Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
The downsides of a business built on relationships
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, May 30th, 2023.
A QUICK PROGRAMMING NOTE
There should be newsletters tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday, but the timing might be a bit off. I am flying in and out on L.A. for an interview and at this point I'm not sure on the timing of anything. So it will be a bit chaotic, albeit productive chaos.
THIS IS THE BOOK EVERYONE IN THE INDUSTRY WILL BE TALK ABOUT FOR WEEKS
Longtime entertainment journalist Maureen Ryan has a new book coming out next week and it is likely to become one of a handful of "must read" books about the television industry. I am just wrapping up my advance copy of Burn It Down and it includes a staggering amount of details and previously unknown stories about the disfunction and abuse that took place behind-the-scenes of some of your favorite shows.
Today, Vanity Fair published an excerpt from the book that centers on the turmoil in the writers room at Lost and you'll find it hard to think of the show in the same way after reading it. Rampant sexism, racism, emotional abuse and cruelty just for the sake of showing you can get away with it.
Read that article, but I wanted to highlight a companion piece to the Vanity Fair excerpt. Writer/producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach worked on the show during its first two seasons and until now has always been publicly circumspect about his experiences on the show. I always had the impression things were much worse than most of us knew and today he posted what he describes as his "final statement" on his experiences on the show. It is difficult to read, not just for the details of the abusive environment on the show. But because Grillo-Marxuach is unsparing in his anger and shame over having being placed in a situation where his two options were to lie or to commit certain career suicide:
Since quitting the show at the end of its second season, I have mostly played along with the useful hypocrisy that Lost was successful because of two geniuses whose behavior behind the scenes was every bit as delightful as it is in conventions, interviews, and talk shows. I call this hypocrisy useful because it allowed me to continue to work after Lost without career-ending retribution. It also allowed "Darlton" to rise to great wealth and cultural influence.....To the charge of hypocrisy, I plead no contest. I cashed the checks. I affected friendship. I handed out high praise (some deserved). I even sought to mend fences with those who broke them well after it should have been clear that the effort was demeaning. Sometimes hypocrisy is the only way people like me can survive people like them.
People in Hollywood always talk about how the industry is built on relationships and while that is true in part, it's also a primary reason why so much of this behavior has been tolerated over the past decades. An unhappy or vengeful showrunner can ruin your career with a couple of carefully dropped warnings to fellow showrunners and producers. Developing a reputation as a troublemaker or being difficult in the room can keep a writer out of the business. And while those warnings are useful when they're true, it's also easy for those comments to be weaponized to wreck vengeance on your enemies.
There have always been a lot of rumors and stories about the Lost writer's room. But the reality was apparently much worse than any outsider realized:
The overwhelming tone of the writers room was one of bullying disguised as "teasing". This behavior was absolutely modeled by upper management, and race and gender were always on the table. From one of the senior writer/producers posting Michelle Rodriguez's mugshot after she was arrested for DUI (and spinning a 'funny' story about how, as a wily Latina behind bars, she "sold" Cynthia Watros, a white cast member, to the other inmates for cigarettes) to the way in which our only Asian-American writer was routinely joked about, to her face, as the showrunners's "geisha" (down to the Mickey Rooney Breakfast at Tiffany's accent), it was a daily occurrence.
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Reading Javier's piece, I was reminded of conversations I've had with actresses who worked on a very toxic set. Like all victims of abuse, they are left with equal parts anger, resignation and self-blame. You wish you would have been "stronger," you wish you would have spoken out more. While those feelings are a natural outgrowth of being in abusive situation, they are also not an accurate representation of the abuse that was heaped onto victims. Being forced to choose between your livelihood and coming forward is not a choice. It's a symptom of the abuse. And I don't anyone who has worked in those types of situations has anything to apologize for. You're not being hypocritical. You're surviving.
And one last thought. As Ryan's book is nearing publication, you already see some of the showrunners and executives highlighted in the book giving the standard series of comments abusive men (and it's almost always men) reel off when publicly exposed. They have "regrets," they are "a different person that they were back then." They have "grown" and wish they "could have changed things."
Maybe those sentiments are honest and real. I certainly don't have the ability to look into anyone's heart and uncover the truth. But one way of determining from the outside whether someone truly regrets their past behavior is to see if they have ever apologized to any of their victims. If doing it in person is too hard, then write an email. And if you don't want your confession in print, then pick up the phone. Saying you're sorry and a different person now is more about damage control than a representation of true change. A simple call to say "I am truly sorry for my behavior and what I allowed to happen. I'm not asking you to forgive me. I just want you to know that I recognize the pain I caused you and I am sorry."
TWEET OF THE DAY
ODDS AND SODS
* It's never a good idea to write anything about Taylor Swift that isn't a rave. But that's why I had a freelancer write Taylor Swift: A Marketing Machine That Overshadows Her Songwriting Brilliance.
* John Beasley, best known to TV audiences for his role as Irv on the WB drama Everwood, has died at age 79.
WHAT'S NEW FOR WEDNESDAY:
Drag Me To Dinner Series Premiere (Hulu)
Fake Profile (Netflix)
Ghost Adventures Season Premiere (Discovery)
Houses With History Season Premiere (HGTV)
I Survived A Crime Season Premiere (A&E)
Made From Scratch Season Premiere (Fuse)
Matriarch Of Murder (Investigation Discovery)
Mixed By Erry (Netflix)
My Strange Arrest Series Premiere (A&E)
Nancy Drew Season Premiere (The CW)
Saint X Season One Finale (Hulu)
Sistas Season Premiere (BET)
The Cleaner (Britbox)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU TUESDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.