Friday, April 30, 2010

In Which Simon's English Degree Proves Dangerous

Sometimes if all of my tv shows are reruns, I go on Hulu and watch things that intrigue me in some way despite being really bad shows. One was NY-LON. I initially started it for the LON part, hated it from the second episode on, but kept watching it anyway. No one is more grateful than I am that it only lasted seven episodes. I also watched quite a bit of What About Brian before I realized . . . what about Brian? My most recent choice was Crusoe. Crusoe lasted twelve episodes, some of which were very nearly entertaining!

Probably because NBC sunk a lot of money into it, Crusoe was not simply cancelled, but brought to a close and labeled a miniseries. The amount of money they must have spent is obvious from the set. In fact, the most horrifying thing about the cancelling of Crusoe is the amount of effort the production people clearly put into building the treehouse.

It's basically the coolest thing ever in the history of mankind. To explore it in more detail, visit this Entertainment Weekly article. In the web extras, all the men kept saying that it was every five-year-old boy's dream, but there's no need to put qualifiers on it. Does anyone not dream of bringing human civilization to the trees and residing there in a sylvan paradise? Crusoe has a splendid view, a copy of Milton, a juicer, and a super hot roommate. Weighing that life against the life of a merchant in early eighteenth-century England, I'm not sure the treehouse doesn't win out.

The point is, a lot of people worked really hard to make the set for this show exceptionally awesome, and then it got cancelled. SPOILER ALERT! In all stories, whatever impressive object the hero makes with his own hands must eventually be destroyed by his nemesis to underscore the moral gulf between them. That's just the way it goes. But when it happens in Crusoe, there's a distinct sense that not only are the villains wretchedly evil, they have poor taste. One of them looks at the treehouse -- which is essentially land art -- and remarks that Crusoe lives like an ape. Inevitably, they burn the whole place down and the viewer is subjected to many lingering shots of consuming flames. The viewer can't help thinking every person who worked on that show must have equated the torching of the treehouse with the rejection of their creative vision. On other shows you might have to dismantle a house or a hangout and sell off the furniture, but the Crusoe crew had to take apart something ingenious and beautiful.

Possibly the worst part of it all is that I can't argue that the show shouldn't have been cancelled. In spite of a great set and actors who were quite decent in addition to being blindingly good-looking, it seems to have gone off-track somewhere in the conceptual stages. It didn't know whether it was goofy, sentimental, or philosophical. Consequently, the writing never got where it was trying to go because it didn't know where it was going in the first place. In short, the show itself never earned the work that went into the treehouse.

I was thinking about this because on Saturday it will be a year that I have been working full-time on this damn novel. A couple of weeks ago, in a fit of what I see now was clearly madness, I spent a few days making a huge spreadsheet detailing all the threads of the plot, in an attempt to make sure they were weaving together properly. It took up twenty-four sheets of paper. I laid it out on the floor and stared at it for a while and thought, why does this seem familiar? Then I realized it was reminding me of the treehouse. So I burned it. No, just kidding, it was totally helpful and I've made good use of it. But that was a scary moment, and I blame Crusoe for providing me with the metaphor.

1 comment:

Pandora said...

You will not be surprised to hear that I watched some portion of Crusoe during it's original run on TV - I blame the handsome men and that awesome treehouse set. I think one of the fatal mistakes (in addition to the several you mentioned) was in trying to create a realistic love triangle between a flashback wife, a stranded man who can't seem to get rescued from the island with two oars and a rowboat, and a woman who conveniently shows up dressed like a man and gets periodically kidnapped and dropped off again on said island. Also, the writers seem to get the Swiss Family Robinson confused with Crusoe on several occasions...or is that just the treehouse talking?