The good idea syndrome

I watch a lot of TV series, and I’m sure most of you can say alike. The format has become even more popular in the last decade, and the quality bar keeps being set higher and higher. Many actors are eager to be part of an episodic show because they have a better chance at developing their character, and the viewers love to grow affection towards their weekly heroes. Also there are stories that fit much better in a serialized context.

In my opinion, the latter has always been the case of The Wakefield Variation, and besides being a fan of many shows myself, I always try to sit in front of the screen with a critical perspective: if I’m trying to make my own show, I can’t help analyzing other people’s work.

That’s why yesterday, just while Italy was showing how far behind the civilized world it still is with the controversial-to-say-the-least family day, I decided the give a shot to the highly praised Amazon Prime‘s show Transparent.

The series tells the story of a family who find out their father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, is a transgender. I just recommend you this show and I won’t go through many details, I’ll just focus on the soundtrack here. The characters find some old records at their dad’s house: when they run into Jim Croce’s Operator, they start to sing along. You might remember my Songs in the key of Wakefield category posts, in which I mentioned the lyrics to Time in a Bottle to be pretty pertinent to the story I was trying to tell.

You may think that Operator has a more specific background which wouldn’t suit The Wakefield Variation as flawlessly: but what is Wakefield trying to do, if not trying to reach out to his ex girlfriend? All right, he’s got his way to do it, and he’s definitely beyond pay phones… but it’s undeniable that he has unresolved issues with that relationship. That’s basically the point of the show, as told in the three-parter web pilot.

I always imagined to use covered versions of existing songs in the show, alongside the original soundtrack, and I’ve been thinking that a female voice could be great to sing Jim Croce. It could be diegetic, with Eleanor or some other character (hint: three more female characters have been outlined during these years of undisclosed development) playing/singing on screen, for some reason. When I saw, and heard, Operator played by the two girls at the end of the pilot episode of Transparent, I had an epiphany.

Maybe I won’t be able to feature a song by Jim Croce in my show, maybe I’ll never get to take The Wakefield Variation to the next level. But I got a confirmation that I might have had a good idea, and that’s enough to keep me in the game, for now.

My Weakness

This is going to be a major post. Not in terms of lenght,  but because of its importance in the whole Wakefield universe. I’m revealing one of the major sources of inspiration here, and the title is not only a reference to my Songs in the key of Wakefield series, it does define an undeniable truth. My Weakness, from 1999 album Play by Moby, was the first “external” song included in the soundtrack of The X-Files (the episode was 7×11 “Closure”) and my devotion to that show is the weakness meant in the subtext.

Not that The Wakefield Variation is going to dig into paranormal anytime soon, but the atmosphere, the mistery, the unresolved tension between the main characters is something I’ve always been looking at when developing our project. The X-Files sits among the best television series ever, and has been the first popular culture phenomenon to spread across the internet back in the 90s. These two things alone should be enough make it a model to us. But that grim chorus repeating itself, mixing so perfectly with Mark Snow‘s music (who praised the choice instead of complaining), kind of made me preview the expression of Wakefield, then greatly portrayed by Michael Brian.

That episode, and that music, marked one the darkest revelations of the show, that is Mulder finding out his sister (whom he spent looking for over two decades of personal and professional life) was dead. Seeing the closure of that obsession – or it becoming immortal – made me think it was the same Wakefield needed to feel towards his relationship with Eleanor… that it was all his experiment was about, overcoming his obsession and being at peace with the world.

If you’re eager to know whether Wakefield is going to succed or not, well we’re even more!

Story

While we were looking for a story to adapt, we knew that we should use a short story. We felt that starting from scratch was too much of a responsability, so we started looking for some inspiration. That’s when I stepped into a bunch of small books at my parents’ house: they’re from a collection of short novels that the italian newspaper La Repubblica published as a bundle in the mid/late 90s. Wakefield came as a “double bill” paired to “The Minister’s Black Veil”, also by Hawthorne.

Wakefield as published by La Repubblica

Wakefield as published by La Repubblica