to show that it is a registered trademark, rather than leaving the distinct impression it is unregistered (the "™" is arguably worse than no designation at all)?
3.14.2006 7:11pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
Tinhorn,

It is just a joking response to the above comment by Duncan Frissell.
3.14.2006 7:16pm
Quarterican (mail):
A Warning To Fans Of LOST:

J.J. Abrams will disappoint you. Enjoy it, but don't invest in it. He's making it up as he goes along and eventually that will start to bug you. Contradictions will be made, plot lines forgotten and never resurrected, and eventually you'll realize everything you liked about the show has changed. I have been there before you, and I do not want others to needlessly suffer my fate.

Signed:
A fan of the first two seasons of ALIAS.
3.14.2006 7:22pm
Visitor Again:
I didn't follow along, but my living partner watched the first episode of Big Love. When it was over, she yelled, "Hell, no! You can borrow my dress, in which case it's yours, but I don't share my shoes or my man."
3.14.2006 7:38pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):
This may well be the new Golden Age of television, with the medium finally being used to accomplish story telling that cannot be done in the traditional "series" format or the traditional 2-hour movie format.

I think, particularly in view of Quarterican's comments re: Abrams, Lost and Alias above, that it's a bit premature to say this. The storytelling American TV shows feature right now doesn't have a real wholeness to it, I think -- they still have a lot of the old serial about them, and the story-writers end up just making stuff up as they go along.

I think the argument for "story telling that cannot be done in the traditional 'series' format or the traditiona 2-hour movie format" is much stronger for East Asian TV dramas -- from Korea, Japan, and the Chinese states. There, the best TV programs (usually romances in Korea, and crime dramas in Japan, I think) are structured the way a story traditionally has been structured, with a a beginning, a middle, and an end. These shows run for a single season, usually, 10-20 episodes or so (although some Chinese series are planned out to 50 or 100 episodes, I understand), and because of that limitation, the creators can plan things out in a way that they can't for a US series, that faces pressures to keep going and going and going as long as the ratings remain high, and so eventually "jumps the shark," I think the phrase is. But at the same time, because they have 10-20 hours to tell their story, they can achieve a lot more than you could in a traditional serial, where the plot never moved, or in a traditional movie, which is so much shorter.

So yeah -- Asian Dramas. That's the TV of the future.
3.14.2006 8:28pm
Questioner:
So you're saying that Utah law criminalizes "solemnizing a marriage"? Does that mean a RELIGIOUS ceremony joining two people together in the eyes of God is criminalized? Interesting First Amendment issues arise...
3.14.2006 8:46pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
Questioner:

Yes.

Edmunds-Tucker Act

LDS Official Declaration #1

Constitutional challenges to Utah's anti-polygamy statutes

Relevant Utah legal codes


The Latter-day Saints in the mid-19th century weren't particularly interested in having the US federal authorities recognize their marriages (though officiation was required, for legal as well as social reasons.) The US federal authorities were extremely interested in prohibiting, breaking apart, and preventing the marriages of those who were living in polygamous relationships. When I was a full-time student at Ohio State, I worked for a time in a building named after the Morrill — the sponsor of the first anti-bigamy act in Congress. The building has a twin, named for the president who signed the act into law — Abraham Lincoln. To be fair, the act was mostly about land grants. If I'm not mistaken, the buildings were so named because the land grant provision allowed OSU to be built.

Anyawy, it's a bit of a pain to prove a solemnization charge, since you need cooperative witnesses. Cohabitation, now as in the 19th century, is a bit easier to manage. Particularly when you're holding a few young teenage girls hostage in a compound all the time, as tends to be the case in the big time polygamy cases I've seen prosecuted (not many such cases are prosecuted.)


Re: Star Trek:

The Captain Christopher Pike episode was the original pilot, to which NBC said, basically, "make it more actiony, don't have a woman in charge, and get rid of the guy with the ears." See Wikipedia. They marginalized Majel Barrett, and ditched Jeffrey Hunter, but retained Leonard Nimoy, woot! Ahem, yeah. Love the ears. Elves and Hobbits and Vulcans, yay!


Finally, Lost and Battlestar Galactica rock. Seven month hiatuses (I'm looking at you, Ron Moore) do not rock, but what can you do. I don't have HBO, and I don't want it, so I can't speak to most of the rest of those shows. From what I've heard, I'm glad I don't get to see The Sopranos. It sounds quite... ummm... what's the opposite of uplifting? That.
3.15.2006 12:34am
Kovarsky (mail):
Much props to the seminal David Byrne Song "Miss America" at the end credits:

I love America,
Her secret's safe with me!
And I know her wicked ways
The parts you'll never see.

Oh Supergirl, you'll be my Supermodel
Although you have a reputation.
Can I afford to move above my station?
I'm not the only heart you've conquered.

I love America,
But boy can she be cruel.
And I know how tall she is
Without her platform shoes.

Oh Supergirl, you'll be my Supermodel
Although at times it might seem awkward.
Don't run away, oh don't you recognize me?
I'm not the only heart you've conquered.

I kissed America,
When she was fleecing me.
And she knows I understand
That she needs to be free.

I miss America,
And sometimes she does too.
And sometimes I think of her
When she is fucking you.

(I love America,
Siempre Confiado en ti
I love America,
Porque me trates asi?)

Oh Supergirl, you'll be my Supermodel
Although your pants are around your ankles.
And when you're done, I'll be your Dirty Harry.
It will be just like in the movies.

Oh Supergirl, you'll be my Supermodel
Although at time it might seem awkward.
Don't look away, I'll be your teenage fanclub.
I'm not the only heart you've conquered.
3.15.2006 3:11am
Tflan (mail):
Give The Shield a chance. It is one of the best shows on broadcast TV. FX in general has very good shows. Rescue Me is great and I am looking forward to seeing Thief with Andre Braugher (formerly on Homicide) in a few weeks.
The Shield is available on Netflix. My wife and I spent most of last summer catching up on the first three seasons.
I think I'm going to do that with 24 this summer. Now that I am out of law school, I can finally watch a little TV again.
3.15.2006 8:48am
JLR (mail) (www):
Re the comment from Quarterican ("Fan of Alias")

I think it is important to note that while JJ Abrams co-created "Lost," he is not a show-runner of "Lost." The executive producers who run the day to day operations of "Lost" and oversee the "Lost" writing staff are Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse. Lindelof and Cuse are more disciplined writers than JJ Abrams, and clearly are invested in creating a fictional universe that will at least make good-faith attempts to be internally consistent. (In fact, I have offered some theories behind the "Lost" universe which I have posted at some "Lost" online forums. To sum up the lengthy theories in two words: Watch Libby.)

As far as I can tell the only continuing influence JJ Abrams has on "Lost" is the character of Kate (who is more or less a Sydney Bristow doppelganger). But it isn't clear if JJ Abrams even has any substantive input in shaping Kate's continuing story arc. The panoply of key characters (Jack, Kate, Locke, Hurley, Sawyer, Sayid, Eko, AnaLucia and others) helps give Lindelof and Cuse the freedom to escape the JJ Abrams "Alias" problem.

So I like to think that I have some reason to be optimistic about "Lost," which I believe is currently the best television series currently airing.

Thank you.
3.15.2006 11:01am
Tflan (mail):
To correct my last post about The Shield. It is not on broadcast TV. I meant non-premium cable channel. As far as I know it is only available via cable
3.15.2006 12:08pm
SenatorX (mail):
JLR, (In fact, I have offered some theories behind the "Lost" universe which I have posted at some "Lost" online forums. To sum up the lengthy theories in two words: Watch Libby.)

OMG dude, give it up! As in spill the beans. I've always thought Libby was kind of hot under all that dirt. Then she did something extra stupid while drinking and driving and I figured they would kill her off soon. Now you are clearly suggesting AT LEAST she is an Other. Perhaps MUCH MORE? She is not really falling for Hurley??! The shame!
3.15.2006 1:02pm
JLR (mail) (www):
SenatorX,

I'm a big fan of Cynthia Watros, the actress who plays Libby. She was great on "Drew Carey" when she joined the sitcom late in its run (i.e., when virtually no one was watching "Drew Carey" anymore). Ms. Watros did drink and drive in Hawaii, but she has been complete and upfront with her apologies; I believe she and her character have a future on "Lost."

The Libby character, in my opinion, is not who she seems to be. She may work for Dharma, or she may not. She may be a secret "good guy," or she may be one of the baddest of the baddies. Only time will tell.

But it is my contention that there is significant circumstantial evidence (based on prior episodes) that Libby is not like the other "Lost" survivors. Because I do not want to clog the "Big Love" thread with "Lost" theories, if you want to read more (a lot more) I recommend you find various posts I've written at Lost-Forum within the last couple of weeks (in the "Libby character thread" and other places).

Like you SenatorX, I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next on "Lost." :-)
3.15.2006 1:52pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
I am something of a Trekkie. And Star Trek is the classic example of my earlier post concerning pilots. After The Cage, NBC execs were somewhat happy, but wanted Roddenberry to lighten it up and action it up. So they ordered a second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before. With minor changes, this became the third episode aired.

It's generally accepted that Jeff Hunter was unhappy with the changes in the show. But why, exactly, he was replaced by William Shatner is a matter of great controversy. It is treated in some detail here.

Besides Number One, Christine Chapel, Lwaxana Troi, the voice of several different Federation computers, the Announcer on Voyager: Caretaker: pt. 2, and the Narrator on Voyager: Workforce: pt. 2, Majel Barrett Roddenberry has been the voice of several characters in Star Trek: The Animated Series. Including all these, she has done more named characters than any other actor in the Trek franchise. I covered this in one of my Entertainment Trivia questions here.

And Taeyoung J.: The classic example of "storytelling" in American TV is Babylon 5, where J. Michael Straczynski went into the project with the whole story arc already planned out. To a lesser extent, this can be applied to The Shield, as, although each episode has it's own sub-plot, some master story arc seems to be taking shape.

Kevin L. Connors, Editor
3.15.2006 3:31pm
JLR (mail) (www):
Mr. Connors,

Thanks for the detailed Star Trek information.

And yes, "Star Trek" is a classic example of the exception that proves the rule regarding pilots.

(The general rule is that most full pilots that get green-lighted become the first episode of the series, with the same acting, writing, and directing. What changes between March/April and September/October (when the first episode airs on television) are the post-production elements, such as music, ADR, and opening credit sequences. While some scenes may be added or deleted, pilots generally are not reshot from scratch. See my above 3.14.06 4:33 pm comment for details.)

What is interesting about Star Trek TOS's "The Cage" is that the episode ever ended up on the air. Pilots that end up being recast often never see the light of day. One recent example was NBC's star-crossed attempt to make an American version of the BBC hit "Coupling" in 2003. That original pilot included Breckin Meyer as Jeff (as well as different actresses playing Susan and Sally). That original pilot never aired (and in all likelihood never will air). NBC cancelled the American version of "Coupling" after just four episodes.

For what it's worth, I am a big fan of the BBC version "Coupling," and the wonderful Sarah Alexander (who played Susan on BBC's "Coupling") will be starring in NBC's new sitcom "Teachers," which premieres Tuesday, March 28 at 9:30/8:30 Central.
3.16.2006 9:41am
Scenescent (mail):
On pilots:

The math, as I heard it, breaks down this way. In any given year, a major network will take about 300 pitch meetings from writers. On the basis of this, they'll commission about 80 pilot scripts. They'll read them, and select 25 or so to be shot. After reviewing these, around 5 shows will get slotted for premiere, with another 3 or so held back as midseason replacements. Of all of these, about 2 shows will still be on next season.
3.16.2006 3:39pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Now we have a matter of definition of terms. I should have said that it is rare that a pilot becomes a series premiere unaltered. It's also quite rare that, as you claim, only minor post-production details are changed. A typical contemporary example is Wonderfalls: The pilot's script is Wax Lion (the premiere episode), most of the cast is the same (save for Aaron and Mahandra), and some footage from the pilot survives in Wax Lion. However, they are two VERY different shows.

And as for writers and directors, they get changed more often in series TV than prices change at the gas pump.
3.16.2006 3:52pm
JLR (mail) (www):
Thanks for your clarifications Mr. Connors.

In my opinion, "Wonderfalls" is an example of a midseason replacement with an unaired pilot. Most series with unaired pilots and reshot first episodes become midseason replacements. The American version of "Coupling" was aired in the fall despite the need to reshoot the pilot from scratch (with a new script and some new cast members) because NBC had invested a great deal into it; they hoped it would become the next "Friends," but they were sorely mistaken.

(Fox aired "Wonderfalls" from March to December of 2004. That it managed to cross two different TV seasons from its position as a midseason replacement makes "Wonderfalls" fairly atypical.)

Most series do not have unaired pilots. The "Friends" pilot (aka "The One Where It All Began") was the first episode aired of the series on September 22, 1994. The pilot of "Everybody Loves Raymond" aired as its first episode on September 13, 1996. "According to Jim" aired its pilot as its first episode on October 3, 2001. The "St. Elsewhere" pilot aired as the series's first episode on October 26, 1982. The "ER" pilot (aka "24 Hours") aired as the series's first episode on September 19, 1994 (the second episode of "ER" aired on September 22, 1994 along with the pilot of "Friends"). The pilot of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" aired as its first episode on October 6, 2000.

"Friends," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "According to Jim," "St. Elsewhere," "ER," and "CSI" are just six of many examples that prove the rule regarding pilots. While post-production elements are almost always added, and while scenes may be added or deleted, it is generally not the case that pilots are reshot from scratch.

And yes, absolutely, writers and directors get changed frequently in series television. In fact, it is rare for a television series to have the director be the same throughout the run of the series. Moreover, writers regularly enter and exit series as if they were going through a revolving door. Also, it is often the case that creators at one point or another in the run of the series eventually cease having anything to do with the day-to-day running of the show; cf. my discussion of "Lost" in an earlier comment.

It is even the case that show runners are replaced early on by network fiat. "Commander-in-Chief" is the most recent example of this phenomenon. ABC brought Steven Bochco on to replace Rod Lurie (the creator) as the show runner early on because Lurie was not pumping out episodes fast enough.

To briefly reiterate: it is rare for pilots to be reshot from scratch. The shows that do have pilots reshot from scratch often end up being midseason replacements.
---------

P.S. Re "Wonderfalls" -- it is my contention that this series suffered from being perceived as a "Joan of Arcadia" clone, even though the tone of "Wonderfalls" was radically different from the tone of "Joan of Arcadia," and even though "Wonderfalls" technically was developed at the same time as "Joan of Arcadia." Fox dragged their feet putting "Wonderfalls" on the air, and its ratings suffered as a result.

While the premises of the two series sound similar, the sensibilities of Todd Holland and Bryan Fuller (the creators of "Wonderfalls") are vastly different from the sensibilities of Barbara Hall (creator of "Joan of Arcadia"). In my opinion, both shows were great in their own ways, and both shows sadly met an unfortunate and untimely demise. "Dead Like Me" (another Bryan Fuller creation) is also similar to "Wonderfalls" and "Joan of Arcadia," and likewise also deserved to last longer than it did. I suppose that's just the way the network programming bounces. But these series still deserve to be watched and remembered.
3.16.2006 7:08pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Oh please, just Kevin is fine.

I tell you though, JLR, we could go on here playing "battling anecdotes" ad infinitum, and never reach any sort of resolution, as each series takes its own course. The individual elements of production are all pretty much the same, but just where the breaks fall is theoretically just about infinite.

But, although we have a difference of opinion on this one small matter, I am adequately impressed with your knowledge of the way the business works (assuming that, like me you are a laymen here).

On that note, and considering that this is an LA-centered blawg, I'm surprised that we haven't had any entertainment lawyers chime in here. :)

Kevin L. Connors, Editor
The Daily Brief
3.18.2006 2:55am
JLR (mail) (www):
Kevin (per your request),

Indeed, finding a truly dominant pattern regarding pilots is difficult. In my view, the best way to describe pilot season is by using the following quote from Hamlet: "though this be madness, yet there is method in't."

And for what it's worth I love trading anecdotes. :-) If I may ask did you ever watch "Dead Like Me"? I enjoyed that Showtime series and found its cancellation to be premature.

On the plus side, Showtime has put on the very well-written and well-acted "Weeds." So I guess it all evens out.
3.18.2006 11:30am