Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ongoing TV Series Proposals: The Poseidon Adventure/Catastrophe

With total financial collapse looming and such (yesterday I checked how much money was in my bank account, less than needed to pay off my credit card* hopefully today I got paid and thus can pay the card by the deadline on the 10th but when the bill comes in for the crown on my tooth that needed the root canal I am so screwed) I've been trying to label, sort, and catalog my various DVDs.

Clearly a completely rational decision.

A big part of this was spurred on by my DVD player giving a warning sign it might be dying.  If DVDs don't get finalized they can only be read on the player they were recorded on.  If that player craps out then they're Frisbees.  Of course finalization is kind of final which means any changes to a DVD need to be made first.  Such as setting a chapter mark at the end of every commercial break in a double feature of Poseidon and The Poseidon Adventure so that in later viewings one can skip the commercials by hitting the skip to next chapter button the moment a commercial break begins.

Setting those chapter breaks, and removing ones that would land you in the middle of commercials, is a strange experience that's kind of like watching the movies on fast forward with a few parts slowed down and shown in incredible detail.

And this whole lead up has been coming to this:

What I noticed for the first time is that the 2006 movie is about people escaping through the bow.  In The Poseidon Adventure (the original 1972 one linked to above not the 2005 TV movie with Adam Baldwin) the group headed toward the bow was doomed, another group Gene Hackman tried to talk sense into but couldn't save, another spot for disagreement between himself and Ernest Borgnine.

There were no two ways out in the movies, even counting the Adam Baldwin version there was only ever room for one group of survivors.  (To get more than that you needed to hire Michael Caine for Beyond The Poseidon Adventure in 1979.)  But why should that be the case?

According to a quick Google search the modern giant cruise ships (I was searching for "average", I got giant) carry over 4 thousand people (that includes passengers and crew) why should only ten or less survive?

Toss average and go with giant because that's the number I have to work with.  Assume 90% of the people were killed in the capsizing and sinking of the Poseidon.  That gives you 400 people who lived.  If you show an average of eight people escaping per episode that's around three seasons worth of a TV show.  In reality the average will probably be lower meaning more episodes.  Maybe one episode follows two people, but you can't really have another episode follow 14 to make the average work out to the previously mentioned eight because you've only got an hour to get to know those people.  Not enough time for 14 people.

The original movie took two hours to aquatint you with six survivors, averaging three per hour.  The Adam Baldwin movie upped that to, if I remember correctly, 11 survivors, 5.5 per hour.  The new movie goes back down to six.  Beyond the Poseidon Adventure I don't remember how many survived but two of them weren't even from the ship to begin with.

My point here is that episodes would likely have only a handful of survivors in them because an hour of TV just isn't that much time to get to know people, so the 90% fatality rate that I gave earlier would mean that you wouldn't need to worry about running out of survivors to build your episodes around any time soon.  Instead the question would be how you can keep the basic premise ("We have to escape from an upside-down ship.") interesting.

The idea allows for no regular cast (more like Twilight Zone/Outer Limits [are there any largely upbeat anthology shows?] than Star Trek/Doctor Who) and would likely be roundly rejected by everyone with the power to make a TV series.

An opening narration, which should probably be personalized to each episode (on of the survivors of the episode giving the voice to the voice over) might go like this:

Everyone heard about the story on the news, but no one ever told it right.  The focus was always on death, not life.  The great tragedy, not the small triumphs.

If you look at the story as a picture, or perhaps an out of focus helicopter video, and a death toll then you miss the actual story.

If you focus on the ninety percent who died then you're missing what really matters:

One in ten lived.  The ninety percent all have the same story, that ended the same day.  And so, even with their overwhelming numbers, they represent just a tiny piece of the puzzle.  One minor part of the picture.  If you want to know the real story you have to look at the other ten percent.  How did they live, how did they get out when so many others didn't.

Stories aren't meant to be told by pundits and sensationalists who care only for how much they can inflate their ratings.  Stories are told by survivors.  And if you want to know the story of the Poseidon your first question has to be: "How did they survive?"

Except, you know, better.  I'm tired and out of sorts now.  Thus the above isn't all it could be.  Plus, individualizing for the episodes should go beyond just the voice saying the voice over, it should go into the content of the voice over.  Basic idea ("It's not about the 90% who died, it's about the 10% who lived,") would be unchanged but the details, as well as what is stressed as important in the voice over, would change from episode to episode.


* Keeping track of what day it is matters.  I get 200 dollars a month in food money on a food card.  Money that can only be used for food.  This is a good thing because it means that no matter how fucked everything else may become I'll always at least be assured of food.  If the money could be put toward housing or debt reduction or whatnot then that wouldn't be true.  Money that can only be used for its intended purpose is a GOOD THING.  It means that no matter how I may fuck up I need not fear hunger.

(If I had a landlord who wanted to bleed me dry they could not count the food money amougst the income to be squeezed out of me because it can only be used for food.)

But while it is a good thing it's still possible to fuck up a good thing.  The money comes in on a specific day.  Normally I keep that in mind and am well on top of exactly how much money is left.  For some reason I wasn't thinking right.  I stocked up, got a month's worth of food, four days before the money came in.  I think I had seven dollars left on the card.  Maybe it was nine.  An odd number less than ten for sure.

So there, at the register, I had to make a snap decision.  Do I say, "Fuck it, I can't pay," and make the entire shopping trip be for nothing, or do I put it on my credit card?  I put it on the card.

Add that to other expenses during the month which were themselves unusually high (computer problems and whatnot that needed to be fixed) and the previous drain on my bank account from the root canal and... fuck.

Today I should have gotten my monthly, "Hey, your disabled," payment.  Didn't manage to make myself get around to checking during bank hours.  I'll check tomorrow.  If I have enough then I'll pay the card then, but it's clear that my savings are tending toward negative numbers just based on the fact that without the gap between the payment I get and the payment that's due I'd have less than nothing.

Sometimes life sucks.


  1. I think the lack of regular characters is indeed a problem in the modern TV market. As with Car Chase Aftermath, a graphic novel could provide some continuity by showing the same (early) events from different angles, shifting people between foreground and background shots, and most importantly having a distinctive visual style.

  2. I really love this. I am a person who loves watching disaster shows and rescue shows. I think it would be really cool if there were people who were able to save others because of their familiarity with some supposedly unimportant thing about the ship. Like super-good...janitors, or something, whose being really good at their jobs meant they knew everything because they knew how to get to it and how to clean it?

    I think you can do the episodic thing if you have someone tying it together, ala Twilight zone? A host? Or maybe if you introduced all the survivors at the beginning and then the group of them could be having discussions for part of the voiceover?