June 10, 2013

Fixing "Granite Flats"


Continuing my ongoing rant from the last two weeks, the sad thing about Granite Flats is that the great idea at the core of the show could have been easily fixed in the scripting stage:

• Don't muddle up the plot lines. The kids want to find the UFO; Chief Sanders wants to exonerate Jenkins. Period.

 • Bring the JAG lawyer in from the start. Sure, make him young and inexperienced, but competent and eager. Learning that Sanders thinks Jenkins is innocent, he ropes in Sanders and charges ahead.

 • If the FBI guys really want to do everything on the sly, they can watch from a distance as the kids collect the pieces of the UFO for their school project. Because who would suspect a bunch of kids?

 • Make the pastor a retired army chaplain who figures out pretty quick what kind of mental state Jenkins is coming from and helps Sanders and the lawyer dig up what really happened in Korea.

 • They learn that Frank was at the scene of the motor pool explosion and have to get him detoxed from his Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test so he can remember what he saw and did.

 • Climax with a John Woo-style standoff when Chief Sanders and the FBI guys show up at the kids' clubhouse at the same time. That's when Sanders sees the scale model and everything clicks.

The story aside, I will say that Granite Flats is visually watchable. Digital cameras and editing suits have matured to the point that a competent cinematographer (Reed Smoot) can produce video indistinguishable from the standard Hollywood product.

The sets are good, the anachronisms not terribly distracting, the acting tolerable, though at times the actors communicate the opposite of what the script surely intended. But I blame that mostly on the lack of a competent and invested showrunner.

Meaning an producer with ultimate creative control of, and responsibility for, the story.

Granite Flats is the sum of bunch of parts. What makes Hollywood so good at consistently cranking out hundreds of scripted shows every season is a pool of showrunners who know how to knit the individual parts together into a cohesive narrative.

Oh, most of them I can't stand watching, but because of the substance of the stories, and less the structure of the stories themselves.

The substance was there to make Granite Flats great. Now with their first "scripted" show in the can, hopefully BYU-TV can stop patting themselves on the back long enough to realize how badly they screwed up the fundamentals of dramatic moral storytelling.

And get it right next time.

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Granite Flats
The negative aesthetic

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