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More fun from JMS (old venting)

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  • More fun from JMS (old venting)

    From: J. Michael Straczynski <[email protected]>
    Subject: <VoA> Space A&B
    To: CIS
    Date: 2/9/1996 3:25:00 PM


    View Thread
    (7 messages)

    Phil Adams <[email protected]serve.com> asks:
    > Is this just us, or has there been a conscious effort to "dumb
    > down" or "genericize" (new verb!) the story in order to reach new
    > viewers? 8) ); the suddenly-samurai Narn ("gotta draw blood before
    > I sheathe this baby!"); the idea of baiting an ancient race into
    > doing what you want them to do (how did they make it so far while
    > being _so_ stupid?); the name of the Vorlon/Minbari ship (the
    > White Star?!!? Minus the story arc elements, there've been a
    > number of sour faces going, "Was that a Star Trek or B5 ep?" Are
    > we just being unrealistic and too picky?

    Phil...I get this at the start of every season. Let me repeat
    what I've said, oh, about two dozen times already before.

    At the start of every season, we have new people sampling the
    show. Do you want the show to continue? If you do, then you have to
    continue to add new viewers. If viewers tune in and they're lost in
    the overall arc, they're going to tune out again. So you give them
    some stand-alone episodes in the beginning, shows that are a little
    more accessible, but introduce them to the characters, the situations
    and the universe so that when the arc begins to move again, they know
    enough to get into what's going on.

    Sure, I could've just kept going right with the strong arc
    episodes. Which the new viewers, 90% of whom sample shows in the first
    few weeks of a new season and not thereafter, wouldn't have been able
    to follow well. And they would've tuned out. And it would've been a
    very big nail in the cancellation coffin. You can bring in new
    viewers, or you can get canceled and never tell the whole story. Pick
    one.

    Second, you cannot -- CANNOT -- sustain the kind of intensity
    you have in the final four over the course of a season. You need to
    have some lighter moments as contrast or people are going to start
    sticking their heads in ovens all across the country. So at the start
    of a season, I try to do some lighter stuff, to bring people back up a
    little, bracing for the next drop in the roller coaster. You need
    peaks and valleys to develop any kind of rhythm, or to appreciate the
    other side of it.

    I got the same thing in season one, and season two..."Why these
    light episodes? What's happened to this arc?" Then by season's end,
    the chorus usually turns to "That was a GREAT season!" So my response
    is, Unless you think I've suddenly turned stupid, or I've decided to
    betray the series I've now worked 10 years of my life to produce...will
    you for chrissakes *trust* me once in a while? Show a little patience.
    When I introduced Vir, everybody on the planet jumped funky all over
    me. "He's just a comic character! It's Flounder! He's dumbing down
    the show! Space him! He stinks! Joe's losing it!" And now, of
    course, we see what Vir is, and in many surveys he's now one of the
    most popular characters.

    You know what the #1 comment from the pilot was, on the nets
    and elsewhere? "LOSE the guy with the funny hair! He's just
    ridiculous." Londo. Every time I've done something a little different
    in the show, I've usually been jumped on, because they're not willing
    to trust that I know what I'm doing...until they've seen it for a
    while, then they Get It, and it's "Oh, now I see it." Great, thanks,
    now that you've been beating on my head for six months. Next time show
    a little patience. (And btw, ALL of the comments related above are
    real ones, many of them right here on Compuserve, from people still
    around here.)

    Every story can't be an arc story at this point; you've got to
    see the characters outside the arc, in the way they live their lives,
    in other things that happen to them, or else you won't CARE what
    happens to them in the arc. No, the Purple/Green Drazi story didn't
    move the arc ahead, but it showed you a lot about Ivanova, didn't it?
    So now if and when something should happen to her in the arc, you care
    about her. It's the difference between just being chess pieces, and
    being *people*.

    Okay, here's the breakdown. Season 3. You had arc episodes
    only a bit in the first batch. "Honor," "Voices" and now a little in
    "Dust." You've got one more stand-alone next week, "Exogenesis."
    That's the last one for a LONG time. Episodes 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15,
    16, 17, 20, 21 and 22 are ALL arc stories, most of them heavy, none
    less than moderate.

    I said, from the start, that each season would have
    stand-alones and arc stories. About 20% in year one, 35% in year two,
    50% in year three, 70% in year four, and 100% in year five. And the
    stand-alones tend to get pushed toward the beginning of a season for
    the reasons stated. Is nobody paying attention when I say these
    things? Because if so, then why do I get gigged each season at the
    start by people saying "HEY! HOW COME THESE AREN'T ARC EPISODES?"
    (And as it looks now, year 3 has closer to 13-14 arc episodes, so we're
    ahead a bit.)

    Before people start making sweeping generalizations about the
    season, it might behoove you to see the season first. If anything, my
    concern in looking at what's been done for year 3 is that we're too
    GRIM for the larger portion of it, and maybe a bit complex...so I'm
    working to clarify a few things here and there as I do these last few.

    So that's my response to the generalizations. To the
    specifics....

    The political officer: improbable dialogue? Most of it was
    taken direct from political statements, public ones, made by Goebbels,
    Hitler, Joseph McCarthy, Stalin, and other fanatics. The kind of Big
    Lie dialogue people continue to fall for today. Go to a Pat Buchanan
    rally sometime and tell me it's unlikely dialogue.

    The chess maneuver: I mainly get this comment from people who
    don't play chess much. I used to be a decent (not great, but decent)
    player, and I fell for a move out of left field sometimes. (I'm a
    sucker for a fool's mate.) Sheridan isn't a chess master, he's still
    rough around the edges, and Theo's been doing this a lot longer. He
    got foxed. It happens.

    "Marcus, the walking cliche." Heard this about Vir, Zack,
    Morden, Londo, and others. My prediction: by season's end, Marcus will
    be one of our more popular characters. Because you haven't seen all of
    what he is yet. Any more than you did Vir on his first two
    appearances.

    (Y'know, there are days I hate the american culture of
    immediate gratification and kneejerk condemnation and stereotyping with
    insufficient information. So far there hasn't been an uninteresting
    character in the lot. Do you think suddenly I'm going to introduce a
    lox? Okay, Keffer wasn't all he could've been, but that was because
    that character was always doomed, and doomed to go fast, so I think I
    put a little distance between myself and him. That doesn't apply here.
    I said Vir was a great character, and some folks snorted and made fun.
    I was proven right. So trust me, Marcus is a great character.)

    The two small story points...like I said, I went for a lighter
    touch in "Voices," because it was the last chance to have some light
    moments for a long, long, time.

    The White Star was so named as a balance to the Black Star,
    which Sheridan destroyed. What here is a problem?

    I don't mean to rag on you, Phil...I know your interests are
    only the best. But (expletive) it...y'know? I was real patient the
    first time I went through this at the top of season one, patient again
    at the top of season two...and it's just wearing a bit thin. If I knew
    what I was doing then, why should I suddenly not know what I'm doing
    now? How many times over do I have to prove myself, and this series?
    It seems like everything good I did in the season before gets forgotten
    because we just take a BREATH before moving on to the next stage. And
    then suddenly it's "The sky is falling! The show's falling apart! The
    arc is gone! Ohmygodohmygod!"

    Patience, people. I've been faithful, and honest, and straight
    with all of you. I haven't let you down yet. And I don't intend to.
    Season three collectively represents the very best work we have done on
    this show to date. Starting with #8, "Messages From Earth," the arc and
    the story kicks into high gear, moving faster than ever before. MAJOR
    stuff happens.

    And natch, I'll go through this all over again in year four,
    because they'll say it doesn't move as fast as year three did. You
    can't win. I appreciate the concern, Phil. Honest I do. But I've
    always had a problem with people judging the season on a sampling.
    Give it a chance.
    jms
    "I am not a number! I am a free man!"

  • #2
    I wonder what this guy thought if he ever did watch the whole season? The guy with the "funny hair" was my favorite character. LOL
    "You are now what we need you to be..."

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