An Ode to the Hard Way

I read some entertainment news this week that made me stop and pause. That is, after my anger subsided. You see, on publishing’s beloved blog, GalleyCat, it was announced that procrastinating’s beloved time-suck, Awkward Family Photos, is becoming a TV show. The article is here, and it also brings up another success story that we know and, well, have mixed feelings about.

We all remember that Shit My Dad Says was a hilarious Twitter feed that became a less funny book and is about to become what I assume will be a god awful TV show. Likewise, I assume Family Photos will have a similar “so quirky it’s forced” premise and may or may not star a has-been celeb like Willie Aames or George Hamilton.

Blog/Twitter feed to book to TV deals, as a whole, are not bad things. Blogs becoming books seem like a logical next step in the right instances, and adding TV to that mix can work, again, with the right subjects. What bothers me so much about Awkward Family Photos is the same thing that bothers me about the recent trend of fake Broadway musicals like Rock of Ages. They completely disregard the talent and importance of original writing just to make a quick buck.

These blog-to-TV shows are every other typical family sitcom disguised as a recognizable brand. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this is good in theory. Rehashing something we already know is fun, for about a minute. (Remember the Geico Cavemen show? Exactly.) We can sing along, we see familiar faces, and we’re in on the joke. It makes us feel special. But attention-grabbing gimmicks do not a lasting career make. Once people realize they’ve been duped into watching just another According to Jim, these blog-to-TV shows will get canceled.

Now, if your life dream is to produce one massively successful project that will make you tons of money in one fell swoop, even if it means being a nobody a year later, then go for it. I will not stand in your way; I will even support your endeavor. (Everyone likes money, right?)

But if you want to be authors – as in, real, this-is-my-career authors – then do not get discouraged by this flashes in the pan. Things like integrity, patience, and talent not only matter, but they will be what make you last in this business.

I realize I’m sounding a bit Pollyanna and I apologize. My faith in writers, publishing, and humanity in general can’t be snarked out the way the rest of my emotions can. (Usually.)

Lastly, relevant to nothing, I leave you for the weekend with this awesome rendering of various Harry Potter characters’ social media pages (courtesy of @NathanBransford)!

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody! And if you find yourself getting restless, you can always go take some awkward photos and hope for the best.

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9 thoughts on “An Ode to the Hard Way

  1. Here's something even more infuriating than Awkward Family Photos or Shit My Dad Says … Have you seen the news that a Duke University student's power point about her sexual partners has attracted interest for a book from an editor at Harper Collins (WARNING: bad language in the title of the linked article): here. Sad, sad, sad!

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  2. I am so with you on this, Sarah, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this post! This kind of thing infuriates me, and not just as a writer. It infuriates me as a reader, a viewer, and on a much deeper level, as a member of this society. I think that Franzen brilliantly discussed the reasons behind this trend in FREEDOM. In addition to being a way to make a quick buck, selling crass entertainment provides constant diversion to thinking about some very huge problems facing us. Unfortunately, flooding the market with lots of crass entertainment makes it very difficult for anyone to focus on or solve the problems. Since huge corporations own most of the entertainment industry, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by keeping society from ever wanting to fix the way things operate within the financial sector at the present time. When I read in The Wall Street Journal through a link on Nathan Bransford’s Blog about Kirsten Kaschock’s literary novel SLEIGHT, described as “one of the most exemplary [projects] in the last decade or so” receiving nothing but rejection from the big publishing houses and going on to small indie press publication, it broke my heart. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Here’s the article: Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books.

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  3. The weird thing about According to Jim – One of the writers for the show, David Feeney, is a co-host on one of the podcasts I listen to regularly. And he is HILARIOUS. When you hear you talk and crack wise, you realize how much the marketing and financial goals for a show limit the humor and art value.

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  4. Thanks – just what I needed to hear this morning. But if I read about one more pan-flash talent-less amateur jumping to the front of the line while I sit here patiently waiting for a certain Oscar-winning producer to follow through on his 'we're a definite go' before the Sheriff shows up and kicks me to the curb, I'll… I'll…

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  5. Good post, Sarah. Robert McKee's, STORY: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, talks about the same type of mindset with the production of generic stories, just for a buck, thus diminishing the quality of the story.

    And we all need more Pollyanna in us. As a kid, my mom made me watch the movie over and over, conveniently informing me that if I looked at life like Pollyanna, things would be a lot easier and a lot happier. And you know what… she was right.

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  6. Being a huge Star Trek fan and consequently a William Shatner fan, I watched the pilot of Shit My Dad Says a week ago. Couldn't get past the first 5 minutes. It was painful.

    Life's about doing what you enjoy, not about being famous or rich. Keep that in sight and you'll succeed in the only way that matters. If you're lucky, you'll be famous and rich too, but it's not a requirement for success. Heck, some of my favorite artists are the people most people have never heard of.

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