Friday, March 16, 2007

Not walkin' that road no mo'

So last night, I see there's a new TV show premiering, "October Road," about a writer. He wrote a novel that apparently featured characters quite obviously based on his friends that became a huge bestseller and movie. It seems he hasn't been home in ten years. He left to go backpacking in Europe and never came back; then wrote his book. Now, before I eviserate, er, review, this show, I will offer this caveat: I missed a chunk in the last half, because my husband returned home from a business trip. It could be that I missed some Key Elements but I also note that I knew I was likely to have my viewing interrupted, and if the show had engaged me to that point, I would have started taping well before the hubby came through the door. I did not feel any such need.

And here's why:

First of all, I knew I was in Fantasy Writers Land almost from the get-go. Now, granted I don't write "literary" fiction, but even so, some things were just too unbelievable to me.

Who keeps a stack of their own books right beside the computer and in various other locations around their house? I'm not talkin' one, I'm talking a pile.

Who gets phone calls from their editors after business hours? Asking how the book's coming? Okay, maybe they do this for literary writers. And maybe literary writers have no qualms about phoning their editors back after midnight, but I found it a stretch.

I knew we were watching a "literary" writer when I saw the title of the book. TURTLES ON A SNARE DRUM. What? It reminded me of that Dick Van Dyke episode where he and Laura were trying to get to see a hot new play, "Waiting for an Armadillo." I mean, honestly. Actually, I thought this show did the sort of disservice to genuine literary writers that movies and TV often do, because later, our writer winds up with some creative writing students, and oh, the pretentious, I'm-so-deep-I'm-bottomless claptrap that came out of their mouths!

One asked if the writer had set the final chapter of his book at Ground Zero to make some kind of statement. I believe the word nihilistic was used. The writer replied something about past and present and not being in either. I think the real answer would be closer to, "Everybody has a gut emotional reaction to Ground Zero. It's a really easy way to pack an emotional wallop at the end of my book."

Similarly, I had to smirk when he was confronted by his former love, Hannah, over his character named "Anna" (oh, the creativity in that, eh?). He said he didn't try hard to disguise the characters because he didn't think the book would sell.

So let me get this straight: you spend months working on a project and get an agent and have it submitted to publishers don't think it'll sell? If a person really thinks their book is a no-hoper, I would expect to find it hidden in the bottom desk drawer.

Oh, speaking of his agent -- the guy seems to spend all his time walking around and/or partying. Yep, that's what I'd want my agent to do. Not.

Let us not forget the former friend who hadn't been out of his house since 9/11. How does he earn any money? Who cashes his welfare check, because as far as I could tell, he had no other source of income? Is it directly deposited? I mean, what was up with that?

And then...a secret baby. A secret baby? Oh, my word! My eyes rolled right back in my head -- and I'm a romance writer. Who's actually written one secret baby story.

Why was I so disbelieving? Because the writers' family is still living in the town. It was no secret the writer and Mother of Secret Baby (Hannah/Anna) had an intimate relationship -- but nobody thought to mention that about nine months after he left, she had a baby????

Which also brings up another point. It seemed Writer Boy could drive to his hometown from New York. I didn't get any inkling that his relationship with his father was a difficult one, full of conflict and serious issues. It didn't seem particularly warm, but there was no obvious animosity. His younger brother seemed delighted by his return. So, why the heck didn't he go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas in the intervening ten years? I just could not buy this, or that nobody from home would have contacted him after his book came out, for good or ill, which apparently was the case. I sincerely hope there was an explanation for some of these things that I missed, because otherwise, Writer Boy comes off as a completely self-centered child. Which kinda fits with the "I didn't think my book would be published" excuse. And hence, this is not a character I care to know more about.

Finally, there's a problem with this show that is shared by The Black Donnelleys, which I also gave up on after one viewing. There are five or six main male characters. Major female characters? One. Compare this to other hit shows: Gray's Anatomy (according to my husband, since I don't watch this show because I can't watch medical shows for my own peace o' mind), it's about 6-6. Desperate Housewives? Even though the show is supposedly all about the women, there have been other almost equal male roles. I remember the wails of dismay on Television Without Pity when Rex was bumped off. Ugly Betty? Lots of both male and female characters.

It seems to me that if you really want your show to have a wide and presumably large audience, you have to have more than one main female character, and/or have very strong female characters, like The Sopranos. On the surface that show seems male dominated, but Tony's wife is no shrinking violet and there's the shrink, and his mother certainly cast a big shadow.

But lest I leave you all on a sour note for the weekend: Is Henry on Ugly Betty not the most adorable nerd ever?


Kimber said...

"nihilistic" - okay, add that to the list of words I've never heard of (and never plan to use).

The only reason that I can see to have a pile of your own books around the apartment is if you're self-published (or sometimes small press published). One of my business buddies has a whole closet full of his books. Lucky he doesn't have too many clothes.

Margaret Moore said...

It was the laying about so conspicuously that made me furrow my brow, not that he had them. I have copies of books, too -- in my cupboard, with one of each (and any foreign editions) on a shelf in the rec room.

Christine said...

Thanks for the review of this, Margaret. I'm always on the lookout for new shows, but my time is limited. I won't bother with this one. :)

Kimber said...

You know what I find interesting, Margaret, is how writers get so upset about how writers are portrayed in movies or in books.

I hope writers realize that everyone has the same reaction (one of the reasons research is so darn important).

I often have an issue with how business people are portrayed, especially the management types. There seems to be an emphasis on the lack of creativity in those careers (the stiff, humorless businessperson). Really? I find launching a new product or a new business more creatively taxing than even writing. And lord knows a sense of humor is needed (snafu).

One of the reasons I prefer historical romances.

CherylStJ said...

Thanks for the synopsis. I'm glad I didn't make an effort to watch it. I've been thoroughly disappointed with the new shows. I didn't even finish watching episode one of the Black Donnelys. I'm a huge BONES and GRAY'S fan.

Margaret Moore said...

I think lawyers must get REALLY annoyed at how they're portrayed much of the time. I tend to avoid movies about writers for just this reason.