It’s not been on for a couple of months, but for whatever reason I’ve been thinking about Ted Lasso, the TV show whose success is just as heartwarming as the show itself. Ten or so years ago a TV show this relentlessly sincere just wouldn’t have got made. Everything had to be laced with cynicism and irony, especially comedy.
In a talk to a group of writers at Leeds Playhouse a few years ago, the wonderful Jo Clifford once said that awards are too often won by gloomy plays that confirm our worst fears about the world. Plays that uncynically, sincerely live in hope, that dare to dream, or even demand that the world might be changed, are usually dismissed as naïve. They don’t win things.
Shows that live and end in gloom confirm our fears. This is reassuring. Things are bleak, they’re inevitably bleak, there’s no point in trying to fight the bleakness. Five stars.
We have to risk naivete in order to effect change.
Of course I’m not saying that all you have to do to win awards is be miserable. But if you want to make a positive contribution, look clearly into the fact that you’re less likely to win awards. Think hard about why you’re really doing this. Do you want prizes? Or do you want to help people live well in the dark?
My award-winningest show, Going Viral, is also my gloomiest. There’s a lot I love about that show, but its downbeat ending I consider a capitulation. Would it still have won awards if it had ended in hope? I don’t know. But I’d prefer it that way.
Nor am I saying you can’t go to dark places. Hell, Ted Lasso does that. Sincerity, lack of cynicism, these aren’t in fact the same as naivete or sentimentality. Life is incredibly hard. The world is a bleak and oppressive place. But if we’re going to dig into these things, let’s come back to the surface with hope or tools for change.
Running with an idea
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