Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hollywood's Conscience

I have more Banff posts in the works but this one was in the works before I left for the festival. It's based on interviews with Christian Clemenson, an actor from Boston Legal, and a spokesperson for an organization called the Entertainment Industry Council, about their work on more accurate portrayals of health and social issues on film and TV.
  • Boston Legal Provides Evidence Of Hollywood’s Social Responsibility
    "'Television’s primary obligation is to entertain,' said Clemenson, who won a Guest Actor Emmy in 2006 and was nominated again in 2007 for what was originally supposed to be a three-episode arc, but is now a regular character. 'But David Kelley in particular has this amazing ability to entertain while at the same time he’s slipping some powerful medicine down your throat, and you don’t even realize it. That’s wonderful television.'" Read more.
After submitting the post to Blogcritics, I was trying to remember how the EIC got on my radar. I've had it drifting in my head for a long time that I wanted to write something about them at some point. I'd heard of the PRISM awards but not the organization behind them until something brought them to my attention. I just couldn't think of what. Then it came to me – a friend who knew someone who was somehow involved with an EIC event had sent me this close to a couple of years ago, because of our mutual connection to House writer Larry Kaplow – I'd interviewed him by that point, and we both ran into him after that at the Paley Festival.

A lot of what EIC does is too behind the scenes for even me to write about, but the organization intrigued me and appealed to my idealistic streak. A couple of years ago a locally produced TV show asked me about ideas for their (never materialized) series blog, and one of my favourites was the concept of writing posts about issues brought up by the episodes. Take House, for example: maybe someone from the Huntingdon Society could provide an article about what a diagnosis means to a real-life young woman contemplating family and career. (Good lord no, it wasn't actually House I talked to. I'm picking an example most of you will recognize, is all.) I wouldn't be the one to start this, but I love the even broader idea of a website that dissects TV shows from the social/philosophical/etc. angle, like a TV Squad with a conscience. It wouldn't get the megahits, but it would be about something more meaningful than fannish musings.

Anyway ... recently, the EIC sent a media release about their Congressional Mental Health Care Briefing and it seemed like a great opportunity to finally write something with a bit more of a fan-based hook. Though sorry House fans, despite the origins of my knowledge of the organization, there's no House content. But as a slight bonus (slightly outdated), here's an excerpt from that report that started it all:
“The problem with incorporating content from health and political organizations,” said Lawrence Kaplow, “is that as storytellers we tell stories, not messages. But in this type of roundtable discussion, competing messages gave rise to controversy, which was when I started to pay attention, as participants began substantiating their opinions with their own experience. And since whenever there’s conflict, there’s story, I probably walked away with four or five pretty good story/character ideas. Plus they fed me.”