The concept of auteurism in television is not new. It can be applied to great directors delivering singular episodes of shows, à la Rian Johnson with Breaking Bad and Neil Marshall with Game of Thrones or it can mean those showrunners with a definite voice and vision, whether these creators are writers or directors or come from the movies or not. But there are some TV series that I think more of than others when I think about small-screen auteurs, and some are relatively new. There’s Louis CK’s Louie, Lena Dunham’s Girls, Armando Iannucci’s Veep and of course Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. These are shows that are impossible to separate from their originator and are more easily referred to as so-and-so’s show than is the case with many other showrunners.
With TV production often guilty of blatantly copying the model of previous successes, I’m rather disappointed that the new fall season isn’t filled with programs of this sort (although there are plenty of filmmakers directing shows, as you can keep tabs on via Peter Hall’s Reel TV column). I guess the networks in particular would prefer more creative control than they would with something like Louie or any of the HBO series mentioned. But with Joss Whedon’s new gig developing Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. show is promising, because we can expect Whedon, who is one of the stronger cases for showrunner auteurism in the past, to have more creative involvement with this Avengers spin-off than big name directors like Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams now have producing series (see my earlier discuss post on desired film franchise-based TV shows).
I don’t know a whole lot of about the workings of TV series production, and maybe neither do you, but that shouldn’t stop us from fantasizing about fresh new shows developed and creatively maintained by our favorite filmmakers. Ever since I saw the indie sci-fi film Sound of My Voice at Sundance last year I’ve been wishing for Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling to hit the small screen with what could be the next Lost-type phenomenon. Maybe after the release of their next collaboration, The East? Given that she also cowrote Mike Cahill’s Another Earth, maybe just Marling is necessary for this dream of mine.
After his “performance” at the Republican National Convention last night, I imagine some of you might joke that Clint Eastwood ought to be given his own talk show in which he pretends to interview guests who aren’t actually there. A joke, but you know you’d watch it, at least for a bit. Other directors I initially thought of kiddingly could be a good fit, such as M. Night Shyamalan (who is actually developing a series for SyFy) and Friedberg and Seltzer, who are always too late with a lot of their gags and could use the immediacy and timeliness of TV. Not that these are shows I’d likely watch. My top choices would be more of the indie genre-film variety, say Timecrimes‘ Nacho Vigalondo, or documentarians who could raise the bar on nonfiction narrative TV, such as Only the Young‘s Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet.
I also certainly wouldn’t mind another David Lynch series.
What filmmakers should get their own TV series? Here some responses received so far via Twitter:
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join the next discussion.