October 15, 2007 Jill

It’s Blog Action Day. Fifteen thousand blogs around the world are writing about the environment today.

Which begs the question, why aren’t television writers writing about the environment?

The environment dominated the headlines around the world in 2007. Wuperpowers dominated the new television season.

There are some reality shows that get into the topic. Kids shows beat the eco-drum. And according to Playback, “Enviro films” won the day at the Vancouver Film Festival.

But where is the environment on dramatic television?

If you watch an evening of series television you’d never guess that anything untoward is happening on the planet. (Unless you stumble on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Larry’s in his Prius.)


Is TV too escapist to concern itself? That can’t be the reason. Series television is built on bad news.

We eat up shows about murders and crime. Medical shows are perennial and becoming bloodier and more graphic all the time. Who didn’t love The Sopranos and Six Feet Under? We’re watching mobsters and undertakers. So we’re not avoiding stories with an environmental twist because they’re too depressing.

Or maybe we are. In a cop show, our hero solves the crime in less than an hour. In fact in some shows, we can find the criminal and prosecute him in 44 minutes. Justice is restored.

In a medical show, the doctors cure their patients. Or at least bring comfort to their dying moments.

So is that the problem? Is it that we can’t bring a satisfying conclusion to an environmental tale in our allotted episodic time period? If the characters can’t save the day is the topic too much of downer for prime time?

I don’t know the answer, maybe you do.

But I’m pretty sure that there’s a way to make environmental issues entertaining and as proof, I leave the last word to the guy who gave away his Prius:

Larry David: Earth to America

Comments (4)

  1. Aah, attack of the crazy formatting!

    I think you pose an interesting question here. At first I was going to agree with your thought that it was too hard to solve something like the environment in one episode, but I don’t think that’s true. Well, it IS true that the environment can’t be solved in an hour, but neither can racism or abortion or for that matter even a single court case. Not if you’re going to play things realistically, anyway. But as you point out, court cases are often solved in a single episode. And (though I can’t cite specific examples) I’m pretty sure it’s not totally uncommon to have an episode about racism or some other large social issue. It’s all about personalizing the issue. It shouldn’t be too difficult for writers to find a personal story that involves the environment, right? Or maybe it is–I can’t think of anything right now.

    I do think it’s SORT OF an issue of being entertaining…combined with not wanting to feel preachy. I know that’s a sticking point with the writers on the movie I’m working on. They’re trying to straddle the line between telling an entertaining story and commenting on something important.

    Just thought of this: Pushing Daisies DID kind of do an environmental story last week, though interestingly enough the bad guys were the ones trying to help the environment.

  2. admin

    I hope the formatting is fixed now and didn’t go out on the feed like that. (Thanks once again to Mr Amazing for saving the day. He is a very serious environmentalist by the way.)

    You’re right, TV writers have always managed to find entertaining ways to tackle the big issues. My 10 year old knows all about gay marriage thanks to TV.

  3. I’m currently pitching a TV show (and comic book companion series) that has a very strong environmental component. At least 80 percent of all episodes produced in any given season of this fantasy action/adventure drama will focus directly on global warming, ozone depletion, endangered animal poaching, waste recycling, animal welfare/abuse and other social/environmental issues. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback so far but, at this time, the comic book component is coming along much better than the TV series.

  4. jutratest

    I’m working on a little ditty where sustainability is in fact a matter of life and death.

    You could say I have found an answer to your question.

Comments are closed.