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09/14/2004 Archived Entry: "Jack & Bobby"
Posted by CKL @ 10:13 AM PST

I watched the pilot for Jack & Bobby last night, and while it didn't suck, there were some obvious misdirections and heavy reliance on the central gimmick of the show's premise: that the present-day story is interspersed with (and, to some degree, narrated by) flash-forwards to 50 years later, after one of the brothers has served two terms as President of the United States.

I was glad that J&B's creators didn't try to extend that manufactured mystery past the pilot-- you learn at the end of the hour which brother, Jack or Bobby, is the one to reach the White House. But the writers have plenty of opportunities to paint themselves into corners. Unless they have the entire run of the series outlined (as JMS did for Babylon 5), it's going to be a lot of bookkeeping to maintain continuity between the present and future story lines. I mean, JMS still ran into problems due to the fluid nature of TV production, and J&B doesn't even have Smallville's advantage of being able to foreshadow what everyone already knows-- it's essentially telling two stories at once, and has to make us care about both of them.

The most obvious pitfall as the show progresses will be the temptation to pander. If it's successful, the producers will want to play up the most gimmicky parts of the show (cf. 24), creating secrets and strife for promotional value instead of character development; if it's not doing so well, they'll be pressured to make it more like a mainstream, "normal" show (cf. Malcolm in the Middle), without the temporal shifts which might confuse less sophisticated viewers. The New York Times review has already nicknamed it "Gilmore Boys."

One of J&B's creators, Brad Meltzer, is also the writer of DC Comics' latest mega special crossover Event(TM), Identity Crisis. The basic story so far is dark and real, with a film noir edge to it. But it's also pretty gimmicky, using sex and violence for shock value. I'll reserve final judgment until the series is complete (issue 4 of 7 hits stores this week), but I like the fact that it's a grounded, human story-- unlike that other Crisis-- and it actually addresses Green Arrow as a character, not just a MacGuffin as the recent Elseworlds mini Another Nail did.

Anyway... I've also been thinking about doing more writing, myself, but aside from a dearth of free time and wanting to spend what little of it I have with family and friends, am not sure what stories I have to tell. Maybe I'll just have to wait for inspiration. Yes, I know every working writer says that's a bad idea. I accept that I may just be a dilettante on a breadth-first search through life. Or a computer geek who comes up with really bad metaphors.

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