While the 2000s was the age of the antihero as Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White graced television screens, “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan proposes that the current political climate may call for the resurgence of a different kind of leading character for viewers to rally behind.
During a conversation after the premiere screening of CNN’s “The 2000s” at the Paley Center for Media on Thursday night, Gilligan recounted: “I watched a lot of TV growing up, a lot of ’50s and ’60s re-runs. Back then, the order of the day was you had folks wearing white hats and you had folks wearing black hats. There were good guys and bad guys. But real people are various shades of grey. With Walter White, and loving ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Shield,’ maybe now we’ve got so many of them that maybe it’s time for heroes again.”
“I don’t know if we can ever go back to characters who are all good or all bad, but maybe around the corner are more characters who are flawed and yet work very hard to do the right thing and want to be good, even when they’re not,” he added. “Even when they try and they fail.”
Former president of HBO Entertainment and “Game of Thrones” executive producer Carolyn Strauss, who was donning a Planned Parenthood pin, echoed the “X-Files” alum’s sentiments, noting how the consciousness of viewers and buyers has changed in the last 10 years. “I think people are a lot more conscious now in a way of things that they weren’t before. And at the same time, the world has evolved, but it has also regressed,” she told Variety.
Although actor Tim Matheson mentioned how in this day and age, escapist TV that provides a laugh is always warranted, he also tends to appreciate content that is more issue-oriented. Appearing on politically charged shows like “The West Wing” and “The Good Fight,” he explained how Aaron Sorkin’s drama was “one of those shows that wasn’t what anybody expected it to be. When I first heard about it, I thought: ‘That’s a yawn. Oh, God, guys talking politics.’ But ‘The West Wing’ was the first time politics really got involved in shows and people really talked about topical things.”
As she in turn spearheaded such successes as “Sex and the City,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Wire,” and “The Sopranos” during her tenure, Strauss said, “what we looked for at HBO was complex characters and then people, showrunners, who could take them on their journeys. The truth is that none of us are all good or all bad. I think all of us at HBO are attracted to the grey areas of life.”
But incidentally, most of the auteur showrunners that flocked to HBO like broadcast veteran David Chase came from a network background. “They were all schooled in the rigors of that world. They said: ‘These are the rules I want to break,'” Strauss shared.
Gilligan also admitted that while he was on “The X-Files,” “I wasn’t chomping at the bit to be a showrunner. Looking back, I think one year we did 26 episodes. We did 24 typically, and I thought that was great. But even now, the responsibility for that many episodes in one calendar year — I would never survive it.”
But as she insists, “I think I got incredibly lucky in being able to work with David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss]” on “Game of Thrones,” Strauss kept mum as to details on the pilot order for the prequel series from Jane Goldman and George R.R. Martin. “I can’t say anything about it because I will be killed, unfortunately.”
But she did note that the project, reportedly called “The Long Night,” is the only spinoff of the five in contention for pickup she knows has gone forward at this point. “I know they put a lot of them into development, so who knows what’s gonna come,” she said.
As one alum of “The Wire” thanked Strauss at the end of the night for keeping the show on the air, despite the drama’s lack of accolades, Gilligan, whose own “Better Call Saul” is out of Emmy contention this year due to its return date of Aug. 6, chimed in on the futility of receiving awards. “No one remembers that. That’s why the Oscars, the Emmys — all that stuff in the long run doesn’t really matter.”