Typing Faster

October 23, 2009

Kurt Sutter on Network Execs

Filed under: Kvetch, Sons of Anarchy, Stuff I Like, the biz — petertypingfaster @ 12:19 pm

H/T to DMc again for bringing this awesome rant by Kurt Sutter (showrunner / creator of Sons of Anarchy, to my attention.

It. Is. Gold.

In fact, it’s so good that I’m gonna just go ahead and quote pretty much the whole thing. Here’s Kurt Sutter telling us “Why Most Network Scripted Dramas Suck:”

Let me first say that my opinions are heated and a generalization. I don’t have the time or desire to do the long, detailed, thoughtful version of this essay. I’m disillusioned and a little lazy. Having qualified —

It’s not an issue of scripted shows vs. non-scripted shows. It’s a question of process. The reason most network scripted dramas suck is because of the process. For the most part, you have a collection of young, half-bright development executives who wouldn’t know a good story idea if it set itself on fire and fucked their mothers while singing “Cheyenne Anthem” from Leftoverture. So they do what most chimpanzees do — they ape and throw shit. Developing shows based on what they think people want to see. Churning out clones of semi-successful shows. Looking for a “hook” to market. It’s never about the story or the characters. That would demand talent, patience and an open mind. Commodities that have long up and deserted ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and the CW.

(There are exceptions. Chuck and Glee are all I can think of right now. In fact, that might be it… oh, and Lost, I love Lost)

Gone are the days of the TV visionary. Bochco, Kelley, Fontana, Sorkin, Milch, Wells, Wolf. These guys had fucking balls. They stood up to network fears and contradicting marketing strategies and pushed their vision forward. The result was great TV. It was great because the networks were smarter, they let the creatives DO THEIR FUCKING JOB. All those savvy executives have been replaced with accounting personnel. And when a network is inspired enough to hire a creative leader — Reilly, Ligori — they never give them a chance to flourish. It’s a fucked up system that has created hours upon hours of dreck.

I have a director friend, let’s call him… CJ, who says the job of a network executive is to turn everything to shit. They hire you to stop them from doing that. Unfortunately, the shit-turners are winning. Nowadays it’s all about formula. You get rights, attach a hot writer, develop it into the fucking ground until it’s so middle-of-the-road it has no point-of-view, then attach a waning movie star, throw tens of millions in promotion at it and hope that no one notices that it’s the same old crap repackaged. But folks always do.

In recovery, the “definition of insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Primetime is an active asylum.

I’m an extremely lucky guy. I have a network behind me that understands the creator-network relationship. Yes, FX has its bottom-line. They are not in the business to make great TV, they are in the business to make money. They do that by making great TV. The truth is that Fox didn’t want John Landgraf to make Sons. They couldn’t imagine anyone tuning in to watch a biker family drama. It defied all research. When John said he still wanted to do it, I think Chernin started to prepare his transfer papers. But FX believed in the show and by proxy they were forced to believe in me. I was all they had. Yes, they were completely up my ass during the pilot, pilot reshoot and the first four or five episodes, but then they backed off. They had to. They knew that the success or failure of Sons of Anarchy ultimately landed on my shoulders. When the show hit its stride midway through the first season we settled into our creative process that we still have today. I get notes, ideas and feedback. I take the ones that make the show better and discard the ones that don’t. At the end of the day, the creative decisions are mine. Sometimes I bend to a note and regret it, sometimes I disregard a note and regret it, but ultimately it comes down to trust.

FX trusts the storyteller. Networks trust charts and graphs.

Boom. If that doesn’t have the ring of truth I don’t know what does.


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