Things change fast in TV. Last year, producer Greg Berlanti had three shows on the air simultaneously (Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone, Brothers & Sisters) and was probably the busiest showrunner in Hollywood. Now two of those shows are gone, and he’s merely the producer of one successful show. Not that that’s any kind of fall from grace; it’s just that he’s gone from being the next superstar producer to being one of several good producers with one TV show and an upcoming movie (Green Lantern) — until things change again and he winds up with another two or three shows on the schedule.
This interview with Berlanti is worth reading, especially for his description of the problems of doing “character” dramas (dramas without procedural hooks) and his failed attempt to fuse his kind of drama with the procedural in Eli Stone, as well as his thoughts on the programming strategy of his network, ABC. Berlanti used to mostly work on WB shows, writing for Dawson’s Creek and creating Everwood. He argues convincingly that ABC has sort of taken over the now-defunct WB’s strategy of doing glossy character-based dramas with a lot of female appeal; the difference is in demographics, with ABC trying to get WB viewers after they’ve gotten a little older:
“I always call ABC the grown-up WB now,” he said. “It tends to be more female-skewing, which the WB was. I can see everyone who watched ‘Dawson’s’ now grows up and watches ‘Grey’s.’ Everyone who watched ‘Smallville’ grows up and now watches ‘Lost.’ We were at the WB and they were like, ‘Okay, what is a 16-year-old girl going to like about this story?’ Now they’re like, ‘What’s a 36-year-old woman going to like about this story?’ I think Fox grabbed the guy version of it. ABC does really well with these character-driven shows.”
Speaking of the WB and Everwood, the trade-off for getting that much-loved series on DVD was changing the music; this was probably unavoidable (WB had already released one complete, music-intact season and it didn’t sell enough to make back the cost), but I can’t help but feel slightly depressed reading about the process — apparently it involves letting someone else trash the show because the producer knows it needs to be done, but can’t stand to be involved himself.
“They made us change all of the music,” he explained. “The music that was on that show in particular was very important to certain elements. I didn’t want to go back through every single episode and switch out every song to some cheaper song just so we could release it. Finally we hired someone to go in and do that because I wanted people to be able to see the episodes.”