My Arrival on TV
See, up there? That’s my name, onscreen. A television creation credit.
Now, I didn’t actually scriptwrite the seventh episode of Current TV’s “community created” fantasy series Bar Karma, entitled “The Arrival.” That honor goes to 2 other people, Patrick Carman and Jeffrey Townsend. And I didn’t come up with any of the ideas that drove the first season storyline(s) further, setting up the remaining 5 episodes of this season (Series?? Don’t know yet if there will be a second season of Bar Karma!), or the character of Caleb, the dark counterpart to the immortal bartender James (himself played by William Sanderson, late of Deadwood, who uttered one of my favorite lines of the entire series).
No, my contributions that made it to screen amounted to the basic hook of the episode: a robber, fresh from a heist gone wrong, wanders into this bar outside of time and space, at a crossroads in his life that our heroes (James, Doug the bar’s unwilling owner, and Dayna the waitress) must help him figure out the right path. One other element that had survived was the idea that the robber (who, in the episode, was portrayed by Ken Leung of Lost) threatened Dayna; however, when I’d written it out, it was a gateway to a quip about the whole idea of threatening women first, as if they were the weaker sex therefore easy to terrorize. That part didn’t make it.
Indeed, when I made the full pitch for the episode, I’d done so back in October 2010 following a banner ad on Bleeding Cool, promising a chance to MAKE BETTER TV. So I tried. I compiled some ideas that I’d had that I never fully developed (including the vestiges of an unfinished NaNoWriMo attempt from 2002 or so), made it coherent, and wrote it as an episode summary. I posted it up and…
Promptly forgot about Current, and Bar Karma.
Cut to last January, when I got a note in my Inbox stating that my pitch was going to episode. Oh, and suddenly Current was on actual TV, not just internet TV. Wait, what??
After sending some emails around asking if this was for real, I’d heard from Jim Goldblum, the Online Producer for the series, and found out yes, this WAS for real, and despite completely blowing the chance to develop the story via their StoryMaker app, it was going to production as a Producer’s Pick (i.e. despite not being voted as a winner by the Community, the producers themselves like it well enough. Which, I guess, is really who matters here!).
And here’s where reality set in.
I was fully prepared for much of my original idea to be vetted, dropped, cut, and eviscerated. I remember author Lloyd Rose, who wrote a number of Doctor Who novels in the early 2000s I quite liked, had written an episode for the seventh season of Homicide: Life on the Streets that, anecdotally, had not one single line of her dialogue make it to the final production. And of course, there was the film version of Mark Millar + JG Jones’ WANTED, one of my favorite graphic novels of the last 10 years, getting the Hollywood treatment, and totally altering the very premise of the story, leaving merely the first 20 minutes to have any similarity with Millar/Jones’ story.
So upon seeing the trailers, I had a sneaking suspicion what was left of my idea would turn out to be “Not much.” Watching the episode last Friday proved that to be true.
And yet, it was still a pretty damn good episode for what they used it for. It’s set up the rest of the season’s storyline, it gave an antagonist to the guardians of Bar Karma, and indeed an element of DANGER to the series that hadn’t been there in the previous six episodes. Matter of fact, taken at face value, it might just be my favorite episode of this fledgling experiment in television production to date.
However, I remain philosophical about this. My favorite elements of the pitch were ones which did not make it to screen. Therefore, as a writer, I CAN USE THEM ELSEWHERE, hopefully a bit more to my liking. Ideas can’t die; ones that aren’t used, or make the cutting room floor, can live another day. There’s no reason why I CAN’T use them.
So, “The Arrival.” Fantastic episode. But not really the one I had in mind. Still, my name’s on TV, and it wasn’t related to holding up a convenience store. That alone is a win.
(If you didn’t see the episode, it’ll be posted soon at Current’s website. I’ll keep you posted.)