'My Generation' creator gives fall TV survival tips
ABC’s upcoming documentary-style drama "My Generation" will face heavy competition when it premieres next Thursday at 8 p.m., going head-to-head with CBS’ "The Big Bang Theory," NBC’s "Community," the CW’s "The Vampire Diaries" and Fox’s "Bones."
Creator Noah Hawley shared with The Hollywood Reporter five survival tips for a fierce fall TV season ahead of the series premiere.
1. Adding a mystery element
"My Generation" centers on a group of high school classmates who were the subjects of a documentary in 2000. When the filmmaker returns in 2010, their lives aren't exactly what they had envisioned.
"Inherent in this 10-year gap is a mystery," Hawley told THR, noting that there has been a "sea change" of events in that time frame. "The overachiever in high school who 10 years later is a surf bum. What happened?"
That also means turning the cameras on the filmmaker. "Who is this person and why did she follow these people? Why has she come back 10 years later?," Hawley said. "You have to humanize that person -- especially the more dramatic these people's lives become. You don't want to feel like this person is invading their privacy, like it's the paparazzi or something."
2. Taking the time for character exploration
"Because we have this filmmaker who can go out and solve these mysteries, we can avoid character exposition where you have these scenes where people have to tell you what happened to them," Hawley said. "I can show you. I never have to tell you."
It's a device mockumentaries like "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" have successfully employed, allowing the audience to get invested without being force-fed plot points.
"There's something really satisfying as a writer [when] you can avoid what network TV does: the information dump," Hawley explained. "A character who says, 'I'm not going to talk about my dad.' He doesn't have to."
3. Featuring popular bands and guest stars as appropriate
Some TV shows rack up a long list of guest stars, but there won't be any stunt casting here. Instead, the right people will be spotlighted in the appropriate capacity.
"Because of the documentary format, I shy away from actors who are too recognizable. I will say that we do have Jaime King, who plays a girl who went to Hollywood to try to be an actor and was there for five years," Hawley said. "Who knows who she dated or what project she was in that we'll play around with."
He did tease that King's character, who appeared on Season 2 of "The Bachelor," "maybe had a famous boyfriend" and that real bands will appear on the show.
4. Appealing to the twentysomething demo
Hawley pointed out an error many TV shows centered on young people are guilty of.
"The mistake a lot of people make is that they make the show about being in your 20s, which isn't interesting," Hawley told THR. "People starting out, they're not good at their jobs yet, they're kind of in starter roles, in starter marriages, that's not dramatic. [Instead], I wanted to tell stories about nine people who happen to be that age."
5. Hopping on the Twitter train
"We're talking with Facebook about using [it on the show] and we're talking with Twitter ... not for exploitative purposes, but because that's how people in this day and age interact with each other," Hawley said.
In the series premiere, two of the characters are seen having a webcam conversation while thousands of miles apart.
"I would love to build that social media into the show so that as an audience member, you feel like you can interact with it not just in the hour that it's on but [in different formats]," he explained a day before ABC officially launched an iPad app for his series.
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