There are lots of movies that would make great TV shows. (I can think of at least seven just right off the top of my head.) Some have rich worlds worthy of further exploration. Some have characters we’d love to see developed more than a movie’s brief runtime allows. And then there’s The Truman Show, which told its story perfectly well in 90 minutes back in 1998, but which Paramount has decided needs to be a TV show anyway.
The Truman Show tidbit came almost as a footnote in The Wrap’s story about Paramount hiring several new people to oversee their TV division, with former AMC exec Jason Fisher getting the big chair as head of production. We already knew there was a new Terminator series in the works which will intertwine with the next film, Terminator: Genesis, but Paramount has now announced the Truman Show series and other shows based on a Charles Lindbergh biography and Caleb Carr’s novel The Alienist. Unfortunately, for the moment nothing else is known about the Truman Show show (I’m going to get tired of typing that).
I mean, I’m not fundamentally opposed to a Truman Show show. Or even deeply cynical about it like I am about, say, Syfy’s 12 Monkeys series adaptation. But the one and only thought that keeps running laps around my brain when I think about a Truman Show show is: “Why?” Truman was a decent enough character and the premise was a nice little tale told well. So why not leave it as that?
But how the hell are you going to drag the story out over the course of a series? Forget the will-they-or-want-they romances at the heart of most sitcoms, this puppy is going to be hobbled by the “When will he figure it all out?” question from day one. How many times are the show-within-a-show’s cast going to slip up and almost reveal to Truman that he’s on a show and he doesn’t realize it? How many of those incidents will audiences be willing to sit through before they decide Truman is a dolt and he deserves what he gets? Eight? A dozen maybe? I’m not seeing the engine for a long-term storyline here.
While we’re at it, part of why The Truman Show worked well was because it was a prescient glimpse at where reality television, and much of our pop culture landscape as a whole, was headed. When The Truman Show hit theaters, Survivor hadn’t premiered yet. Neither had The Amazing Race or American Idol. At the time, The Truman Show was a crazy, far-out extrapolation, a cautionary tale about what people would tacitly endorse if it made for gripping television. But some 15 years later…it just seems kind of quaint, doesn’t it?
I mean, no, we haven’t actually cocooned anybody inside a TV show without their knowledge from the moment of their birth, but that’s mainly because the genre went in a way more weird and inexplicable direction. We’re now in a culture where there’s a whole segment of celebdom who are famous for basically no reason at all, other than that they set out to become famous as a means unto itself. We’ve not only got people launched to fame by sex tapes, we’ve got people creating sex tapes specifically for that purpose, then pretending to be shocked and indignant when their sex tape/audition reel/cry for help gets “leaked.” God as my witness, I cannot tell you why I know who the hell the Kardashians are, but I’m upset that I do, and if I could figure out which part of my brain that knowledge is stored in, I would have taken a soldering iron to it years ago.
Since The Truman Show premiered in 1998, we’ve lived through The Hills, The Jersey Shore, Temptation Island, The Mole, The Simple Life, The Real Wives of Beverly Hills, 16 and Pregnant, My Super Sweet 16, Flavor of Love, and Amish in the goddamn City. The Truman Show is a sweet, earnest relic from a simpler, happier time. It doesn’t stand a chance of surviving in the wild where things like this can happen. Just leave it alone, Paramount. Just leave it alone.