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By Randal Stevens · May 18, 2010
I had never intended to write this blog. Weeks ago when I first sat down to convince the world that David Simon was too brilliant to live, I had thought there would only be two parts to what has now become a three-part series. I had thought that his non-fiction novel, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets,” and the pilot of “Treme” would be more than enough to convince the doubters that Simon is better at life than we all are. But after the blogs were published and I went through and re-read them a few times (because I’m narcissistic like that), I realized that it would be entirely possible that some people could raise some counter arguments, especially when it comes to “Treme.” After all, Simon probably has very little – if anything – to do with the music, the opening credit sequence and the performances of the show, all of which I listed as overwhelming strengths. Sure, some people may say that. Those people are wrong.
Now, these people are not wrong in the sense that Simon is actually involved in every aspect of the show. They’re wrong in the sense that even if he has nothing to do with any aspect of the show besides its creation, he’s still irrevocably brilliant. You see, even though there are musicians who write the soundtrack, designers who create the titles, actors who bring the characters to life and directors to handle the translation of each teleplay to the screen, none of that would be possible had Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer not written the show to begin with. Simon’s brilliance has allowed other brilliance to flourish. Without a pitch, without an idea, without that pilot script, there is no show. Every fire begins with a spark and Simon, as he did with “The Wire,” has once again provided that spark.
This, unfortunately, is what the entertainment industry still largely overlooks. There are exceptions, of course, but writers, for the most part, are still the whipping boys of the film and television industry. In the film industry, directors get all the glory whereas the screenwriters can be ditched once their product is purchased. In the TV industry, executive producers are the cream of the crop whereas an episode writer is just one member of a larger group. Either way, the people who create the ideas, the people who incite the great films and TV shows, are vastly overlooked and that’s a shame. Akira Kurosawa, commonly looked upon as one of the greatest directors of all time, had this to say about scripts:
“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. The script must be something that has the power to do this.”
Joe Eszterhas, the writer of Basic Instinct and Flashdance, has taken these words to heart in writing his very effectual book, “The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God.” I’m not sure I necessarily agree, but I do agree with the sentiments that the writer is due much more credit than he or she receives. Far too often, writers are neglected, abused, ripped off and generally under-appreciated. I’m an unrecognized writer in a see of unrecognized writers. But not David Simon. David Simon is prolific, brilliant, widely recognized and deserving of all the credit he receives. For that, I hate him.