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October 22 2010

Do we want too much from TV's creators? Deep in the age of television viewers networked by technology, Emily Nussbaum ponders the question. Includes "Heart, Broken" in its discussion.

ughhh; it opens with the caption reading "Josh Whedon." Why?
People have always wanted a lot from the producers of their favorite forms of mass entertainment. It's just that before the advent of instantaneous mass communication there really wasn't a venue for the typical consumer to voice his or her thoughts. What needs to happen is for media consumers and producers to take a page from the live performing artist crowd and learn how to "drive on a two-way street."

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-10-23 02:04 ]
Well gosh, I just came here to link this and look where we are. I'm way late to the party.

Anyway, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. On the one hand, as an aspiring writer it's infinitely fascinating and exciting to me how interactive the process has become, and I think people's understanding of how TV works has become greatly enhanced by the internet age (or at least, the people in my little bubble of the world; I can't say if it has or hasn't extended beyond that, but I feel like it has). So I love the exposure we get in that sense. And art's never created in a vacuum, so I don't know that fan influence is necessarily a bad thing (though it can, like any kind of influence, go too far).

But I also sympathize strongly with Heart, Broken's sentiments and can see how a successful artist might find these things frustrating.
It's so fun to know the story behind things, but art needs to be able to stand on its own as well. Any story Joss tells is a story he tells as a story because that was the best way he could tell it - the same is true for all creators of art. Their mode of expression is not expository for a reason. Interaction, criticism, audience demands - I love all of these (well, audience demands less so than the others, perhaps) but at the same time I try to take the story at face value.

For me, part of the fun of watching anything is figuring out the why - which it's harder to do if somebody's already told you.

I love "Heart, Broken" and take it far more seriously than I should. I also absolutely want to sing a cover version, and watching this one I can see how I could combine the two (because I love the end of the original version) and not have to hire myself a Zack and J-Mo.
Love the Joss singing and piano playing performance.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-10-23 22:08 ]
I'm too very conflicted about whether an artist should be giving too much away. I'm very much of the opinion that you trust the tale not teller, so what they have to say is kind of irrelevant to what the viewer is going to take away from the piece. However, listening to the commentaries on many of Joss's shows has made me even more interested in not just what appears on the screen, but the crafting that goes into it. My love for television and film comes from that. I just really enjoy hearing the perspective of filmmakers/showrunners when they discuss their work; I don't have to necessarily agree with their point of view (e.g I still find the vampire in The Body to be unnecessary and the only failing in the episode,) but I can still find their take to be interesting and to stimulate my own.

I love "Heart, Broken" though. Easily my favourite track from Commentary!. In fact, I heard it quite a while before the other songs (the recording in the article) and was actually a little disappointed in the rest, after hearing such a funny, moving and poignant song.
For every tale and every teller out there, there is a different point at which extraneous details and information stop enhancing the end product and instead start to detract from it. Imo one of the signs of a great artist is that they instinctively know when that point comes, and have the gumption to abide by it (I'm looking at you, George Lucas.)
Joss has actually been at the forefront of making himself a rock star amongst his viewers.

At the same time, it has changed some of the dynamic in terms of viewer expectations. I actually think a lot of the problematic elements of things - and there are some - have been created by studios, however. Some studios/networks are so desperate to create a fan base for a new product they over expose it -- and that hurts the thing they're trying to promote. When you're starting a relationship, you dial down the crazy and amount you expose.
Joss has actually been at the forefront of making himself a rock star amongst his viewers.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by this, gossi. Care to illuminate a little more? It comes off more than a bit not in Joss' favor and if so, fair enough, but I'd like to know why you think so.
Oh, it's nothing against Joss. It's actually a smart move for himself I think, and it helped form - say - this website. Joss is a brand in the industry he works in - not just because of his body of work, but because of the idea some viewers actually know who he is. FOX gambled a bit on Dollhouse, partly at least, because of that fandom.

Back when Buffy was on the air, he was one of very few (I think at the time, only) showrunners to actively engage online with fans. Him and his writing staff put themselves out there with fans, and fans responded to that writing staff. With Buffy, virtually all of the cast were invisible online - they didn't interact.

With most show fandoms prior to that, nobody even knew who the writers even were. It's difficult to think of that situation since we're on, you know, - how times are changing.

It's actually starting to swing BACK in the direction of cast focus nowadays, because of Twitter and Facebook. People have a way of interacting with the acting talent, so the writers - I think - are starting to get lost in the mix a little. I mean, I have more followers on Twitter than most of the Dollhouse writers - and that's largely because I occasionally post about interactions with Whedonverse cast people.

[ edited by gossi on 2010-10-24 01:11 ]
That helped! Thanks, gossi.
Anyone feel like transcribing the words to Heart, Broken?
I mean, I have more followers on Twitter than most of the Dollhouse writers

Not to denigrate the Dollhouse writers, but there was hardly any interaction between them and the fans. At least as far as I saw. I never went on the official Dollhouse forums, but did any of them ever post? And the only person I remember posting here, besides Joss, was Tim a couple of times, but we already know and love Tim. It was a far cry from the heydays of the Bronze Boards.
A lot of the writers of Dollhouse interact with fans on twitter. They all seem very accessible to me. Mo, Jed, Jane, Sarah, Andrew... Tim has a protected account and of course Joss doesn't have an account. Just as accessible as other writers on other shows on twitter.

And yes, we seem to expect too much from TV creators. Fan entitlement is ugly and rampant. I'm fine with no commentaries. No insights, no contact and no discussion. Give me story, that's all I'll ever ask. The rest is distraction/gravy depending on your perspective.

[ edited by TamaraC on 2010-10-24 05:31 ]
Twitter and fan boards are complete opposites.

Twitter is about fans going up to the writers and basically saying "Can I ask you this. Can you answer that. RT please."

Writers coming on to fan boards is them approaching the fans and saying "Hey can we come and hang out at your place for a while? Want to ask us something?"

I'm not saying the writers aren't accessible or approachable, just that, at least for Dollhouse's run, there didn't seem to be much interaction. Was that wrong of the writers? Of course not. It's absolutely up to them to decide what level of interaction they have with the fans.

But to bring it back to my original point of quoting gossi, I will quote him again (sorry gossi):

Him and his writing staff put themselves out there with fans, and fans responded to that writing staff.

For me, the writing staff of Dollhouse didn't do that this time around. That's all I was saying.
Who here wouldn't follow Joss if he had a twitter? I imagine it'd be filled with hilarious non sequiturs and what-i-had-for-lunch-just-nows.

But wasn't there going to be a Mutant Enemy official site a few years back. I'm thinking 2004ish? Maybe if that had happened we would've gotten more interaction from the show writers. I point to Linkin Park's official site on how a celebrity/personality should interact with its fanbase. Mike Shinoda has a blog on there that he uses to keep the fans up to date and also show his appreciation.

[ edited by eddy on 2010-10-24 06:19 ]
I'd rather Joss write stuff than regularly update or interact with fans. So glad he doesn't waste his time with it. I know I am probably in the minority on this, but I want more story way more than I want some kind of fake/delusional personal contact.
This is all really fascinating for me to think about. I write and perform content in a little corner of the internet, and now that we've gotten ourselves some fans, and a few thousand people that I've never met know who I am, I feel like I can actually speak a bit to this topic... and yet, I still just don't know.

I've always been interested in the why and the how behind things I love. I always wanted a peek behind the curtain. Now that we're creating stuff behind a curtain, we try to give viewers who are similar to ourselves -- curious, that is -- little glimpses. My friend, and really the face of our little corner, does a weekly vlog that keeps our audience up to date on his career, as well as what we're working on and what the audience can expect to see coming down the pipe. Now, the vlogs tend to get fewer viewers than the scripted content, but it's there for those who want it.

And I think that's the thing. I don't think there should be an expectation, but if a creator is willing (or, in our case, excited) to share some of the creative process, and there's an audience that wants that, groovy. If, however, the creator wants the only official word on the thing to be the thing itself, well, the audience should respect that. After all, the thing itself is the reason an audience would be interested in the how and why of the thing, so the thing really should, I think, be enough. I can't imagine anyone has ever tried to get a friend interested in a show by saying, "The show itself I could take or leave, but man, the head writer is so damn personable. You gotta see it!"

Also, even though I enjoy unraveling the mystery a bit, I love and largely agree with "Heart, Broken." I can see how laying it too bare, making it too accessible would lessen the impact of the thing itself. It's the difference between what Penn & Teller do and what the Masked Magician did a few years back. Information sharing should heighten the experience, not render the experience irrelevant.
Regarding the writers, they did interact with fans - just using Twitter and Facebook. Like most of the internet nowadays.

Information sharing should heighten the experience, not render the experience irrelevant.

You've just summed up, to me, where Publicity at networks and studios has gone so wrong.

Look at Dollhouse - they asked joss to write a Dollhouse blog (he refused, quite rightly), they released pictures for every episode weeks in advance (which only ever featured on spoiler websites), they released clips before episodes aired (which only ever featured on spoiler websites), they did detailed episode descriptions -- and one of their senior marketing people was the person who briefed Media Week against the show, saying audiences wouldn't respond to the premise. News about the shutdowns leaked online, joss had to post here about the new first episode, casting call scripts leaked for half the first season episodes which fans picked over...

Basically, instead of being OMG IT'S AN AMAZING NEW JOSS SHOW, before the show had even aired (and people had, you know, seen it) there was a collective "This is going to be shit 'tude" amongst the very audience the show was aiming for. I remember my brother telling me he heard the show was cancelled before it began airing.

I firmly believe you can embrace a fan base (Dr Horrible) and not over expose the product in advance (Dr Horrible).

Fandom can be positive, exciting and kind of amazing. There's an energy there. But don't over expose us.

For the back half of season two of Dollhouse (after the show was cancelled), I asked the network to stop releasing photos and clips. I stayed up til 3am reading the Whedonesque threads for each of those episodes, seeing the reactions when Saunders shot Bennett, to Sierra and Victor being shot in The Attic... Special days.

And also: to quote Felicia, joss is an artist who doesn't ever want to be solved. I dig that.
With all that, Joss and the other writers do seem to be willing/happy to respond to direct questions in interviews and Q&As. It may also be a matter of *when* in the process they want to talk about things - when something is entirely completed (or at least written and shot), it may be more comfortable to talk about than when there are more episodes to be written/filmed.
And yes, we seem to expect too much from TV creators. Fan entitlement is ugly and rampant. I'm fine with no commentaries. No insights, no contact and no discussion. Give me story, that's all I'll ever ask. The rest is distraction/gravy depending on your perspective.

Disagreed. I find a Tim Minear commentary to be highly necessary, nay... an absolute requirement for my television DVD purchases. In fact, many shows I don't enjoy could convince me to purchase DVD's with an appearance from Minear. I'm sure his DVD commentating mastery would be unfazed not having worked on the show in question.
I would love to hear Mr. Minear's thoughts on the Big Bang Theory or something like that.

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