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August 31 2008

What I learnt from Joss Whedon by the creator of 'The Shield'. Shawn Ryan, former producer and writer on Angel, reveals what idea he "stole" from Joss for his own show.

Good thing to steal.
That is what many shows fail to realise. They think up a cool monster and write the script around that. BtVS decided what they wanted the characters to go through and then came up with the monster to fit.
Yep, between "write stories from character" or "his coffee" i'd probably go with former. I bet Joss drinks pretty decent stuff though, it might not be totally clear-cut.

'The Shield' is on my watch-one-day list, I watched the first one and thought it was great but then life went and got in the way and that was it, never went back to it. Might be time to get hold of seasons 1-... (4 ?). Ryan does good work on 'The Unit' too (though I think David Mamet is the real driving force on there) even if it is firmly in the "guilty pleasures" box for me.
I stole a pencil from Joss, does that count?
Excellent read, thank you, Simon.

I feel that this was an area that Joss really broke ground. It's perfectly okay to have a "grey" character. In fact, it tends to be more interesting in ourselves in how we view such.

Did that make sense?
I feel that this was an area that Joss really broke ground. It's perfectly okay to have a "grey" character. In fact, it tends to be more interesting in ourselves in how we view such.

I'd say shows like Hill Street Blues and others before that had really gray characters before Joss had ever written a script. The influence of that and Homicide (especially with the Clark Johnson connection) seem to be really present in The Shield. I appreciate the "character first" influence working on Angel has had on Shawn Ryan. It's helped that show. It's still too loud, though. Not enough quiet, character moments. It's a shame, because they do it very well.

Good interview.
I keep forgetting about the Whedonverse connection of this show. And Clark Johnson's involved? As one of the regular directors? Or is he acting again? I love "Homicide" - it's at the top of my list of shows to get on DVD (didn't quite have the money when it was last released). I may have to give "The Shield" more of a look.

BTW, I don't know that it merits a new thread, but SciFi Channel's having a mini Whedonactor-thon, with Summer Glau's "Mammoth" and Amber Benson's "Gryphon" on back-to-back this afternoon. ("Mammoth" has already started on regular cable Sci Fi, but not yet on at least Sci Fi West.) Yes, they're Sci Fi Channel movies; but Amber gets some action work as the co-lead of her film; and, "Mammoth" has some style to it (for better, and, yes, sometimes worse), Summer's pretty adorable in it, and Tom Skeritt (with moustache, thankfully)plays her grandpa.
I love this show. The last two seasons have been pure Shakespearean storytelling. If you can handle the gritty, shocking content, I highly recommend it.

I can't wait for the season premiere, but it's been so long since it aired, I don't even remember where it left off.
Interesting how all the critically-acclaimed shows on TV now have at least one Mutant Enemy writer on it.
I watched the first season of "The Shield" but then didn't keep up with it, what with one thing and another. But I'm looking forward to watching this final season to see how everybody ends up.
Interesting how all the critically-acclaimed shows on TV now have at least one Mutant Enemy writer on it.


Mutant Enemy was a hothouse of talent. Be interesting to see if Mutant Enemy 2.0 continues the tradition.
Interestingly, Craft and Fain both wrote (or still write) for The Shield.

Well, not interesting, just shows how what goes around comes around.
I keep forgetting about the Whedonverse connection of this show. And Clark Johnson's involved? As one of the regular directors? Or is he acting again? I love "Homicide" - it's at the top of my list of shows to get on DVD (didn't quite have the money when it was last released). I may have to give "The Shield" more of a look.

He has directed seven or eight episodes, including the pilot. No acting on the show, as far as I'm aware. He has acted (series regular in the final season)/directed on The Wire (the pilot and finale), which is a better show than The Shield in every way. But, The Shield is pretty awesome and definitely worth checking out.
Ah, 'The Shield', how I love thee. Although, for me, real life got in the way after season three (with an amazing finale making it hard to believe I've still not resumed watching yet).

And yeah, Saje, 'The Unit' is also pretty great television. I'm not even sure I'd classify it as a "guilty pleasure". Yes, it's mostly an action show with some soapy elements, but it does that incredibly well, with some great actors and stories that are fleshed out very well. In fact, it's the closest thing that has been on television to a weekly new action movie. It's still awaiting renewal though, isn't it? I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll be back.

Be interesting to see if Mutant Enemy 2.0 continues the tradition.


Yeah. And from what we've seen from the writers on there so far, I'd say there's a pretty good chance of that happening.
I also remember Shawn Ryan with admiration as a fervent supporter of the WGA strike and member of the negotiating committee - he wrote this email essay the first day of the strike, which included:

"Just so you all know what I am prepared to give up....

Tomorrow, we begin to film the Series Finale of The Shield. I think it's the best script our writing staff has ever written. This is the show that made me. This is the show that is my baby. If the strike goes on longer than two weeks, I won't be able to step on set for the final episode of the show. I won't have a writer on set, as I have had on every episode since the fourth episode. I won't be able to edit this final culminating episode. I won't go to the wrap party that Fox TV and FX are paying for. You can't tell me that any episode of television is more important than this one is to me, and I am ready to forego all those things in order to strengthen my union."

Shaun Ryan is exec producer for The Unit too, clearly a talented chap.
It's still awaiting renewal though, isn't it? I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll be back.

It's renewed now GVH though it was on the bubble for a while. Don't know how many the order's for though.

I say "guilty pleasure" of 'The Unit' because it's fairly simplistic (and fairly right wing) in its world-view and its characterisation IMO (it has some great characters but Jonas Blaine for instance is basically a super-hero - whip smart, immensely wise, seemingly unstoppable). And just when it starts to touch on interesting aspects they'll often back-off it never to be touched on again. The end of season 3 had a nice episode for instance where Bob, another, even smarter team member - IIRC it's mentioned that he has 4 degrees and speaks several languages - who's very self-aware and a generally decent guy, good family man etc. comes to the bracing realisation that he actually likes killing people, that in fact, they all do (that, as Jonas puts it "Yeah, well, you'd have to, wouldn't you"). Now that's a gold-mine of character possibilities but if they touch on it again in any depth i'll be (pleasantly) surprised.

In fairness though, I think its characters are quite realistic in that it makes sense that special forces soldiers wouldn't be particularly broody, wouldn't second guess themselves much if at all, because their lives absolutely depend on quick, decisive action, they can't afford much mental "cruft" ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-09-01 11:44 ]
Yep, it is fairly right wing. It's very much not in line with my personal politics, which is why it's so interesting to watch a show with a completely different mentality and still enjoy it.

The rest of your analysis is spot-on, so I respectfully retract my initial surprise ;)

ETA: and yay, renewal! :)

[ edited by GVH on 2008-09-01 12:16 ]
I would have loved The Shield and the Sara Silverman Show as a college student. In the sonambulant 80s, they would have seemed exciting and fresh.

Today, as an adult, I find both a little intolerable.

I've lost my taste for petty cruelty and rawness that passes as depth. Both strike me as a sign of shallowness and ,worse yet, obviousness.

I found nothing particularly original about The Shield.

BAD COP--BOOOO!! I live in Texas where bad cops are a dime a dozen.

Apart from the fact that I like Michael Chiklis I just found it really dull after the first season.

But it's true, The Shield was character driven and not a procedural like Dick Wolf shows (which REALLY have no socially redeeming value in my terribly judgemental eyes).

[ edited by hbojo on 2008-09-01 22:27 ]

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