Commentary

Television Production By Democracy? Filibuster -- And Bring Back The King

Television production by a committee of professionals? It never works. So why would a bunch of viewers do any better?

They won't. Democracy in television production is a nice, almost PBS-like idea. But it's also a set-up for big problems. As lame as it sounds, you always need a vision, someone at the helm. You may have a team of 20 writers for a drama or comedy,  but you need a strong voice.

In "Seinfeld" you can hear one voice -- even when there were a bunch of writers contributing, even when they're deciding on the "Bro" or the "Man-siere."

Syfy is working up a two-hour Saturday original movie to which viewers will contribute by voting: casting ideas, story arcs, characters, whatever.  It's a nice publicity/marketing stunt. But if viewers truly contribute equally, we know how this stuff would end up: in one big mush.

No doubt, there will be a leader for the Syfy effort, someone looking to incorporate all those ideas. But one thing for sure, it won't be a democracy. Decisions have to be made. Characters will need to move smoothly from one spot in the first act to act three for everything to hold together.

At best it'll give Syfy lots of stuff to work with. The good news is that it'll prod the real executive producer into responding to ideas like, "Oh. That's awful" or "Yeah. Kind of funny... for a Ben Stiller movie. This is sci-fi."

If anything, producers will get a "House" moment, where the rejection of material actually gives you another, better idea of what to use.

Come to think of it, "The making of a Syfy movie with help from its viewers" would make for a better story.
3 comments about "Television Production By Democracy? Filibuster -- And Bring Back The King".
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  1. Aaron B. from AnimationInsider.net, June 23, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.

    Careful with crowdsourcing mass-media projects like this... everyone wants to have their voice heard in the first few weeks of production, but once things settle down and the budget determines what is or is not logically feasible for the series concept, contributors have a tendency to drop like flies.

  2. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, June 23, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.

    "Television production by a committee of professionals? It never works."

    Really? Tell that to the teams of eager young VPs at every network-- in Development, Current, Scheduling, Research and Marketing departments-- who "give notes" on every program in development and in production. Sadly, most TV shows ARE run, at some level, by committee. You can tell by the quality.

    And you can usually tell which shows have strong producers who -- for better or worse -- are able and willing to ignore the network input.

    Creatives aren't perfect, and some network execs have good ideas (and have gone on to be show runners themselves), but in general my money will always been on the person who starts with a blank page and ends up with a script.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 23, 2010 at 12:40 p.m.

    Wayne, you have written a very instinctive article. Whether the topic is television or any other subject, masses without leadership (how leadership is chosen - there are volumes unto itself) is chaos. Greek democracy had leadership chosen by their own aristocracy with a thriving slave (there were more slaves than free people during the time of our supposed admiration) economy.

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