Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Puzzle of Romance

First I want to mention that the survey insertion I put in the blog text a few weeks ago actually worked!

That survey was made on google documents (which you can find if you make a google account and search their menus -- I find mine on my google email page).

Once you folks had entered data, I was able to go to the google documents page where it displays the results as a bar code. It doesn't say who said what, only how many clicked this or that option.

This service is part of the newest wave of innovation called Cloud Computing and I've been seeing more and more articles on it. Businesses are adopting this concept very fast, pushed by the recession, because it's a cheaper way of running computers than having your own IT department.

The concept is that one team of IT experts can run the servers, update and debug the software, run security, etc at a central location. Then when a business needs to do research, needs computing power, needs collaborative documents -- the desk folk all log onto the Internet and work on the distant server just as if that server were in the basement of the building the business is using. Pretty soon, businesses won't need offices!

At any rate, word is that Microsoft is getting very nervous and trying to cut off a piece of that pie for themselves. It totally changes their business model. And that's what we need to do with Alien Romance - change the underlying business model.

Thank you for participating in my little experiment.

I have a list of topics rattling around in my head that I should talk about on this blog, (I'm making quick comments on them at http://editingcircle.blogspot.com/ )

But today I can't seem to get any of those topics to assemble into a point I can actually make in this limited space.

So let's talk a little more about how and why it happens that the Romance field in general (perhaps the Alien Romance, Paranormal Romance field in particular) just can't get the public respect it deserves.

I've said before, and I believe some of the others posting here have also noticed, that Science Fiction became much more publicly acceptable, more accessible, and attracted feature film money and even won Emmy and Oscars where SF never did before, after Star Trek hit the TV screen. Today, when I say, "I'm a science fiction writer," I get a totally different reaction than I did even right after Star Trek.

Daily Variety has a RAVE (and I mean RAVE!!!) review of the new Star Trek movie. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117940096.html?categoryid=31&cs=1

What Alien Romance needs, then is a TV show.

MAYBE WE HAVE ONE! Maybe there's something in these 2 TV shows that we can build on. If you don't watch TV, you can browse through these shows online.

Reaper TV Series http://www.cwtv.com/shows/reaper

Supernatural TV Series http://www.cwtv.com/shows/supernatural

Neilsen Ratings for Reaper and Supernatural for mid-April indicate (if I'm reading this page right) about 2 million people watch it live or immediately after on their recording device. I watch them several weeks after on my DVR. Keep in mind there are about 310 million people in the USA, (2010 is a census year). CW is a broadcast network and it may not be on all cable systems. Scifi channel is cable, but not on all cable channels.

Still, statistics are showing that with all the different ways to spend your evenings, a lower percentage of the population is watching TV. The general demographic of TV watchers is growing older (i.e. young people prefer games and their computers). So 2 million is a fairly respectable audience, given the venue. I'm looking at this not for popularity, but for taste.

Reaper and Supernatural seem to be doing better than Smallville which I also love (but not as much as I loved Lois and Clark).

http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/04/21/top-cw-primetime-shows-april-13-19-2009/17139 is one of my sources.

REAPER is the one about the young guy whose father sold his soul to the Devil. The Devil now is billing himself as the young man's father, and has entrapped him into collecting souls that "escaped" from Hell. (the whole game could be rigged -- conspiracies within conspiracies).

Choosing Setting is one of the topics rattling in my mind: all about how a writer chooses a setting, how the plot adjusts when you shift the setting, and what commercial advantages you get from settings. Reaper's Setting is a do-it-yourself chain store, and most of the main characters work there.

The show is about the relationships these young people develop, and what all that has to do with Evil, and how Evil weasels its way into lives.

We've had some very interesting entries on this blog about how titillating the BAD BOY image is. Tough guys, bad boys and the alpha male seem to be attractive in a visceral way. None of the human characters on REAPER are alpha male or female. The Devil is the alpha in the show. And the ongoing demon characters are all non-alpha and not very Evil either.

The recent episode of REAPER that brought the Romance aspect to mind was about a demon lurking in an old silver mine, a soul that Son of the Devil had to collect in a "vessel" shaped this time like a hand grenade. (each week, the vessel he collects a soul in has a different form -- they go for the funniest thing they can think of.)

A character they are developing is an escaped renegade demon who takes the form of a nice tall blond girl in love with the Hispanic lead character (short, dark, handsome guy).

In this episode, the 3 boys and 2 of the 3 girls (sans female demon who wanted to be alone to consume a Llama, but later comes to the town flying in her demon shape) went to this deserted silver mining town (in excellent repair) to collect the soul that lurks in the old mine and kills people.


In the end, the boy whose father is The Devil has to decide if a human who has been protecting the demon lives or dies.

He tells the human that he doesn't have to die. He can live a new, full, satisfying life. BUT - when arguing with the demon who wants to kill the human because the human has killed her lover (but that didn't really happen), the son of the Devil says to the demon that she should let him live because he'll have to live with the knowledge of all the horrible things he's done, and that will be torture.

Later, the demon says she found the Son of the Devil sexy because he's turning Evil! (but this demon isn't supposed to be Evil anymore)

At the end, (which my DVR cut off at a strategic spot), the Son of the Devil and his girlfriend are talking over what happened. She breaks off her relationship with him because Evil has invaded every part of his life.

She realized this because of the events in the ghost town. The ghost town excursion was orchestrated by the Devil, who is now proud of his Son who can take any blow no matter how severe.

The scripts for this show have been getting better written! You can actually see the point, understand them and discuss them instead of just laughing.

As they go season to season, the ensemble cast of REAPER has begun the pairing-off dance that we saw done so well on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

As idiotic as the premise and most of the execution of this teen-comedy has seemed to me, I actually have some hope for this show. The impact will be seen as the audience that loves this show grows up and looks for the kind of thing we would call Romance. But I suspect a lot of married adults are watching this show just for the laughs.

Supernatural is likewise popular with just under 2 million viewers, involves two brothers, and The Devil complete with demons, minions and characters who say they are Angels. But the plot requires these (handsome) brothers to break off every Relationship they get into except perhaps with demons.

The existence and survival of these two shows tells us a lot about the forming and flowing of audiences, and the appetite for Relationship which will eventually bespeak the issues of Romance and the HEA ending.

I'm perpetually puzzling over the "Soul Mate" aspect of Romance, and this particular episode of REAPER brought in the sexual attractiveness of Evil, which we play with as the Bad Boy.

And these two shows -- which I thought would surely be cancelled halfway through their first seasons -- are expressing a philosophy of life that resonates with a broad swatch of the TV viewing audience. I have a lot to say about what this popularity says about the present and the future as shaped by viewers of these shows.

There's a whole lot going on in this world, yet Romance survives. Perhaps the question is, "Does humanity need Romance to survive?" I'd say it's our only hope.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Anonymous10:25 PM EDT

    Hey, really appreciate your insights about Reaper, and ratings. Sure some aspects of the show are silly, but some of us diehard fans hold out the same hope you do--that the show will capitalize on its awesome premise.

    For it to have time to do so, we're pushing some Save our Show campaigns. Join us if you want, at reaperdmv.com.

    I really like your writing and ideas!

  2. I must admit I quickly gave up on REAPER because the slacker dude characters just turned me off. Now I'm a little sorry I didn't stick with it (it being too late to catch up with the story arc now, and besides I have a hard time fitting all the shows I DO watch -- even with a DVR, one still has to find TIME to watch the recordings).

    We DID have an alien romance TV series once upon a time -- BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. I wonder how it would have developed if the actress playing Catherine hadn't pulled out, causing her character to die (thereby killing the series). Fanfic writers have come up with many possible directions for the seasons that never were. There was a solid romance subplot in ALIEN NATION, which alas lasted only one season but had several follow-up TV movies, which were also good.

  3. There's a huge difference between sex and romance. While sex ensures biological survival of the species, romance levels the playing field and gives us a reason to live.

    I wrote about this a while ago at Romancing the Blog-