I get it. There’s too much TV. Sometimes you want to blindly trust the critics and recommend a show sight unseen when you’re asked the increasingly stressful question, “What are you watching?”
Only this show can’t be seen. Because we haven’t made it yet.
We fully intended to write, shoot and broadcast a television show called The Americans. It was my dream project, to make a show about a family of spies, or CIA agents, or American spies in Russia? Mad Men was ending and I pitched it as an exciting version of that but with spy stuff and set in the (depending on the facial expressions of the execs)…’70s? No? ’80s.
We even knew we wanted Felicity in it, because that show was so underrated and I wanted to give her something darker (or maybe lighter?) to work with. And thanks to my CBT guy’s sister on her management team, they were down with her being in the show. We also cast some generic dude, and, let’s say, Sam Waterston. Got them together, dressed them in fun costumes and took some pics for the upfronts; a sneak preview of a show we’d totally make one day.
It was super flattering when critics raved about the show. The Best Show You’re Not Watching.
Except, again, you could not watch it. All we’d shot was that promo trying out various hairstyles for the characters. I’d never planned to make the characters I would one day write wear a lot of wigs, but recappers went with what was in front of them. Now we were this “masterful” show about spies in wigs.
When I filled FX head John Landgraf in on the situation, he was delighted. We’d figured out the secret to making the greatest prestige show in TV history. Don’t even make it. Give interviews where you discuss its slow pace and novelistic qualities. Take pics. Send Keri to Jimmy Fallon with anecdotes about how the crew is a family and how things really get going later in the season. Then Alan Sepinwall and Margaret Lyons trip over themselves to praise us as “criminally underwatched.” The second half of that quote is 100% true.
This isn’t a knock against any of our “fans.” You’re welcome! It must be a relief to have a show like the one I was 100% going to make taken off your queue. There are 500 shows and somehow two seasons of Narcos, four of The Blacklist, a bunch of Stranger Things kids you’re going to need to see karaoke with Corden — and of course that unending stream of horrifying Trump news that keeps you staring at your phone while you watch TV. So keep not watching and we’ll keep not making.
Keep talking about us, though. Record some podcasts, Andy Greenwald. Urge your followers to watch us. FX will continue to play chunks of Crimson Tide during The Americans’ time slot and no one will notice. I thought someone would after one season. I even told Landgraf he should “cancel” us and we’d enjoy gone-too-soon status and snag an Emily Nussbaum essay. But then I got worried Netflix would resurrect us after fan outcry that’d probably involve sending old wigs in the mail and I feel like that would just be way too much pressure to actually make this thing.
So we’re sweating it out by continuing to not make the show, like we’ve been doing for 4 seasons. Well, actually, at some point we fumbled the math and are starting to air “season 5” soon, but, again, no one’s noticed. The critics begged people to watch last season, but Crimson Tide held strong. I recommend you watch that movie, by the way. Apparently Tarantino wrote a bunch of it, uncredited. Bad move! It’s easier to not write something and take credit.
So thank you, TV fans. This has made my job as a screenwriter way easier. By taking away the necessity of me actually writing anything I’ve had so much more time to catch up on TV that really does exist. Instead of shooting an entire season of TV last year, I was finally able to dive into the masterful slow burn of Rectify. Who knew computer programmers in the ’80s could be so interesting.