ALTHOUGH MANY IN HOLLYWOOD receive counseling, it’s usually the kind that costs $150 an hour, unless they’re suing somebody, which significantly raises the ante.
That said, few things are more annoying than unsolicited advice, which is why I was so delighted when an executive offhandedly inquired about what I’d like to see that isn’t currently on television. At first I dismissed the question as flattery, only later embracing the challenge.
OK, Mr. Smartypants, hurling opinions from the couch. Voila, you’re king of TV. Now what?
Frankly, I harbor no such desires because of a peculiar allergy to money that keeps me in journalism. Still, after reading about top Viacom execs’ compensation packages, that condition seems to be improving. Either that, or I’m still smarting from the UCLA student at a recent career-counseling night who pointedly asked, “So, what kind of car do you drive?” Assessing her priorities, I quickly directed her to one of the producers’ tables.
Discerning viewers, it should be noted, are already pretty well served by what’s on. Between broadcast and cable there’s something worthwhile virtually every night, even if a critic’s have-to-view menu invariably far outweighs the want-to roster. Moreover, because nothing’s new under the sun, the perceived voids generally fall into “what used to be on but isn’t” basket, often due to some high-profile failure that scared away developers.
SO HERE’S A BRIEF appraisal of what TV lacks, just in time for the upfront development conclaves. And hey, at least it’s free.
A kickass action show. Since “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Martial Law” went off, no one has scored with a pure, fun, escapist action series. Actually, a superhero franchise might work (remember CBS’ short-lived “The Flash?” Someone should) if it can be achieved on an episodic budget.
A Western. The revisionist “Deadwood” is must-cuss (or is that discuss?) TV, but since Fox’s cheeky “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” more conventional Westerns have been few and far between. TNT’s upcoming limited series “Into the West” might feed this appetite, but the fact remains that there were three dozen Westerns on in the 1950s and ’60s, followed by “Lonesome Dove’s” huge success in 1989. That suggests there should be room again for a solid production featuring a taciturn cowboy, beyond President Bush’s occasional news conferences.
A hard-news program with an anchor I can admire. Ted Koppel has always filled that bill, and sliding him into a weekly primetime seat might work, even if it takes PBS or HBO to do it.
Another comedy worth taping. Sorry, can’t offer any additional guidance, but like obscenity, I’ll know it when I see it.
A smart teen-centric soap. Preferably one that isn’t just a scripted version of Daytona during spring break. Or maybe this is just the annual lamentation for the one season-and-out run of “My So-Called Life.”
A great historical drama. HBO’s “Carnivale” didn’t quite cut it as a gothic serial but did stand out with its unusual Depression-era setting. Why not try, try again with a better show?
Something that will scare the living shit out of us — a la “The Night Stalker,” not President Bush’s occasional news conferences.
Talk with a brain, heart and courage. There has to be room for more talk that’s less irritating than Oprah, less fawning than Charlie Rose and less promotional than nearly everything else. David Letterman gets there periodically. Throw in a pinch of Tim Russert and you might have something.
A title sequence that knocks your socks off. Watching USA’s “Kojak” revival only reminded me how much the original’s opening made you look forward to a show that really wasn’t that good. The same twinge hit whenever the Cartwrights rode toward the screen on “Bonanza” or that baritone-voiced guy said “A Quinn Martin production.”
A high-stakes reality show. To borrow a thought from George Carlin, is anyone else tired of seeing greedy people win things on TV? If you want to snag $1 million (before taxes) or a remodeled house, bet your own damn living room. And show me the sofa being hauled away, while the kids make like Cindy Lou Who in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
An over-the-top, topical satire — something that blends elements of “Network” with “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” peppered with scantily clad women.
Several prototypes can presently be seen in the Los Angeles area, under the heading “late local news.”