cocreation, coediting, and semiotic roughage, keeping the K-Ville in K-Ville

Kville Entertainment Weekly was not kind to the new TV show from FOX called K-ville but I thought I would have a look.  After all, not even EW can be right all the time.

I arrived a little late.  I was upstairs hammered away on my book proposal.  I declare, never has a document been more completely or frequently renovated. 

Actually, I was about 12 minutes late getting to the TV.  K-ville had left without me.  And low and behold, I loved it.  Well, lest EW takes me off the subscriber list, I liked it.  Anthony Anderson, Cole Houser, and John Carroll Lynch have all found a property they can make their own.  (Anderson gets better with every role, but this may have been Lynch’s last chance.)

Tuesday, the next day, I tuned in for the opening 12 minutes of the "encore performance."  Just to see how they had got things started.  Oh, bad idea.  I began to like the show less.  The problem is, of course, setup.  It’s not that those opening minutes are bad.  It’s just that they seemed to remove the K-ville from K-ville, the wonderful indeterminacy that certain cities seem to have, as if the city were proceeding on many registers all at once. 

This is the problem with introductions.  They are the enemy of indeterminacy.  And this is why every film and most novels are better when we arrive late.  We are spared that laborious exposition.  And this leaves us something to make up, to guess after most of all, to work with.  And we like having something to work with.

Call it semiotic roughage.  When we arrive late to a program, there is grist for the mill.

Call it cocreation.  When we miss the exposition, we are obliged to make the rest up.  Obliged?  Thanks to the work of Henry Jenkins, we know that that’s much of the point of contemporary culture.  We are eager to make the rest up. 

But I’m not sure this is the whole of it.  I just like not knowing stuff. I like it when the "back story" is missing, when certain (especially heroic) motives are left out.  It makes the plot airier somehow…and more K-ville.   

Certainly, it’s more realistic.  As Pam is sometimes obliged to point out, there are a great many things I do not know, whole portions of the world that are opaque to me.  I am happy when what is true of my world is true of my television.  I am not confused or resentful.  I most certainly do not what producers to scream at writers, "Keep It Simple, Stupid."  I do not want is a plot that has been tidied up and made accessible.  In all things but one’s desk top, messy is good. 

I am sure that the world distributes on this point as it does on others.  Not all of us wish to be spared the exposition.  And not all of us want to to be spared exposition to the same degree.  Some want a little, others want a lot.  There is a nice mechanical here for the asking.  We could each of us decide to turn on new programs at the moment that works for us.  For some this would be minute 2.  For other, minute 6.  For still others, and in this case, the moment was minute 12.  We are effectively editing out stuff we don’t need. 

This is not so much cocreation, as it is "coediting."  And there are several possibilities.  We could come late.  This often happens at the movies in any case.  We could exercise selective inattention, zoning out at regular or irregular intervals in the course of the show.  This too happens a great deal, especially now that we are multiprocessing so much of the time.  (I only really pay attention during the car chases.)  And finally we could leave early and make up a conclusion of our own. 

Right.  Done.  Now where were you?

2 thoughts on “cocreation, coediting, and semiotic roughage, keeping the K-Ville in K-Ville”

  1. I must have been seventeen when my Dad took me to meet a professional writer–that would have been around 1961, shortly before I graduated from high school. I’ve forgotten the writer’s name but not the advice he gave me. Start writing, he said. Write for a while. Then go back and cut out the first paragraph. That will almost always improve what you’ve written.

  2. Along the lines of what John said, David Mamet points out in “On Directing Film” that the old studio bosses knew how to instantly improve any movie, “Burn the first reel.”

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