Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Fall and Rise

A few things in the news lately have inspired me to break my weeks-long silence on the blog (sorry about that, by the way). First, The O.C., a quotation from which inspired the name of this blog, was recently cancelled by Fox, in a move that surprised no one considering its poor ratings this season. It was up against two of the most popular shows now on TV, C.S.I. and Grey's Anatomy, and suffered from a creatively disappointing third season lead-in, although the episodes this season have been received quite well.

It's a shame, and just one more example of a teen show that could not quite survive its characters growing up, although series creator Josh Schwartz gave a different explanation to Entertainment Weekly in a recent issue. To paraphrase, he said that the series set a dramatic pace in its early episodes that was difficult to maintain. At the time of its debut, it was such a high-energy, film-like melodrama that it really didn't look like anything else on network television. I recall it was said by many that the show broke the runaway fervor over reality programming, and put to rest the idea that the hour-long drama was dead (the truth is probably more complicated). Consequently, or so claims Schwartz, the creative well dried up more quickly as they burned through ideas in a few episodes that other series would take whole seasons to explore.

Whatever the reason, I'll be sad to see it go, even as I recall a famous line familiar to any student of youth culture: "Hope I die before I get old."

Just as I was reeling from that news, however, I have a new reason to be excited about adolescence narratives on television: the Sci-Fi channel announced today that George Clooney is producing a mini-series for the network based on one of my favorite science fiction novels ever and perhaps the inspiration for this whole thesis project, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. In the past this might have freaked me out a little, especially after the Sci-Fi channel's mediocre Dune mini, but given some recent quality work on the channel (Battlestar Galactica), Clooney's strong producing track record, and the fact that Stephenson himself is adapting, I'm feeling optimistic. And as a friend researching serial television put it: "stories that detailed are best suited to long-form episodic structures on television. I'm totally psyched that they're not going to butcher this by making it a movie." Couldn't have said it better myself.


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