Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Dead" the television series

This is an extension of the "Land of the Dead" post below, more specifically the idea of an ongoing television series. I would simply call it "Dead".

Premise

"Dead" the series would blend elements of the four George Romero zombie horror films into an ongoing series. "Night of the Living Dead" was set in a rural atmosphere. "Dawn of the Dead" started in the media then progressed to a shopping mall. "Day of the Dead" covered the military and scientific side in an isolated environment. Finally, "Land of the Dead" takes place in the future assuming all aspects of military and government have been destroyed, leaving two distinct social classes in a claustrophobic fortified setting. The series would start in urban settings but include characters from a rural setting. Running parallel would be a government and/or military environment that would eventually include a scientific aspect. The urban settings would fall quickly into chaos leaving small pockets of humanity in the story. Rural settings would hold their own against the outbreak due to even victim to attacker ratio and a less dense population (does not spread as fast). Various urban (the mall), military (secret base) and rural (various terrain) sub-plots would emerge and hold for a while. The rural settings would maintain humanity until they are undermined by humanity, i.e. their eventual downfall would be at the hands of man, not zombie. As the rural and urban settings fall, the isolated military settings would take stage until they collapsed upon themselves. The series from that point forward would stay in the fortified pockets of humanity building and evolving themselves until a logical end of the series could be reached.

Characters

The "zombies" would be the main characters but never the "stars" so to speak. To bring a more scientifically believable aspect to a scientifically impossible situation would require some alteration to the zombie profile. Zombies would start out as what is referred to as "rage" zombies like "28 Days Later" and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake; fast and horrifically violent. Days later the zombies would denigrate as they fight off the things that make zombies impossible: rigor mortis, muscle loss due to energy expended without metabolic replacement, etc. The final result would be the grotesque "shambler" present in Romero's movies.

Protagonists:

  • the rural character(s), surviving but ending up in the fortified urban setting
  • the news media personality, urban
  • the mall security guard
  • the scientist(s)
  • the crooked individual turned good by the outbreak, urban, leadership
  • the urban refugees: a nurse, a strip-club owner, a dancer, etc.

Villians:

  • military leaders poor in their leadership roles
  • a Hollywood mogul (eventual leader of a fortress city)
  • the cowardly bigot
  • the independent know-it all
  • the bigot

Timeline

The timeline would start in an urban setting, mostly to get the rapid escalation within a believable context. That was one thing that I didn't like about "Night of the Living Dead", for a mostly rural setting the disease (just calling it disease for simplicity, who knows what really causes this) spread quickly. The DVD extras for the "Dawn of the Dead" remake had some good ideas that involved media hysteria and racial tensions that let the outbreak evolve quickly before anyone understood what was going on. The rural and military settings would integrate themselves. Eventually the three settings would have to fall leading to the fortress cities.

Pilot (urban)

  • Starts in rural settings where first death returns to the living: drug deal gone bad?
  • Race riots covered by news
  • Individual situations introduce some urban characters
  • Descent into chaos

Season one:

  1. Escape from news, end up at mall – new characters, let other's in?
  2. Common cause, uniting somewhat amongst the chaos
  3. Survivors; bus spots news chopper – eventually let it adding to group
  4. Television dies/pullback to Beverly Hills defensive perimeter (rich mogul)
  5. Doubts about leadership, each other, motives
  6. More survivors want in, debated over, zombie gets inside
  7. A hero dies (amongst others)
  8. Choices, more people = more supplies, less space, greater risk
  9. Leadership overthrown, citizens in control
  10. Use copter, strip club rescue – two more survivors, more food and supplies
  11. Cancer man dies, reanimates, people die; realization of what's going on
  12. The world is gone now/escape from LA (rich mogul)

Season two:

  1. Isolation
  2. Maybe it's not so bad after all
  3. Too many chiefs?
  4. Separation in small places
  5. Boredom
  6. Contact over the radio
  7. Contact lost
  8. More survivors, don't let them in, moral dilemma
  9. Invaded part one
  10. Invaded part two
  11. Then there were four, isolated, escape plans made
  12. Fall of the mall

Pilot (rural setting)

  • Characters meet in farm house
  • News and tension
  • Attempted escape, failure
  • Rescued but what of the rest of the world?

Season one:

  1. Hunting and killing
  2. Wandering
  3. Small town, eventually ruined
  4. Survival
  5. Supplies? The group thins.
  6. Tension builds, the fight for leadership
  7. Go to the city? Head for the hills?
  8. The split, group thins
  9. Safe haven in a small town
  10. Return of the city's influence
  11. City pollution
  12. Fall of the small town

Season two:

  1. Scattered
  2. Hunger
  3. Return to the farm house
  4. Uncertain future
  5. Back to basics
  6. Finally normal
  7. Attack of the posse
  8. Prisoners
  9. Escape
  10. Prisoners again, this time alone in the farm house
  11. And then there was one
  12. To the city, no place else to go

Pilot (government/scientific/military)

  • Introduce some characters
  • Military delegates to local law enforcement (who wish to handle situation)
  • National Guard involved

Season one:

  1. What to do? We don't know
  2. Deny everything/scientists start asking questions
  3. Rest of world starts to suffer, third worlds fall
  4. Use of military force, martial law, curfew that nobody can enforce
  5. Local law enforcement falls, overseas presence disappears
  6. Desperate realization that threat cannot be stopped
  7. Realization of what is going on, go public/scientific community tapped
  8. Rounding up the brains, not many survive
  9. Escape from Fort Pastor?
  10. Regroup at the capitol, leadership is failing
  11. Team assembles, President makes radio speech
  12. Escape from the capitol as zombies overwhelm government in a blood bath

Season two:

  1. Into the bunker
  2. Watching as the world crumbles around them
  3. Searching for answers, major has ideas (STUN satellite radiation)
  4. Where are the answers? Is it God's work?
  5. More answers than questions
  6. Need more specimens; tension between military, scientists and "mad" scientist grows
  7. The major dies, leaving the colonel in charge
  8. The colonel asserts himself demanding results, scientists in fear
  9. Contact lost with other scientists, sense of gloom deepens
  10. The president is dead (government ceases to exist)
  11. The colonel oppresses more
  12. Scientist killed, soldier commits suicide, zombies attack, few escape

Just some ideas.

3 comments:

Mike said...

Cool idea Grouchy.

If you really want to get hardcore, one thing I would suggest is reading up on how the show "Lost" was created. Essentially Lost began as an idea an ABC exec had, where folks would be stranded on an island. That was it. The pitch went to some writers, who drew up a history of the island and an overall plot line for the entirety of the show.

The analogy that has been used is that the plot line could be expressed as someone who plans to drive from LA to NYC. When you map out your journey, you have specific things you want to see. You want to check out the Grand Canyon, perhaps see Mt Rushmore, stop at Crew Stadium, piss on RFK Stadium, etc.

However, along the way to your major stop at the Grand Canyon, you can go and checkout the side attractions depending upon what the kids think will be cool. They want to stop at Six Flags in Chicago, you stop. Not planned, but an activity you could check out.

So as an example, for the first season, they knew that (unless the show was cancelled) they would enter the hatch and that something would happen at sea.

They already know how the 2nd season will end. What they decide to explore in the 26 odd episodes between now and then, really depends upon the what the kids (the audience) wants to see.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on it. You need to get less engrained on the details of minor story arcs per episode, and more into the major story arc with descriptions of the sideshow minor arcs.

Grouchy said...

Thanks for the comments.

The major story arc would be the world slowly succumbing to the recently dead returning to "life" due to some pathogen or radiation; then how this world deals with the new paradigm. This initial concept deals with an entire planet and the thousands of unique solutions to that problem that differ due to social atmosphere, surroundings, behavior, race, age, gender, wealth, power etc.

If you look at the first season of the new Battlestar Galactica this more or less meets the model I was considering (although not consciously written that way). The new BSG is a world quickly succumbing to holocaust (Cylons nuking the human race) then having to deal with their new world of circumstance. The first season had intertwined threads that involved one of the nuked and occupied home planets (Caprica), a religious excursion (Kobol) but mainly the fleet and the battlestar. The second season has stayed mostly within the fleet with intruding changes to the norm (Cylon boarding, the Pegasus).

The idea here was to use the zombie holocaust and the earth succumbing to as the major story arc with three distinct settings dealing with it. I kept with Romero's first three settings: rural (farm house), urban (news and the mall) and military (bunker). Eventually as the story progressed the sub-arcs in individual settings would merge into one arc similar to what "Land of the Dead" currently has: the rich living trying to live in a world as if nothing changed with the reality outside being much different.

In the real world, it would be a team of writers working together with a lead concept artist to produce this. In reality it's some nerd sitting in his basement with spare time and the occasional creative outburst.

Actually, that gives me an idea...

Mike said...

That's essentially how any of these shows are written.

I encourage you to read "Radio Free Javi" http://www.livejournal.com/users/chaodai/

This guy is a writer on Lost. Unfortunately, the best post on the creative process has been deleted since it was ragging on one of the writers who left (and wrote the emmy winning episode "Walkabout") and critizied the whole creative team.

The other thing they did, was they had writers write a bunch of backstories for characters without knowing anything about the overall story arc. So for example, have some people write backgrounds for 4-6 major and 8-10 medium characters and then incorporate those stories into an overall arc. Adds more realism.

I need to watch Battlestar, I've heard its excellent. The one good thing that Reality TV brought us is the return of well written dramas.