TV critics are surprised the miniseries The Slap has wound up on NBC. At the TCA Winter Press Tour today, one of them warned creators and cast that it likely won’t gain any Emmy recognition. That’s because, of course, the TV Academy typically snubs broadcast content in its best-miniseries categories (and movies, and drama series, and …). The Slap explodes from an incident in which a man slaps another couple’s misbehaving child and the fallout pulls a family apart, exposes long-held secrets, ignites a lawsuit, etc.
Show participants onstage were not fazed by the critics’ concern. That includes playwright-screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz, who famously created and was “ousted, not fired” from ABC’s family drama Brothers & Sisters. At the time of that ousting, he said working in broadcast TV went, in round numbers, like this: “(The) demographic demands that have turned America into an ageist and youth-obsessed nation drives the storylines younger and younger, whiter and whiter, and with less and less reflection of the real America, which is made up — to the sorrow of research departments — of people over 35 years of age and of many ethnicities and incomes.” He vowed he would “never again have to do a notes call wherein the fear and seasickness of the creative execs always prevails over taking a risk, resulting more often than not in muddy and flattening or treacly-sweet compromises after a stolid and pointless series of writerly objections.”
He also vowed to “never again enter into another relationship with a studio (or perhaps person) in either hope or fear, only the stoic certitude of a veteran of foreign wars.” And he warned “execs on my next show” in re notes: “You won’t wanna be giving me too many of them. Sorry, I shan’t roll over ever again.”
Seven years later, TV critics mentioned that essay in passing, as Baitz took the stage to talk about his eight-episode mini, which he adapted from the 2011 Australian short-run series that was based on the 2008 best-selling novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas.
“I’ve been a playwright in the wrong place at the wrong time everywhere I go,” Baitz explained. “Suddenly there is a Golden Age of Television again.” This NBC miniseries, he said, is maybe “the only instance … of being at the right place at the right time.”
The Slap, he said, “feels as collaborative as any process I’ve ever had, and if this is what television is going to be now, I’m thrilled to be part of that.”
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