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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Sunday (6/12/11) 10:41pm - ... wherein Peter starts taking notes on 90210.

Hi all --
As preparation for gnap!'s production of improvised 90210, I've been watching the series and taking notes.  So far I've seen 1x01-1x07.

I'm sure I'll have more comments as I keep watching.

These notes are probably not of general interest.

* Score seems to be a vital part of this
        * Very synth-y.
        * Very on-the-nose
        * It punctuates emotional moments and transitions.
                * (Instead of playing throughout, à la LOST.)
* The parents' job is to lose to the kids as often as possible.
        * Also, set up the kids for awesome comeback.
        * Think the sitcom 'dumb guy'; you're the Joey to their Chandler.
* Lots of sitcom-y jokes
        * Don't be afraid to go cheesy on the humor.
* Act-outs appear to be relatively soft
        * They usually go to commercial on the moment the A-story lead character feels really bad about him-/herself.
* Pacing is pretty slow -- they let jokes spin out for a long while
* Dialog can be really, really obvious
        * Even if your character should catch on to what's up, you can play dumb for a beat and demand that people spell things out.
                * "What are you trying to tell me, Brandon?"
* Keep the time period in mind
        * Technology
                * Phones
                        * They don't have cell phones 
                        * They might have car phones
                        * Pay phones:  they exist!
                * They don't have Google
                        * All research happens at the library
        * Clinton just took over the presidency from George H. W. Bush
        * Get the cultural references right if possible
* The leads are virtuous/smart characters whose purpose is to be lured into doing bad/stupid things.
* Have embarrassing teenager moments, but sanitized -- not horrid Freaks & Geeks moments.
* OMG the kids have secret handshakes.
* When talking about science, the writers clearly have no idea what's going on.
        * This goes for any intellectual topic, actually.
* Early episodes feel like they set up high-stakes situations ("Brenda borrows her brother's car, and she...") that lead to low-stakes complications ("... runs out of gas.")
* BUT, you can/should overreact to everything.
        * Most episodes are like a giant game of "It's Tuesday."
                * So, the car running out of gas IS A DISASTER.
* They try to explicitly connect the plot to some broader/vague issue.
        * ("You rich white kids get everything handed to you on a platter!")
        * Always always be obvious about this.
* As a teenager, react to parents as if they're being unreasonable.
        * As a parent, try to be casually unreasonable.
                * Ideally, do so in a way that sets up the teen for a comeback.
                        * Starting with "You don't understand..." is useful.
                                * ... as it sets up, "No, *you* don't understand, Dad!"
        * As a parent, you never have a comeback/the last word.
* A lot of the central cast are defined by qualities that it's much easier for other people to endow them with.
        * As opposed to qualities they endow *themselves* with.
* I'm suspecting that the 'default mode' for an adult in this world is "slightly antagonistic"
        * And with as little understanding as possible.
* For secondary characters, pick one adjective to play and focus on that.
* This show has long establishing shots
        * I guess there's no way to do that onstage.
* Never pass up a chance to have a teenager ask their parent for something ridiculous (i.e. a $300 haircut).
* If Brandon does something even a tiny bit unethical...
        * Pile on the heightening so that he feels as guilty about it as possible.
        * Or make the consequences huge.
* Each episode can have some school club or clique or student that only appears in that one episode, and is never seen again.
* Useful dialog (parent):  "Wow, son.  You have a good point there."
        * Or:  "What you said to me really hit home."
* Useful dialog (teen):  "I can't show my face at school on Monday!  My life is over!"
* Quick C-story runners are useful
        * Such as the 1 or 2 scenes with the Casio
* We need an exercise for "Steve can feel angsty about *anything*"
        * Same goes for "Brandon can feel guilty about anything"
* The robotics lab = comedy gold.
* The show has a puritanical streak, e.g. towards drinking.
        * Again, consequences far outstrip the transgressions.
        * Drinking always leads to disaster.
* Must have beach scenes!
* All horrible problems have pretty clear (if difficult) solutions.
        * "Just join an AA program!"
        * "Just see a shrink!"
* Honestly, maybe our 'get' could be a teen problem.
        * It feels like these shows are written around illustrating some teen trouble.
* A fun line to say to Brandon:  "Yeah, it's unjust, but who's gonna do anything about it?"
* Ending an episode with Brenda reading aloud Brandon's Very Meaningful Essay (or vice versa) = GOLD, I SAY, GOLD

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: ♪ Duh nuh nuh-nuh, duh nuh nuh-nuh! ♫ *tsch tsch*
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