What I really wanted to write about today was the two previews for A&E's new television series Bates Motel. I wanted to mention how these two short promos seem like they're aping the promos for FX's American Horror Story. I also wanted to wax film school about how other film and t.v. entries involving the Bates family have been attempted before, with mixed results-but no sequel, prequel or proposed series has ever equaled Hitchcock's masterpiece. I wanted to also mention though, that if Bates Motel is even just a tiny bit more coherent than American Horror Story, I'm on board. I wanted to geek out, but I can't now, for I have heard the ramblings of Dan Harmon.
As some of you may or may not know, Dan Harmon is the creator of cult television show Community. A show so specific in its comedic choices, that it was destined to be cancelled. This show is still miraculously on t.v. (although on hiatus until next year and we’ll see for how long) but Harmon is no longer at the helm. After a few public feuds with cast member Chevy Chase and a public firing by NBC, Harmon has found himself no longer working on the show he created. He is now working on several projects, or so the rumor mill says, but took time to deliver the keynote address at this year's XOXO Festival, an "arts and technology festival celebrating disruptive creativity".
Harmon's keynote address begins not unlike a classroom presentation in his t.v. show: seemingly unprepared with starts and stops, along with several (planned?) technological mishaps. The opening of his speech describes the nature of television, the internet and how each new technological leap should be considered a "people connecter" and how people are the most important part of the equation. Harmon then segue-ways into a discussion about his time in television and how every new people connector begins as a freeing device, until the connector becomes more important than the people.
The address was entertaining, but the truth behind it really moved me. It was refreshing to hear someone else articulate the trends involved in "monetizing the internet". There have been several times I've thought to myself: "You're trying too hard. All you have to do is follow trends. Copy what's popular and success is assured." It's hard to argue with that logic, Youtube has become a place where musicians perform covers of established hit songs to gain popularity and memes get remixed and regurgitated until they loose all meaning. For a handful of people, that model works. However, that model only underscores the follow the leader/copycat aspect of what is killing television right now. We have this sandbox to play in, why not do something different with it. We’re no longer constrained by studios or publishers telling us “this won’t sell” because they don’t understand the product.
Patton Oswalt expressed is a similar sentiment at this year’s Just For Laughs Festival with regard to comedy. Because of the people-connector known as the internet, the day of the “gatekeeper” is coming to an end. And I, as an artist, couldn’t be more grateful. The playing field is wide open now, wider than it's ever been before. People have a choice of what content they want to stuff their brains with and because of this, artists and entertainers have the opportunity to offer something new. They get to speak from their hearts, instead of doing "what's popular". We have a chance to be the tastemakers instead of playing follow-the-leader, and no matter how quirky, if we just stick to our creative guns, our work has a chance to connect with people.
Assuming the aforementioned is true, it’s almost as if a crudely animated sketch show about Victorian society and literature has a chance of success.