My first job after CSI was writing and producing the second season of ABC’s reboot of the 1980s miniseries. It was not a happy experience.
The first season had been tumultuous. After premiering to high ratings, the numbers eroded weekly. There were constant staff changes and the show was put on hiatus for retooling. When it returned to complete the season the numbers held, giving ABC confidence in a renewal.
Our writers were from very different backgrounds, but we all got all along well, which was good because turmoil set in from the get-go. ABC and Warner Brothers were very tough on the material we created. There didn’t seem to be any agreement on what the show was about. We burned through plot from episode to episode, leaving no screen time for any real character development. To avoid shutdowns, we worked absurd hours. No one was happy with the footage, and notes on how to fix the series were flying in from everyone with a studio or network job at risk.
The writers, who remained a friendly and supportive bunch through all the turmoil, weren’t surprised or disappointed when ABC cut the order by two episodes.
However, the series did provide my favorite note from a network executive. V was about an invasion of earth by reptiles from outer space. Talking about one of the aliens in a script, the executive said, “I don’t understand his emotional arc in this episode.” My showrunner started to answer, but I jumped in, replying politely as possible, “He doesn’t have an emotional arc because he’s a reptile. They don’t feel emotion. Humans do. That’s the conflict on which the series is based.” The showrunner turned white. After a beat, the executive said, “Well, you have to fix that.” Alas, V was unfixable.