I have several severe TV writer crushes. Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), Steven Moffatt (Coupling, Doctor Who), Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Vicar of Dibley). Men and women who write stories with wit and romance and a strong dash of humour and heartbreak.
But the king of all my TV writer crushes is Joss Whedon. I really need to buy that “Joss Whedon is my master now” t-shirt. He really is fangirl squee-worthy and if I ever did have to talk to him I would be a dribbly mess.
Firstly, he wrote Buffy which had monsters and kickass women and a romance that people still haven’t gotten over (in fact, several romances that people still haven’t gotten over). The idea of the blonde teen who goes into the dark alley and kicks the monster’s butt instead of getting eaten is my kind of idea. And Angel wasn’t too shabby either, despite the fact it had to get wrapped up too fast. And then, just when I thought I couldn’t love him any more (seriously, once in a writing workshop we were asked to describe who we wanted to be as writers and I said the lovechild of Jenny Crusie and Joss Whedon), he created Firefly.
A western set in space.
A vast space opera that takes place largely on one tiny ramshackle spaceship on the edge of civilisation.
A protectionist government and man-eating space pirates.
The projection of earth civilisation into space based on the premise that only China and the US survived whatever wars for power might be. So everyone is bilingual and cross cultural (okay, so actually, having your characters being able to say wickedly filthy things in Chinese to get around the TV censors is sheer brilliance).
But what Joss does brilliantly is write about communities. By the time I got to the end of the first episode I was invested in the characters and the little family they were building. A bunch of people finding their place (which is one of my favourite themes in stories). The loner bad boy captain with the heart he can’t quite cut off (and seriously, what isn’t to love about Nathan Fillion in breeches)? The warrior woman second in command with the beta-est of beta husbands, the girl genius mechanic and the villainous muscle who isn’t entirely sure why he doesn’t just work out how to steal what they have and leave them in his dust. The preacher, the doctor and his puzzle of a damaged sister who sets the story into motion. And the courtesan who has the most respectable job of any of them in that particular culture.
All of them individual and real and with their own agendas. They fight and they make up and they tease each other and they turn on anyone who threatens them with ferocity. And despite their better judgement, they stick together and they take on new members of their family who are just going to get them into trouble and they fall in love.
Joss gets community. He also gets romance though he does have a regrettable habit of putting his couples through hell (he’s not quite on the George RR Martin scale of character death but important people die in Joss’s world). He writes about fear and strength and love and family. And he does it all while blowing stuff up, pulling off heists and giving his characters some of the best banter going round.
And I’ll always mourn that there isn’t more Firefly after that one short first season and the movie. Truly one of the great TV tragedies (why oh why Fox??), considering how much money it’s made in DVD and otherwise. I watch all of it several times a year and don’t get tired of it. Because in my heart, Serenity is still flying and Captain Mal and the others are still having adventures. And I’ll be wearing my browncoat proudly.
What TV shows do you love and why?
MJ Scott is an unrepentant bookworm. Luckily she grew up in a family that fed her a properly varied diet of books and these days is surrounded by people who are understanding of her story addiction. When not wrestling one of her own stories to the ground, she can generally be found reading someone else’s. Her other distractions include yarn, cat butlering, dark chocolate and fabric. She lives in Melbourne, Australia and you can visit her via her website or follow her on Twitter.