Just in time for the upcoming premier of Vikings on the History Channel, Michael Hirst, the show’s writer and producer, talks about his writing process in the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? series.
“The key for me with historical characters is they’re interesting because they’re human beings,” he said. “A little bit of Hemingway goes a long way here, but journalists and writers should honestly look at their material and have a real interest, a real passion in what they want to write, and they should also have a lot of knowledge, as well. You don’t write police procedural stuff unless you really know that beat, but it’s ultimately not the procedure that makes the show work — it’s the people. The more real they are, the better.”
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Even before the Primetime Emmys opened with a musical number by Neil Patrick Harris, the show’s host — who also served as co-producer — was a lamenting the death of network television.
“This may very well be the last year they’re on a network show,” Harris told New York magazine in a a profile featured in last week’s issue. “This wheel contract they have, where each year a different network gets the show, as the ratings decline it becomes less of a good thing to ‘get it.’ It’s a very expensive show. Which means they have to get more ad revenue. Ads are less expensive, because ratings are down. So you have to do more ads, which makes the show smaller…and finally someone will do it on cable, where there won’t be any commercials. Which will be a wonderful show. Our three-hour show is only two hours and five minutes long, due to economics.”
If cable is a better outlet for award shows, is it also a better outlet for award-winning television? It seemed that way as a slew of the first few awards of the night went to basic cable shows — Toni Collette won Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on Showtime‘s “United States of Tara,” Glenn Close took home the Best Actress in a Drama Series award for “Damages” on FX, Bryan Cranston won Best Actor in a Drama Series for the second year in a row for his role in AMC‘s “Breaking Bad” and AMC’s “Mad Men” won the drama writing award and Outstanding Drama Series.
But, the networks still had a strong showing. Kristin Chenoweth took home the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series prize for her role in ABC‘s “Pushing Daises,” which was canceled even before nominations were announced. Jon Cryer took home Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for CBS‘s “Two and a Half Men,” Alec Baldwin won for the second year in a row for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for NBC‘s “30 Rock,” which also took home the Outstanding Comedy Series award for the third year running.
Still, the changing world of television as a medium was a prevailing theme throughout the show. At one point, Harris revisited his online persona, Dr. Horrible, to (literally) sing the praises of Internet television over network and cable TV — complete with “buffering” gag.
And in her acceptance speech, “30 Rock” creator and star Tina Fey took a jab at Jay Leno when she thanked NBC brass for not pulling her show off the air, “even though we are so much more expensive than a talk show.”
Even Harris couldn’t help mentioning network TV again in his sign off, telling viewers, “May we see you again on broadcast television again next year.”
After the jump, some Emmy highlights, including the Harris’ Dr. Horrible Sing-a-Long Blog bit.
What started as a casual conversation about the humble beginnings of Chicago Public Radio‘s “This American Life” turned into an impromptu press conference last night as host Ira Glass announced the end of the popular radio program’s Emmy nominated television spinoff on Showtime.
“I don’t know if I can say this yet, but we’ve asked to be taken off of television,” Glass revealed.
Then, of course, there was Glass — the host and executive producer of the public radio golden child and Showtime program of the same name — who has become ubiquitous on television, billboards and panels alike. His Buddy Holly glasses and graying spiked hair are familiar by now, and his notoriety explains why his introductory applause was by far the most sustained.
Steering the conversation casually, Mishkin lauded the program, giving the night a celebratory feel as the show’s creators discussed its methods and told insider stories to the delight of the crowd. The event began with anecdotes from seemingly slapdash beginnings, as Updike recalled struggling to fill an hour broadcast, even letting Glass wing it live to fill time in the days before the show’s syndication.
The producers reflected on the various media properties that have resulted since the humble inception of “This American Life,” including the forthcoming Steven Soderbergh film The Informant! starring Matt Damon, which is based on an episode.
According to Glass, the show’s relationship with movies was all about supply and demand: “We had no money, but a large supply of ideas, while Hollywood had a large amount of money and no ideas.”