Tuesday, November 18, 2008
THE END OF A TV ERA
When I found out the production schedule of Sons of Anarchy was being accelerated to premier WITH the last season of The Shield, I was too overwhelmed by the impending work load to realize the other downside -- that I'd be so caught up in the flow of my own show, I wouldn't be able to savor the brilliant last season of the show that got me where I am. It really hit me when I received a couple emails from cast members urging friends and family to watch these last episodes of the show. I read the sadness and the approaching void in their words. Actors are looking for work. Holy shit, it's ending. The Barn is closing its doors. I was on The Shield from start to finish. I was hired season one as a staff writer and finished the last two season as an executive producer. Every other writer that started on the show left. Some because their options weren't picked up, but most because it was a better career move to jump to another show. I stayed. For a few of reasons, four reasons actually. One, before I got sober, I was a guy who never finished anything. Part of me felt like it would be quitting to take another gig. I wanted to finish the ride. Two, there was no other show I wanted to write for. Was I really gonna go take a gig on CSI Bayonne or Law and Order DUI? I'd blow my fucking brains out and probably take a few people down with me. Three, I loved writing those characters. Vic, Shane, Claudette, Dutch... c'mon, those voices are just so fucking great. The possibilities were endless. And four, I really hate change. The Shield was my first paying writing gig. I was a struggling feature writer with a few TV spec scripts. One of those specs got me the gig on what was then called "The Barn". It was on a nothing cable network with the fat guy from The Commish as the lead. I actually debated if I should take the gig. I was up for another show that looked like it had more potential. But when I read Shawn Ryan's script I realized that this was something different. It read like an independent movie not a TV show. After I met with Shawn and Scott Brazil I was offered a staff writer position. Of course I took the job. And that fat guy turned out to be a ripped pitbull who reinvented the concept of reinvention. From the jump, I flourished at The Shield. It really was a divine pairing. Every twisted pitch, every insane, dark, mutilated, fucked up idea I ever conjured up -- the ones that had studio execs calling security and my agents wondering if I needed psychological intervention -- I got to infuse into the actions of Vic and his crew. I dove into into the deep end of the dark pool and swallowed hard. My time on The Shield allowed me to grow as a writer and producer and Shawn's patience and tutelage, allowed me to become a better, more responsible man. I was a bit of a terror the first few seasons. My uber passion for the work and my lack of people skills were a dangerous combination. I unhinged a few doors and many a nerves. But the work was solid so Shawn stuck by me. Not wanting to step on my process and quite frankly not wanting to get hurt, he gently nudged me toward saner more productive work habits. It took about about six season for me to get it. But ultimately I did. There is no way I'd have the skill set to run a show if not for my time on The Shield. And I doubt no other showrunner would have put up with my intensity. Again, a divine pairing. I guess the upside for Shawn -- or at least I'd like to think this is true -- is that my intensity helped make The Shield a better show. Ground-breaking is an over-used term in this town, but the most accurate in the case of The Shield. It put a network on the map and help established FX's reputation for great drama. It set the bar for cable dramas both is quality and ratings. It took the cop genre and turned it on it's head, creating a whole new level of anti-hero. We made some small screen history. I'm catching up on a few episodes this weekend and looking forward to the finale. We're having a finale party and we'll all watch the final episode together -- cast, crew, producers, studio, network. It'll be a powerful, bittersweet evening. I really urge you to watch these last few episodes. It's some of the best drama you will ever see and I am confident if you are a fan of the show, you will be satisfied with the ending. One thing I can promise you -- they'll be no ten seconds of black.
Posted by Kurt Sutter at 11/18/2008 09:56:00 PM