Sunday, March 6, 2016

My Rabid Response to "Mad Dogs" and what Professional Screenwriters can learn...


Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), a show runner that I really respect, announced over the weekend that the amazon studios’ show, MAD DOGS, (which he executive produced with the show’s creator, Matt Cole) will end after running only one season on the prime network. 
I watched the entire series and found the production values top notch, especially the way the island of Belize was shot and integrated into the storyline. 
However, I had huge problems with the show’s premise, which I thought had a shockingly low creative ceiling. Though I was confident that with a ten-episode order, the series would eventually evolve into something bigger than the
initial premise, I ended up being wrong as I reached the end of the series. As it turns out there was never an attempt to get beyond the limited scope of the premise. The result was that every episode played creatively the same one note. I was surprised when I discovered that the show’s producers and the studio wanted to discuss a second season. 
Regardless of what I personally thought of the show, Ryan’s announcement of the show's demise (via a series of tweets) was interesting because he attempted to capture the way the situation played out with the executives at amazon studios. 

I’m assuming Ryan’s version of what happened is accurate and objective and not just an attempt to spin. So with that in mind, I wanted to draw Professional Screenwriters / Filmmakers attention to a couple of points – 

Amazon studios has become a major player for industry talent. The production company is working hard to keep up with Netflix (the other, new player in town) in their commitment to original programing for the amazon prime streaming service. Both Netflix and amazon are competing hot and heavy for the opportunity to greenlight the best shows produced by the top professional talent. 
The amazon executives are right now at that critical stage of not just greenlighting more new series for their network, but they are also facing the challenge of deciding which of their series deserve renewals for another season. In Ryan’s tweets he reveals something interesting about the amazon studios' executives and their approach to show development. As it turns out, their approach is no different than the rest of the production companies/networks who are both financing and broadcasting TV shows – they want a meaningful creative say on the direction of what they pay for. Ryan points out that the decision not to continue the series for another season was largely because there was a basic disagreement between the executives at amazon and the show runners of the series.  The disagreement led to Ryan and Matt Cole walking away from a second season of the show. 

When amazon first got into the TV production business, industry creatives hoped that working with the fledging company would be different than the other studios in town. The hope was that there would be a creative hands-off approach because amazon’s day job was the online retail business, not the production and distribution of commercial entertainment. The way the first shows were chosen by amazon to produce – letting audiences view the pilots and having a say in which show gets picked up as a series — probably helped give industry pros this impression. But that’s not what ended up happening. Clearly the studio executives at amazon want meaningful creative input in the shows they finance, produce and stream on their service… just like every other major production company. 
I didn’t care for the first season of MAD DOGS and that probably has something to do with me trying to make this second point — Professional Screenwriters and Filmmakers should always keep in mind that sometimes the best advice is not taken, sometimes not even heard, all because of the source. Huge mistake. Just because a studio executive can’t drive the car doesn’t mean he/she can’t offer great directions that will make the road trip better for everyone involved, including the viewers.  

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