Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Scotland to Brighton [and back again]

Had my fourth day trip to Brighton yesterday for the Lighthouse TV drama team-writing workshop. We're now at the stage of discussing our individual episode treatments, while also nailing down niggling questions about the rules of our high concept world. Feels like real progress is being made, although sometimes it can require backwards steps to go forwards. Happily, the deadline for our next work got nudged to after Christmas, making the days ahead easier.

Nearly everyone on the workshop arrived with some lurgy, bug or cold. My voice now best resembles Louis Armstrong after a hard night of gargling gravel. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but it's opening night for the Biggar Theatre Workshop's festive family show. I'm in several sketches and just hope my voice lasts for all four performances. I'm not alone in this, it's like a consumptive ward backstage, but the show must go on, so on the show will go.

Elsewhere, the Writers' Guild of America has announced nominees for its 2008 awards. The category that most interests me is best TV drama where five shows are vying for the trophy: Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Lost, Mad Men and The Wire. Have to confess I haven't seen Dexter since its first, exemplary season, but hope it's been maintaining that same high standard. Lost is definitely firing on all cylinders again after some creative ennui in season three.

FNL is back among my favourites for its new season, after a few splutters the previous year. The third season is running on a cable channel in the US before appearing on NCB in the new year, so it's a mark of quality that FNL still got nominated despite being much less visible this year. Inevitably, season two of Mad Men lacked the freshness of its debut. Instead it spend this year pulling apart the characters before putting them back together again.

The results made for a powerful punch in the guts, while still retaining the silky smooth charms that won Mad Men such plaudits first time round. Long may it continue. Last but certainly not least is the final season of The Wire, a show praised to the hilt but watched by few. I'm halfway through the third season, so the last year remains in my future, waiting to be watched. In summary, that's a strong crop of shows on the WGA list of dramas.

There's another fistful that could have been just as worthy of inclusion, in my humble opinion. Damages wowed me, with its twisty-turny plot machinations and revelations, not to mention compelling performances by Glenn Close and [surprisingly] Ted Danson. House got its mojo back and delivered a real kicker at the end of season four. Breaking Bad dipped out in the top list, despite accolades elsewhere. It's a strong time for US TV drama.

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