When Awkward.—which I cover for The A.V. Club, and which returns on Thursday at 10:30/9:30c on MTV—made its debut on MTV last year, creator Lauren Iungerich was transformed from a television writer into a television showrunner. While recent events have led many publications to shine a light on the rise of female showrunners and/or creators within television, Iungerich has unfairly flown under the radar in those conversations. Working outside of the network system with a cable channel still searching for its identity in original scripted programming, Iungerich was given something that some other creators aren’t given: the opportunity, and the challenge, of playing the role of showrunner for her first series.
I had a chance to chat with Iungerich last week, and I’ll be sharing that interview in two parts. The first part, found below, details her experience as a first-time showrunner, her approach to Awkward.’s development, and her plans for its evolution—accordingly, it may be of interest even to those who haven’t watched the MTV series. Meanwhile, part two of the conversation—which is now up—will focus more specifically on the series itself as it heads into its second season, with topics including the show’s central love triangle and its Palos Verdes setting in California.
Given that this was your first time as a “showrunner,” how did it compare to your expectations?
Lauren Iungerich: It was way harder. [Laughs] What’s hard about being a showrunner—to break it down, there are two things that are really tough. First, you can’t just be the artist: you also have to be the producer, so it’s like art and commerce get mixed together so you have to be fiscally responsible; you have to really work with your network to make sure you can really produce the show and yet at the same time maintain the artistic integrity of your vision. And those are two things that sometimes don’t work in concert with each other.
March 25th, 2011
The greatest test of a critic’s demeanor towards a particular program is how they respond to its renewal.
When Fringe was picked up on Thursday, there were two primary responses among critics. The first was excitement: many had written off Fringe after it was banished to Fridays by a network with a reputation for injustices related to science fiction programming, and so an early renewal (rather than a tense upfront decision) was a revelation.
If I’m being honest, though, my response was more on the side of cynical. My first thought was what would need to change to justify the renewal, and what kind of story/casting changes might be necessary in order to facilitate this renewal. I think part of this is just my inner pragmatist, wanting to be realistic about the obvious compromises that will need to be made as Fringe shifts from a show Fox wants at a 2.0 to a show Fox will renew at a 1.5. However, I can’t lie and suggest that my cynicism is not partially the result of some trepidation regarding the show’s more recent story developments.
“Bloodline” seems an ideal episode to air directly after the renewal, given that this is the kind of episode that the show might no longer be able to do. While I think it might be premature to suggest that a cash-strapped fourth season will result in the end of Over There’s role within the series’ overarching storyline, I think it is fairly safe to claim that spending a quarter of the season in an entirely different world populated by different characters may be lost.
And I hope they don’t think that plot can make up for the loss of atmosphere.
“Save My Love”
March 23rd, 2011
I only recently caught up with FX’s Justified – after reviewing the premiere, I actually hadn’t seen a single episode, unable to find the time on Wednesday night to check in on what has been a pretty great second season. However, I was able to catch up over Spring Break, and spent Monday evening checking out last week’s episode, “Blaze of Glory,” and then following it with “Save My Love.”
Watching them together (they were on the same disc sent by FX) is a really unique experience, and I’m curious to know how viewers who waited a week between episodes responds to the transformative power of “Save My Love.” While I thought “Blaze of Glory” was fine, it was an example of a fairly simple storytelling method: a secondary character (Winona) gets mixed up with a primary case, the two storylines converging for a brief moment before eventually being resolved on their own terms. While the episode had a Justified feel, the material with Art hunting his old nemesis (slowly) being particularly charming, it didn’t really show us or tell us anything about the people involved. It might have said something about Winona, but the “resolution” sort of kept that from being fully investigated.
However, as you have no doubt figured out, “Save My Love” not only offered a stellar example of how serial convergence can function in a procedural setting, but it also dramatically transformed the ending of “Blaze of Glory.” It’s a stealth two-parter, undoing the resolution in a blink of an eye and marching on forward with an unending sense of tension. It’s an obnoxiously tight hour of television, but it also very much depends on both the series’ serial development up to this point and the lack of serial development in some of this season’s episodes.
July 21st, 2010
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The road to redemption is a rocky path.
There is no question that the conclusion to Angel’s first season, “To Shanshu in L.A.,” was a bridge to the second season, with the return of a figure from Angel’s past and a prophecy which indicated that there might be, to quote Angel, “light at the end of the tunnel.”
However, it’s important not to mistake momentum for structure, and “Judgment” makes it extremely clear that not everything is as clean as it seems. The show doesn’t abandon the ramifications of the first season finale, but it does indicate that moving on isn’t an immediate process: rather than clearly establishing a path to salvation, providing the series with a distinct sense of direction, the premiere instead focuses on how the characters are confronting their new reality, and how they will continue to confront it for the rest of the season.
“Judgment” is not interested in turning the series on its ear so much as it desires to establish that nothing has changed but the determination of our lead characters, which sets the stage for an engaging, and unpredictable, second season.