Friday, 1 April 2011
Home Box Office. A TV station started in the 60’s, that showed the ‘Thriller in Manilla’ in the 70’s, started making their own films in the 80’s, a pioneering cable channel, the first satellite channel and for me the finest example of television available in the 21st Century.
The list of remarkable HBO television is long, from The Sopranos, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Generation Kill, Flight of the Conchords, The Wire and Six Feet Under. The Larry Saunders Show, Entourage, The Life and Times Of Tim, Boardwalk Empire, Treme, and my new fave Eastbound and Down, the quality, audacity and envelope-pushing displayed by the little company from Manhattan, that grew into an independent monster, is astounding.
(The list is huge and I wont list everything but take a look, it’s mind-blowing)
And the reasons behind this extraordinary programming? It’s simple. It’s the reason Larry David pitched up there for Curb, the reason The Wire was so vast, all-consuming and sprawling, the reason David Chase felt his ending of the Sopranos was THE ending, and that reason is that HBO trust the writer, they trust the creator, they are a bastion of creative protection. They give the creator/writer the ball and say run with it, allow your characters to breathe, allow your story to unwind organically, we trust you, you are the best, do what you like.
What an incredible feeling that must be, what empowerment, what fulfilment.
Anyone who saw the patchy but often spot on ‘Episodes’ recently, or any of the other shows that lay out the experience of writers within film and television, has some understanding of the head scratching, the bullshit, the lies and sheer monstrous power of studio execs when it comes to making TV for the masses. I pity the writer who, having sat through a meeting with 12 people, none of whom get what you’re trying to achieve, each hand you a script covered in red pen, most of it contradictory, and tell you to come back it 2 days with it all changed.
Test audience scores, advertising pressures, the bible-bashing lunatics, the share-holders, the high-ups who are desperate to cover their ‘ass’. And the subsequent crap that rolls downhill smothering the creative process will kill a good idea dead, as surely as if the writer has been taken down a side alley and had their imagination shot.
HBO doesn’t have that. HBO you pay up front and by doing so you are trusting them to deliver often brilliant adult comedy and drama, without the soul-searching, hand-wringing and moral panic attached to swearing, violence and sexual content stifling the output.
In this context HBO are a shining beacon of hope. Brilliant people given free rein to create and execute what they feel is right, treating the audience as grown-ups, exploring themes and characters to provide life-altering viewer experience.
Thank you HBO and long may you continue to stand up for all of us who want to see life as it is, not through a studio filter with all the edges shaved off.
To paraphrase Kenny Powers, you’re fucking out, HBO are fucking in.
Reading – The True History Of The Kelly Gang – Peter Carey
Listening to – The Boston Baseball Band – Go Red Sox!