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Joel Stein

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This Show Doesn't Suck

Posted: 12/21/09 02:06 PM ET

As a writer, the first thing you learn from your peers is how to blame other people. In television, we've not only convinced ourselves that nothing is our fault, but we've managed to convince everyone else that TV executives are crass idiots who ruin our genius with their stupid notes. We've gotten so good at it that even network executives brag about how they don't like interfering too much with the writing. If that wasn't great enough, we also get paid - on top of the salaries we get for writing for a show - for every episode we actually write. I still can't believe we went on strike.

But most shows suck not because some stupid executive forced the writer to cut out the edgy stuff or add a cute redheaded kid, but because making something good is hard. Most books that get published suck. Most restaurants suck. Most companies suck. So the reason that most pilots don't make it on air isn't because they're too dark or smart, but because they're not very good. I know. I've written three pilots, had two of them shot and no one has seen any of them. For pretty good reasons.

2009-12-21-ronbev.jpgBut once a year a network turns down a pilot that seems like a huge mistake to me. That's going to happen, percentagewise, when TV executives make as many decisions as they do and pilots are such an inexact way to determine how good a series will be.

This year that show was Ronna and Bev, on Showtime. It's a weird show, in which two very Jewish women in their early 30s play two extremely Jewish women in their 50s, but the pilot came out far more real and funny than a high-concept sketch had any right to. That's partly because it was made the way you hope TV is made, the way it often is in England: Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo performed the characters every month for years on stages in Los Angeles, New York and across the country. But it was also well made because it was co-written by Jenji Kohan (Weeds) and directed by Paul Feig (Paul Feig). Showtime is giving it a pity airing this Monday night at midnight. It's worth watching.

Just so we can keep talking about what idiots television execs are.

SHO 12/21 9:05 pm - 9:35 pm (East Coast feed)
SHO 12/22 12:05 am - 12:35 am (West Coast feed)
SHO2 12/29 9:05 pm - 9:35 pm