Pitch a new TV show

Lost is over. Law and Order and Numb3rs are cancelled. The networks need to come up with new programming and are searching for the next Lost. So far, program directors seem to be coming up with new ideas like these: Let’s have another police procedural! And to make it new, we’ll have it be just like our other police procedurals, only it’ll take place in a different city! Let’s have a situation comedy about a bumbling husband with a wife out of his league and some smart aleck kids! And when audiences get tired of that, let’s do another one just like it!

We can do better than that. What would be some good ideas for television series? I’ll go first:

(1) Washington Espionage. Set in the Cold War of the 1970s. The main character is a counter-intelligence agent with the CIA, but it includes a web of spies from all sides, their handlers, and their targets. Stories hinge on CIA, KGB, and other agents recruiting traitors, turning double agents, spycraft, and living their lives while hiding their true identities.

(2) School Days. Follows a group of incoming college freshmen at a state university and their progress from year to year until they graduate (whereupon, after four years, the series ends, or starts up again with a new class). We see their friendships, temptations, loves, and struggles. Also what they learn, the things they get into–from radical politics to campus Christianity–and how they grow up during their years at school. (I realize that the networks would probably focus on frat parties and sex in the dorms, but still. . . )

(3) Church. Follows a small-town pastor as he deals with the problems, the crises, and the joys of the people in his congregation. We get to know the families in his parish and watch how the pastor ministers to them. Sometimes the issues he deals with are humorous. Sometimes they are life-and-death serious (troubled marriages, rebellious kids, suicides, addictions, health problems). Each episode includes a scene at church, where we hear a snippet of the sermon and see all of the people in all of their problems come together for worship.

Wouldn’t these make good series? These brief paragraphs, by the way, are called “pitches” and are exactly what go before the network executives who sometimes invest millions on as little to go on. Any of you Hollywood producers who read this blog, if you want to use any of these ideas, fine, but give credit and a cut of the profits where they are do. Now your turn. . . .

They once were Lost and now are found


So Lost ends with the sacrifice of someone with bloody hands and feet and a wound in his side.  Whereupon everyone, including everyone who died in the series,  ends up in a church–complete with a statue of Jesus–where they forgive each other, are reconciled, and experience a joyous reunion.  The door opens and they walk out into the light.

I can’t remember any prime time series with so much explicit, overt Christianity.  It’s given in symbols, but symbols are far more evocative than prose in a work of art.   In addition to the Baptismal imagery that ran throughout the series, we also had in the last episodes Holy Communion imagery, with the mysterious God-figure saying “take this cup, and you’ll be like me.”

Pundits were saying that Lost has unique significance for our culture at this time in our history, to the point of proposing that the first decade of the 21st century–lacking a good name so far–be called “the Lost decade.”  So what does it mean that it takes Christianity to resolve all of those intractable problems and unravel all of that confusion?

I suspect that there will be a lot of howls from critics about the ending of Lost.  I’m not sure the literary critic in me is completely satisfied with the narrative resolution.  But still.   It shows that all of those Christian interpretations that people were reading into the show for the last six years were right after all, that all of that scattered symbolism was, in fact, the key to the show.

More importantly, the ending shows that traditional Christian concepts and imagery still have a powerful resonance in a Lost world.

American Idol final two

Usually, my “American Idol” favorites never make it all that far.  This year, though, the two performers that I have been pulling for and voting for all along are the two finalists!   Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze.

Of the two, I’m not sure who I want, since I like them both a lot.  Lee is a kind of diffident, shy guy, the sort who doesn’t make eye-contact when he talks, but he is a really fine contemporary singer.  Crystal is an alternative, bluesey Bonnie-Rait-type singer with amazing chops.  She never watched the show before, and she considered pulling out several times earlier.  Neither come across as egotistic divas, nor as pop star stereotypes.  Both are down-to-earth, non-assuming, and genuine musical artists.  Critics have said this year’s contestants are bland, but I’m tired of the Idol big voiced over-projections and I appreciate these two in particular.

Who deserves to win?  I’ll listen carefully to the final show next week.  I’d have to give the talent edge  to Crystal.  But I’d be glad to have Lee win it.

Any opinions?

DeWyze, Bowersox left to duel on ‘Idol’ finale.

So how will “Lost” end?

Many of you have followed, with me, the labyrinthine ways of “Lost.”  Now, the television puzzler is approaching its finale.  What do you think the final explanation will be?

HT:  Larry Wilson

Cartoon sitcom about Jesus

After censoring “South Park” for depicting Muhammad, the folks at Comedy Central are announcing a whole blasphemous animated series about Jesus:

Comedy Central might censor every image of the Prophet Muhammad on “South Park,” yet the network is developing a whole animated series around Jesus Christ.

As part of the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers, Comedy Central is set to announce “JC,” a half-hour show about Christ wanting to escape the shadow of his “powerful but apathetic father” and live a regular life in New York City.

In the show, God is preoccupied with playing video games while Christ, “the ultimate fish out of water,” tries to adjust to life in the big city.

“In general, comedy in purist form always makes some people uncomfortable,” said Comedy Central’s head of original programming Kent Alterman.

When asked if the show might draw some fire, especially coming on the heels of the network’s decision to censor the Muslim faith’s religious figure on “South Park,” Alterman said its too early in the show’s development to be concerned about such matters.

via Comedy Central developing Jesus Christ cartoon — The Live Feed | THR.

We hear that a lot, about how comedy or art in general makes people feel uncomfortable.  Actually, speaking as a historian of such subjects, this isn’t true.  Sometimes it does.  But those who raise this are generally making the logical fallacy of the undistributed middle premise:  Just because some art makes people feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean that anything that makes people feel uncomfortable is art.

At any rate, Comedy Central knows that Christians will not react in the same way Muslims do, so now the producers can feel all brave and cutting-edged.  In reality, they are hypocritical, tasteless, and pathetic.

The depravity game

A French TV show has replicated a 1960s experiment that demonstrates just how sinful we really are:

Eighty people who thought they were participating in the shooting of a pilot for a French reality series were willing to deliver potentially lethal electric shocks to a contestant who had incorrectly answered knowledge questions, according to the documentary, “The Game of Death,” airing on French TV on Wednesday night.

“Zone Xtreme” seemed to have a pretty standard game-show format, complete with wildly enthusiastic studio audience, a glam well-known TV weatherwoman hostess, gaudy lighting, etc., said the French press reports.

In truth, the would-be reality series participants were part of an experiment that was turned into the documentary.

In “Zone Xtreme,” the faux contestants who gave all the wrong answers were actually actors. Each “contestant” was strapped into an electric chair. The 80 wannabe famesters were each asked to punish the contestant, when a wrong answer was given, by administering up to 460 volts of electricity. The majority of them ignored the contestant’s screams and obeyed the orders of the weather-chick hostess to ratchet up the jolt. They also obeyed the chant of “Punishment!” from the studio audience — which did not know the game show was a fake — until the contestant fell silent and appeared to have died. Only 16 contestants walked away, according to press reports.

The idea for the show came from the work of psychologist Stanley Milgram, who conducted the experiment at Yale University in the 1960s. Milgram found that most people, if pushed by an authority figure, would administer ostensibly dangerous electric shocks to another person.

via Lisa de Moraes – Reality show contestants willing to kill in French experiment – washingtonpost.com.