Friday, May 20, 2011

Avoiding The Extremely Ridiculous

Lately I have been watching the first two seasons of the old 90's teen series California Dreams. It has made me quite thankful for the advent of Netflix, and my subsequent subscription to the service. Without Netflix, I probably would have bought this when it came out on DVD out of pure nostalgia and then ended up a month or two down the line selling the set and wishing I hadn't wasted my money.

Watching this show is a weird experience. It's not entirely bad, mind you, but I would be hard pressed to say that I am completely enjoying watching the show again. If you're not aware of this show, it was part of NBC's late Saturday morning lineup aimed at teens and preteens. It was probably the most successful of those series after Saved By The Bell, with which it had much in common. Instead of focusing on the group of kids' hijinks in school, however, California Dreams was centered around the band formed by the main cast and followed their attempts to get gigs and deal with the "typical" teenage problems all while balancing life with the band. I say "typical" with quotes like that, but actually I have to admit, even though the drama is heightened for television, the actual issues the show dealt with for the most part were things that, as a teenager, were often a big deal to me. It is just that the problems and their solutions are so ridiculously portrayed that I have a hard time taking it seriously now.

But when I was a kid, I adored this show. It was second in my affections only to Saved By The Bell, I have to admit. That's why I wanted to watch the show again, after all. But it doesn't really hold up well to the test of time, I suppose. I don't know how surprising that is, given that even after my complete rewatch of all of SBTB, I ended up giving away those DVDs.

It probably doesn't help that I married a professional musician, so the whole band aspect of the show now just makes me cringe. Also the music, while being mostly inoffensive, is so bland. The band didn't have its own sound, they just played whatever kind of sounded like what was popular at the time. Watching it now, having the experiences with actual musicians that I have, I just feel like these kids are posers. I know, I know, it's silly. It's just a television show. But my life has altered the way I look at that kind of stuff. Plus the producers apparently had no idea what live music was supposed to sound like. I mean, come on. Sigh.

So why I am I still watching? Well, there is the part of me that is enjoying the trip down memory lane. As I said, I did love this show once. It is nice getting to revisit with that Cori of a bygone day and remember her hopes and dreams (and subscription to Big Bopper). Like I said, it is not all bad. The show has its amusing moments. Besides, as I ride out the last of my pain meds from this week's dental escapades, it is the perfect level of mindless distraction.

It's been getting more and more awkward though. True sitcoms are few and far between these days, and of those that are still around, I don't watch very many of them. Those that I do enjoy are, I would like to think, a little bit off the beaten path and have evolved past the old-school format. California Dreams, though, is from a time when that old format was flourishing. As someone who is trying to be a storyteller, the formulaic approach to the show is, at best, tiring to sit through. It makes me very glad to have access to all of the smart, well-written, modern shows I have access to these days.

There is a fine line between funny and ridiculous, and this show wasn't even trying to stay behind it. I have found as I get older that some of the more obvious attempts at humor--the physical, the slapstick, the playing dumb--are much more rarely able to make me laugh than actual wit. What makes this whole experience awkward for me personally is that I have recently been thinking that I want to try my hand at writing something funny.

The people behind National Novel Writing Month recently announced that they want to do a NaNoWriMo Summer Camp this year. The idea is to allow people who really can't devote the kind of time required in November or the people who want to write more than one novel in a month during the year a chance to have the fun in a month other than November. My writing buddy (who is a teacher, and for whom November was very much less than ideal) and I of course want to participate in the summer camp.

I know, I know. But Cori, you haven't even actually started revising your novel from last November! Why would you want to write another one? Yes, yes, you're right. But...let's not talk about last year's book right now. It will get done if it gets done and right now is not that time.

But back to summer camp. So, my friend and I want to try our hands at another novel-in-a-month this summer. After giving it some thought, I told my husband I wanted to just write something fun and silly. Silly. Not ridiculous. Not unintelligent.

Quite some time ago I mentioned that I wish I could capture some of the fun and funny the way that the Harry Potter books do. Every night I read a few pages of those books to my daughter (we're on the last one now), and whenever there's a funny scene, it just makes me itch to create something in the same vein. So when I say I would like to write something fun and silly, I am thinking something like my favorite bits from Harry Potter. Something along the lines of greats like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. But watching California Dreams, I have started getting worried that perhaps that is the best I will be able to do. Hence the awkward.

Not gonna stop me from trying. Hopefully my fears are what will help me avoid that particular path. I mean, I don't even have an actual story in mind yet, it's early days. But oh my goodness do I hope it's more Neville causing a distraction by turning into a canary than Sly and the rest of the guys dressed up as girls getting hit on by the football team. Sigh.

Note to self: All of the writers I listed above to emulate are British. Perhaps it would be a good idea to watch lots of Coupling and drink lots of tea while getting prepared to write. Also, avoid setting it at the beach with surfers in a rock band.



Oh, and as it is Friday already (when the heck did that happen?), don't forget to swing on over and check out this week's Gronk! I am super excited because preorders for the first Gronk book start next week. Huzzah! Also, now I want to make a Gronk plushy....

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