1. Things that really ought to be made into tv shows, Part Four

    Yeah, I know it was books before. Now it’s things, and stuff.

    Next up: Neil Simon’s The Star-Spangled Girl.

    Why the book play is awesome:

    Apparently it’s not. I dimly remember thinking it was great when I read it, but that was quite a long time ago, now, and the infallible oracle of Wikipedia tells me that it’s not well-received or defended by Simon. (Although here is a somewhat more detailed explanation of the play’s strengths and weaknesses that, if I’m remembering the play correctly, is pretty right on.)

    However, a lot of the stuff that’s off about it could be fixed in an adaptation for a different medium, and the underlying dynamic — red state/blue state, opposites attract, idealism, arrogance, expectations, etc. — is pretty rich ground. You could work on making Sophie feel like less of a caricature, and make sundry other improvements, in the process of adapting it, and end up with something really interesting.

    Why a TV show would be awesome:

    In the play, Andy and Norman run an underground political publication written by Norman under a variety of pseudonyms. This aspect of the setup is not only still relevant today, it is vastly more relevant. Anonymous and pseudonymous speech operating near or across the borderline dividing legitimate discourse from illegitimate is one of the most important and visible characteristics of political struggle in the immediate present. Turning Andy and Norman’s ‘zine into something that resembles the wacky original while also referencing the world of Anonymous and Wikileaks is something that would take effort, but is eminently achievable.

    I think the red state/blue state thing is maybe a slightly harder sell nowadays than it was back then, but it can’t be that far outside the domain of interest, because Hart of Dixie appears to have found a damn audience, and “fish out of water” in general certainly remains a popular trope for tv series.

    The medium switch also opens up a couple of interesting possibilities — a lot of the issues that are trivialized in the play by necessity of condensation could be expanded, elaborated, and de-trivialized, for example, and — more importantly — the character of Norman and Andy’s daredevil landlady, who is alluded to in the play but never seen, could be turned into a fantastic role for any of a number of talented older actresses, and it would furnish delightful comic possibilities.

    Maybe most importantly, a Star-Spangled Girl series would provide an opportunity to examine and discuss the deep cultural and political differences that divide America in a way that isn’t totally dismissive of one side or the other. (Not that Simon totally succeeded at that, but it could be done within the premise.) I’m not sure when the last time is that anyone really made a go at that — West Wing? (Not that West Wing is exactly free of bias, but it did at least sometimes present rational, honorable conservatives in conflict with rational, honorable liberals.)

    Why it will never happen:

    Political awareness can be perceived as (and/or can actually be) audience-limiting. It’s very hard to appeal to both sides of the spectrum simultaneously, especially in a comedic context. I imagine that would make this show a slightly hard sell. Also, you’d have to have really, really talented writers who are also — and this is key — not totally out of touch with the cultures they would wind up writing about.