Just when you thought it was safe …

Part of my efforts with the Messenger novels has been the pursuit of a weekly dramatic television series.  I think the books would lend themselves to it.  Expand each chapter into a week’s episode, and bang—you’ve got almost six seasons right there, ready to go.  And believe me, if somebody offered me a TV contract, you bet I’d keep writing.

Television is my vice.  With respect and gentle apologies to my parents, it kind of helped raise me.  Sure, I’ve read plenty of books, but I loved losing myself in a sitcom or a drama or a game show.  This was the 1970s and ’80s, before reality TV immersed the world in fecal matter.  It was the age of Happy Days and Hill Street Blues, and a lot of good stuff in between, and it came into our home on about ten channels, in nineteen inches of glorious color—or, if you were well off—a full twenty-five inches.

Thus began my lifelong love affair with the boob tube, which predated the love of other boobs by many years.  Not even college could keep me away.  On Friday nights, my socially awkward friends and I would eschew the beer parties to find an unoccupied TV lounge in one of the dorms and watch Doctor Who.  Yes, I know.  And I regret nothing.

Years passed, and I had two opportunities to write for television, one better than the other.  The good one came during my days at the Agency for Instructional Technology, during which time I was paid to script a ten-part educational series called The Voyageur Experience in Global Geography.  Local high school students were flown to countries all over the world to learn about their cultures, and I wrote the interview questions and the narration for the shows.  It was a great time.

The not-so-great experience happened years before that.  I wrote an episode for a weekly series called Northern Exposure.  You may remember it.  My efforts were like fan fiction, only more serious.  I was all of nineteen at the time.  I got an agent, and the script was actually put before the producers of the show.  They liked it, they were interested, and my agent told me things were looking good.  Then they found out that I wasn’t a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, and I wasn’t going to be.  Suddenly, everything was different.  They dismantled my episode and used elements of it in three different upcoming episodes, changing the dialogue but keeping the basic ideas.  I wasn’t allowed to be paid for it; I wasn’t allowed to get an on-screen credit, but wasn’t it fun seeing my ideas on TV?  Thanks, kid.  See ya around.

And so I learned a valuable lesson: Hollywood, that beautiful lady with the siren song of fame, can also be a bitch goddess who spits you out whole.  But hey, I’ve been in relationships.  I can be brave.  I picked myself up, and I’m trying again.  I firmly believe that there’s room in Hollywood for quality scripted entertainment.

Then I learned about Sharknado.  Do not adjust your computer; you read that word correctly. Sharknado.  As in a tornado full of sharks. FML.  This masterpiece will air on the “Syfy” Channel, the worst-spelled channel on the dial.  I won’t tell you when, lest you accuse me of helping you to watch it.  But suffice it to say it will be soon, and it will be terrible.  And thousands of people will watch it.  Let’s recap: a tornado … filled with sharks.  And when the sharks fall out of the tornado, they don’t do something reasonable like scream or die horribly or think, Holy shit, what am I doing in a tornado?  No, they start eating people.  On land.  Tara Reid is our only hope of salvation.  Clearly, we are doomed.

I can’t really blame the Syfylys Channel for making these movies.  They cost about $72 to create, and for some reason that defies reason, people watch them.  And I can’t hate a network that gave a home to the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.  But my soul does cry out just a little bit each time my hopes of TV series-dom for the Messenger get raised and then dashed on the rocks, while movies like Sharknado (and if it does well, the inevitable sequels Octopusicane and Tropical Squidstorm) eat up valuable airtime.

I will be brave.  I will be patient.  I will look forward to the day when I get the magical call that says, “They said yes!”  And I will do a little dance at my desk (space permitting).  Because on that day, I’ll know that justice is served and I get my shot at the big time.  Until then, I’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep spinning—like a shark in a goddamn tornado.


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