You know how, when you are about to move away from a place, time seems compressed into these crystal nuggets of “Must Do This Before We Leave”? When you start a summer, or a vacation, the weeks stretch ahead like endless patches of the Sudan, but the last few days happen in miles per second squared. We are leaving California in less than a week, and I’m already beginning to miss it.
Tessa and I had our first visit to the Disney lot today, to talk TV with some great people in Production. That part of Burbank actually seems like a ski resort in permanent summer, with the mountains hanging so close to the valley (and the water tower shaped like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat added to the ambience).
“Laugh-In,” of course, was filmed in beautiful downtown Burbank
Like all things, TV seems absolutely impermeable until you actually get inside the buildings and crane your ear to hear a meeting, and then you think: these are people just like you, except they’ve learned how to do something specific, and really well. If your goal is syndication, and syndication happens around the 100th episode, think of how hard it is to tell 100 stories about the same group of people.
It’s easy to talk about how bad TV is, and I had my own falling-out-of-love with television around 1992 or so. Previous to that, I had seen, digested, memorized, and obsessed over every sitcom, drama and game show ever aired. In Iowa, we were the first test audience for cable TV, and in college, the tube was always set to AMBIENT. Something clicked in me around 1992, a feeling of betrayal, like TV no longer cared enough to call every night and send me chocolates.
I’m getting over it now, as a new spate of shows has made the genre exciting again. I haven’t seen more than five minutes of a reality show in my life, but comedies like “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Scrubs” – and dramas like “24” and “Alias” – would have KICKED MY ASS in 1981. I would have cancelled my paper route and rebuilt an ancient Zenith set for my bedroom (like I did for “Mork and Mindy”). Sure, for every cancelled gem like “Wonderfalls” there is season 47 for “According to Jim,” but it feels like we might be headed for a mini-Renaissance.
At least I hope so. And it would be nice to be there writing one.