Own goal

So anyway, I was just after saying last week that there is never a time when sex in films or TV works. I mean, when it keeps you in the story, when it is the story, and there’s not even a pixel in your head noticing that the woman has been lit softly and that camera angles on the man make him look taller.

Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel raised a hand. While I think it’s fair to say she agreed with me about when sex scenes are poor, she had a perfect counter argument. As eloquent as she always is, it all boiled down to the word ‘Outlander’. It’s the title of a series dramatised by Ronald D Moore, based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels, and documented in delicious detail by blogger Maureen Younger.

Up to that point I’d been thinking that, well, we just have different opinions and then here was that word. And now it’s nope, she’s right and I’m wrong.

I’ve only seen one episode of that show but it was exquisite and there was sex that, just as Hayley says, was very much everything I insisted it never is. Half a dozen things were going on with characters beyond what was happening with their skin and whatever the opposite of gratuitous is, that’s what it was.

I have no idea either why I forgot that or why I haven’t yet seen a second episode.

Anyway, I love having my mind changed, it is exhilarating to be persuaded of an alternative point of view – and especially these days when we all seem locked into our perspectives on the world.

I’m obviously thinking of politics but this week I was also talking with someone and she made me realise that we’re riddled with perspectives and biases about everything. And that if they’re how we navigate the world, you know that oftentimes they are limiting us.

We just can’t always see how. And this one time, I think I can.

What this friend said was that I’d reminded her that she owns her writing. What I’d actually said was that writing is not a democratic process and that whoever told her she had to leave a particular line in a piece was talking bollocks.

It’s the norm or at least the fashion in writing that you show your work to people you respect and take their criticism. But around seven hundred years ago, I had someone tell me that one of my pieces should be redone as magical realism because she likes magical realism. “I like chocolate,” I replied.

Then I got locked into an exchange once with someone who berated me, destroyed my work and went into gigantic detail about how precisely I should fix it if it were to have any chance of not shaming myself and the entire literary world.

I’ve had harsh criticism before but this one was eye-opening. I didn’t do a single thing she told me but I studied the advice – no, that’s not strong enough a word. Instructions? Demands? I really thought about them and realised that she was telling me to write the story the way she would have done.

That fascinates me. It’s one thing to not like how I do something, but to have total certainty that her way was the only way is arresting. And perhaps as is always the case with someone who is totally certain about anything, she was wrong. I am totally certain about that. For I told you it was an exchange: she’d sent me her first chapters of a novel. She’d had deserved success with a very good non-fiction book but now she was writing fiction.

She visibly did not want any criticism, she clearly wouldn’t take any from a lesser being, but I had no problem with that because her fiction was unreadable.

I’ve just remembered this moment that we fell out really badly and it wasn’t to do with writing. It’ll come to me in a minute what it was about, but what leaps back at me instantly is the utter relief: I remember thinking thank Christ, I don’t have to find something nice to say about her writing any more.

I can think of a hundred times that my writing has been improved and actually improved beyond measure by criticism. So it’s not as if I’m against the principle, I think you just have to be damn careful who you work with – an ultimately you have to know that it’s your writing, not theirs.

The goal is to own your writing, not to write like each one of your critics.

Sex session plan

Last Monday night as the Bad Sex Award winner was being announced, I was running the last of six fortnightly writing groups. The group is coming back next year for another run but without me: they’ve got novelist Helen Cross instead. Now, immediately I’m thinking that I envy them and also that I need to leave the group at a good point, ready for her to do whatever it is she will do with them.

Instead, we talked and wrote about sex. This had been suggested weeks before and initially I’d not been interested.

Yet by the end of the run, I did realise both that there is something interesting here and also that if we examined it in just the right way, writing about sex could get this particular group to address something I had already thought their writing needed.

For sex writing is never about sex. It’s always about the characters. But then that’s the case with absolutely everything and sex is no different.

Except that sex is a way to maybe the fastest way to dive very deeply into a character. We always say our characters have to want something and they do so because otherwise they’d just sit at home and there’d be no story. Not everybody wants sex, but for those who do, when they do, it is more than a little interest, it is a driving compulsion that the characters probably don’t even understand.

Compulsion is fantastic because it can be desperate. And desperate characters don’t have time or energy to hide.

We all hide. We hide all the time. You are not the same person when you’re with a partner at home and then when you’re with your family. Or at work. Or in the pub, at a conference, in a club. We hide so much and we fit in so many places that it’s hard for us to know who we really are. So equally, it’s hard for us to know our characters and who they really can be.

Put them in a situation where they may have sex and you see everything stripped away, not just their clothes. Put them in a situation where they are having sex and you reveal their base nature: whether they’re dominant or submissive, whether they’re combative or – I can’t think of the word. Collegiate? Whether they work with their sex partners or whether they’re all for themselves.

And then lastly, put them in a situation where they have had sex and you can have a quiet aftermath that is as explosive with regret as the scene was with flesh. That compulsive drive for sex is incredibly powerful and incredibly motivating but once you’ve had it, it’s completely gone and you are left wondering what the hell all that was about.

That’s when sanity and calmness can return. Which means that’s when regret starts. And regret is a wonderful thing in drama.

Whether I’m writing prose fiction or scripts, I think of it as drama. But this is one case where the differences between those two types of writing are acute.

I offer that sex in prose fiction can be, should be, must be powerful. A friend sent me a manuscript of a novel of hers and she was a little embarrassed because it was a fantasy action tale with sex in it. I told her that the story was a rousing adventure –– and an arousing one, too.

Words have a power to arouse and excite and challenge. Whereas I offer that sex in films and on TV does not. It doesn’t matter what the story is, when a character is naked, you are thrown out of the story thinking how the actor looks. Whether he or she has a flat stomach or if there’s been some CGI and a stunt person involved.

I abhor anything that takes me out of a story so I have no interest in sex in TV or films. But I can have in prose fiction because there the words are digging in deeper. They are revealing characters to me. Through what connects with me, those words are also revealing myself to me. And they can be revealing the author too.

You don’t have to have sex in any story, but if you do, make it matter. Above all else, this is the one type of scene where you’ve got to have more going on than just the physical activity. If you haven’t, then it could be the strongest language you know but it won’t matter.

The group and I discussed lots of this and then I set them a task. Of course it was to write a sex scene but we conjured up a setting and I set them some rules. It had to be consensual sex, it had to be between a couple and they had to write it in the first person. Pick one character and write it from their perspective.

I don’t usually get so specific and prescriptive and I also don’t usually belabour this stuff with you.

The reason I want to tell you that detail is the same reason I wanted them to do it. After the group had written all of this and we’d talked about how we found the job, we did the next part. Yes. You’ve got it: write the same story again but from the other person’s point of view.

This exercise can actually work for anything in any story. If you’re stuck with a story, if you’re finding a character isn’t working, reverse it all and tell the tale from that other character’s point of view.

I’m not saying you’ll keep that version. I am saying that exploring the other character makes that character better – even if you then throw that other version away.

Since I seem to be lecturing you now instead of our usual nattering, let’s have another writing rule. See what you think of this.

I suggest that it’s probably best to write sex in the first person. A narrator is too easy an option for any story anyway, but here their detachment keeps us out of the tale. A narrator can say you touch me on my arm and I appear to like it. But only I can say that one touch stops me better than a blow. Only I can say that a single touch of your hand has me struggle to breathe.

Next, sex scenes make you think about the audience. If your reader is going to be a prurient teenager then throw in knob jokes and be done with it. If the reader is someone who actually does have some extreme sex life, you have to be accurate about it or they’ll stop reading. And if someone is uncomfortable with sex in reality, you can help them and you can play with them in fiction.

We always resist making our readers uncomfortable and it’s partly politeness, it’s partly because we don’t want to be uncomfortable ourselves.

Let it go. Be uncomfortable, be uneasy. If it doesn’t work out, throw it away. But write sex in order to explore how you write characters and how deeply you can go into yourself.

Writing is not like anything else. The more you go inside yourself, the more your writing will connect with other people.

Now, I’m supposed to be planning a writing workshop for children. Stop that. You’re being wicked.

All artifice just script away

Last week I was asked why I read other people’s scripts. For one brief, rather happy moment I thought the fella might be asking because I am such a fantastic writer that I have no need of learning from other people.

No, he said, I mean why read the scripts when you can just see the bloody film?

He had a point. Crushingly cruel as he was.

I do know many writers who will avoid the actual script if the film or the programme or the show has been made. The script is, as I completely understand, the detailed blueprint. It’s not the final show any more than a house is the sum of its elevation drawings or isometric projections.

And I’ve just now finished being one of the many judges on the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s radio awards. I can’t tell you which entries were my favourites and apparently I can’t even know myself which one has actually won. But I can tell you that some of us simply read all the scripts while others listened to all of the finished shows instead.

I can make you a strong argument for both. If you needed this for some test, I could stock you up with reasons to read the script and reasons not to.

You can imagine all of them except, I find myself hoping, one that matters rather a lot.

It’s quicker to read the script.

There. I’ve said it. I can read an hour-long script in about twenty minutes. A full-length feature film, say 120 pages, is maybe fifty minutes reading time at most.

I do read quickly but I never speed-read and I don’t skip anything, it’s just that I’m fast and scripts have very few words on the page anyway.

There is also this. I know in the first few seconds on page one whether I’m going to think it’s a good script. Recently I read a set where it took a page to get going and if we were in production I’d just kill those pages. But even then, they didn’t get going good enough: my first reaction was maybe harsh but definitely fair.

One interesting thing about reading other people’s scripts is that you come back to your own with a different perspective. Hopefully a better perspective but unquestionably different.

The trick is to read the ones by the fantastic writers.

My hardest writing job

I do want to tell you about the single hardest thing I’ve done, and as soon as I type that to you I think of a few other things that would be a contender. But really I want to talk with you about how astonishing it is that something which was a stone in my stomach six days out of seven every week for 18 months could be so completely forgotten.

I mean, it was writing and it was in Radio Times every week back in 2005/6 when that magazine’s sales figures were just over one million and the estimated readership was three million. So it’s not impossible that you saw it. It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. If you did read every week of it, though, you’d still have completely forgotten about it because it was the smallest slice of nothing.

No exaggeration. It was perhaps 100 words in each issue and lived on a corner of the letters page.

What astonishes me is that I’d forgotten it entirely too.

Yesterday, I was on the Dot Davies show on BBC Radio Wales as an author and TV historian. It was in response to the news that some 7,000 people in the UK have a black and white TV licence. A bell rang. I think now that it was a Cloister Bell warning of dire trouble because for the first time in 12 years I remembered Radio Times and the TV Stats column. I remembered covering this topic in there.

Only a week ago, I was talking with someone about RT and told them that I’d written the On This Day in TV History piece for it. I can’t remember how long I did that but it was at least four years and every issue had a little nugget by me on each of the day’s listings page. I remember that, I’m proud of that, but I’d clearly suppressed TV Stats.

But I had a couple of hours between BBC Radio Wales asking me and my being on the Dot Davies show. So I searched. I’ve got RT on PDF up to the late 2000s so it didn’t take as long to search as this will sound, but I did go through 60 editions before I found it.

I can’t show you any. Each week was this 100 words or so but it would always be accompanied by a cartoon illustration and I didn’t do those. I said that six days out of seven I was in pain about this: you’ve guessed that the seventh day was when I delivered the copy and the strain was off until tomorrow. But there was also the pleasure of seeing what cartoonist Robert Thompson had come up with.

I’d get that pleasure twice, actually. I’d usually be shown his roughly-sketched proposal and then every week I’d open the issue to see the final illustration. I can’t imagine how hard a job it was to illustrate this stuff in an amusing cartoon fashion.

At the time, though, I was too full of how hard it was to write. The job was to think of a topic to do with television and then research or calculate some statistics to go with it. Find an interesting topic, figure out the details and then hope the result was worth publishing because otherwise it was scrapped and you started again. And of course still facing that same deadline.

Oddly enough, I have an idea that this one about how many people in the UK still had black and white TV licences was among the easiest. I can’t recall now whether I was specifically asked to find out or whether it was my idea, but I’m pretty sure that I just phoned the TV Licensing people and asked them.

The answer, by the way, was 58,000 people and I either calculated or was told that at that time in 2005 this was 0.2% of the licence-owning population. At this distance of 13 years, I can feel an echo of the relief that week.

When you’re writing something like this you can’t get too far ahead because there’s supposed to be at least some element of topicality. But also you should try to have a few ideas banked up and ready. Sod that. The joy of having filed that copy and not absolutely having to think of the next one for a couple of days was fantastic.

I do say days. Because I truly had bad nights because of TV Stats.

This all sounds overblown, I know, and especially so because I’ve had many columns and myriad deadlines. Yet this one is giving me the sweats again today, over a decade since it finished.

Precisely how many films were shown on terrestrial TV in 2005? How many shopping channels are there? What proportion of digital channel profits come from advertising and from our subscriptions? Just how many characters in EastEnders are self-employed compared to real life? Exactly what percentage of characters in Albert Square have owned the Queen Vic?

You’re curious about that last one, aren’t you? In 2005, the answer was that 6.5% of all major characters in EastEnders had owned that pub.

You see the job. Try to find something interesting, try to put a figure on things we’d all noticed like that turnover of Queen Vic owners. Oh! I remember proving that the murder rate in Morse was actually pretty much the same as the real-life number of murders in the Oxford area. That was because Morse ran in very short series each year where actual murderers tended not to take such long breaks.

Anyway.

Week after week. I should be able to rattle off the statistics of how many I did but I’m rebelling. It was something like 18 months and I won’t research any closer than that.

I’d rather tell you instead of one moment of relieved pride. I got the commission over email, I think, but there was to be a big meeting to decide how all this would be done. Here’s how much TV Stats buried into me: I can still picture that meeting. Where it was – BBC Woodlands in London, the second of three BBC buildings I worked in that was demolished – and also exactly who was there.

I can remember where I sat and who I faced. How’s this for research? I can show you that spot.

Radio Times office 2008

That shot is from 2008 and this was just before the place was demolished. So, first in one morning, I took a photo tour of the whole place. See that second chair from the left? I don’t remember whose that usually was but for this meeting, that’s where I remember sitting.

I can also remember that I’d misunderstood the brief and the example I’d brought had the text right but I’d illustrated it myself. I’m not then and never will be a cartoonist but I’d done some Photoshop work that was a graphical illustration of whatever statistic I’d found. I remember the art editor saying he didn’t know how to do what I’d done.

That was the moment of pride. And being gently told they had their own illustrators was the relief.

Oddly, I’ve no memory at all of TV Stats ending. I know it began because of a redesign on the magazine that saw the letters page bumped to the back of the issue. I imagine it ended because of the next redesign, but I don’t know.

TV Stats was one fraction of one job I had as a writer and yet it punched high above its weight because of how difficult it was to think of the bloody things. I did learn to write better because of it: I learned how to make the very most out of a sometimes flimsy statistic to produce an interesting read because there was usually no alternative and often no time.

And apparently it is all still lodged in my brain as it was waiting to pour out of me yesterday. I did get to bring up that 58,000 figure on BBC Radio Wales but I don’t think it particularly contributed to the piece.

There’s a bit of me that quite likes that.

Oh! One more memory? I spent at least seven hours one week calculating how much you would have to spend on Amazon to buy all the spin-off merchandise from children’s TV shows. You know it’s a lot but, sorry, I can’t either remember or find the figure.

But I can tell you that to this day Amazon notifies me each time there’s a new product to do with Dora the Explorer.

Revealing writing and reading

You realise that I am, of course, an incredible human being. And that’s despite being reduced to complete fanboy behaviour when meeting the writers of Lou Grant the other day.

(They were too polite to notice and anyway, I’m not likely to be within 100 yards of Santa Monica again any time soon, so it’s all a fuss about nothing.)

Anyway. I do genuinely think there is one thing where the nature of what I do gives me an unusual perspective. Writing always gives you perspective and I find that fascinating: the more you look within yourself, the more you reach other people.

But in this specific case, the perspective I get is because I’m writing a lot of journalism while also doing books and scripts. I like writing about writing, I adore exploring tools that make giant differences to my writing life and it’s great to get to write about those and share them.

I like and I have always cherished being both a writer and a journalist. I can’t actually speak to how good I am but I can know that having the two sides makes me better.

This week it also made me angry.

Last Tuesday, Apple launched many new products and did so with one of the firm’s typical big events. That’s all good: they do it well and they had plenty to say this time.

But.

You know Apple is this huge company and that it earns an incredible amount of money. The head of Apple’s entire retail arm, the part that includes 505 Apple Stores and the website store, came on to make a speech.

I’ve actually written a profile of her: she’s Angela Ahrendts and has an interesting background as well as a fascinating job. But you’ll notice I said ‘her’.

The second she stepped on stage I read some comment somewhere in the torrent of people following this event where they called her Miss Apple Stores or something like that. It wasn’t in the sense of a beauty pageant but it was meant to demean: she ‘just’ runs the shop.

Then I kept reading reports of the event which named her as Ms Ahrendts or wrote about what “the lady” said.

Nobody called Apple CEO Tim Cook “Master Apple”. Nobody called him “the gentleman”. No one says he ‘just’ runs a trillion-dollar company.

I’m glad to say that none of this was on display at AppleInsider.com where I was writing. But it was so prevalent across journalism and across twitter.

You can like Apple or dislike them, that’s up to you, but its audience craves new technology, new ideas. It craves new. And yet some of it sounds like it’s in the past.

Writing reaches into other people but what you write also shows them you.

Some 529 Not Out

Look at me there: I could not, just could not write a title that begins with a number. I had to contort that word ‘Some’ into it and I think that changes the meaning. If I were sure what it changed the meaning to, I might worry but if you don’t mind, I’d like to put all of this behind us and discuss 529 other topics.

As I write to you, it’s half midnight on Thursday 25 October 2018 and it’s not as if I’ve finished work, it’s more that I have to stop. I’m running a day-long workshop tomorrow for actors, musicians and journalists, and I’d like to be a teeny bit further along with the planning. Each time I do one of these, I rewrite the whole thing just to really get it all into my head and to freshen it up.

Tonight I want to add in a photo but considering the mistakes I’ve been making for the last hour, I’d probably end up photographing my thumb.

So the sensible thing is to stop, get some sleep and pick it up in the morning. There’s time, it’s sensible and practical.

Only, there’s also that 539 business.


I decided to read a script a day for 2018 and it’s fair to say that I’ve failed because so far I’ve read 539.

I haven’t read one tonight. Er, Thursday, I haven’t read one. I have a pain in my side from writing at this table for the last five hours, there is a bed calling to me from less than a metre away – this isn’t the most luxurious of hotels – and, oh, stop looking at me like that.

Okay, fine. Okay. I’ll read number 540. Because of that face of yours.

I’ve no idea what it will be as I’ve exhausted the short Danger Mouse ones.

But I do know this. I am writing a lot better this year. And there may have been some truly dreadful scripts. Yet I’ve been engrossed and exhilarated and sometimes upset to the point of tears too. And just occasionally, I’ve been a bit proud.

Such as now. I’ve read 530. I picked a short film script of my own because it was here and because I couldn’t remember anything about it. Also, it was short and you were looking a bit mad at me.

It’s not great. But the idea is and the script feels alive. I finished it wondering who I could pitch it to.

So on the one hand I do credit reading a lot of scripts but I also blame you for being so disciplined with my time. Can I go to sleep now?

Santa Monica

Zoning out

This is the earliest I have ever written to you on a Friday morning and it is also the latest. I’m writing at about 6am but I’m in Los Angeles and now realise that it’s about 2pm where I usually am in the UK.

Only, I thought I was extremely conscious of time zones because around half of the people I most work with are on the East Coast. Usually I can therefore deliver work to them early and to UK places right on time. Easy.

Except the UK being eight hours ahead and the East coast five hours, now I’m behind everybody and everything.

I’m shocked at how instantly I became adjusted to LA time. But I’ve done this before, you’ve done it before, I don’t know why this trip is different.

It is, though. This won’t sound like a good thing but it feels great: I feel like I’m in a bubble beneath everything. That’s definitely the word, beneath: the rest of the world seems to be going on above me as well as many hours ahead.

I should find that abhorrent and even writing it to you feels wrong, feels a betrayal of my usual self. And it’s not as if I’m on holiday: I am working as much as ever, just in Santa Monica. Whenever I’m not in meetings, I’m watching the clock trying to figure out how to fit the next thing.

So there I am, clock watching – in the best way, I’m not wishing this time away – and still I forget time zones.

I’d like to tell you something else I’ve forgotten, too, and I think it might be related. For just these few days I’m here, I’ve stopped worrying about Brexit. I’m working with someone who is just genuinely optimistic about life and as he stands there in Santa Monica sunshine, it’s impossible to not be lifted.

Mind you, I’m in the kind of gorgeous hotel you’d reject in order to have enough money to eat. For the first time in my life, I got on the plane in London and turned left. Later today, unless this time zone failure of mine reoccurs, I’m meeting some of my heroes.

And all of this is happening because I write. The things I think, the words in my head, are the direct and specific reason that I’m here. I’ve even been told that it was a Self Distract blog post that sealed the deal.

Writing is a scary career and no one can ever recommend it, but if you happen to know any of the teachers at my secondary school who laughed at me, do please give them a funny look from me.

To have and of not

It’s just you and me here so I’m going to confess something and you are not going to tell, okay? I used to have a profoundly deep crush on Darcey Bussell. Then during an episode of Strictly Come Dancing, she told some dancer that they “should of” done something.

I didn’t hear what they should’ve done because I was twitching too much. I don’t remember the dancer or the dance or even when this was. Yet that phrase switched my crush off like a light switch.

And yet this month when the Doctor said it in Doctor Who, well, I still twitched. But I didn’t switch off, I didn’t think much more than a pixel less of actor Jodie Whittaker and a fathom less of writer Chris Chibnall.

Maybe I’ve become inured to it. Maybe I accept that we’re on our inevitable way to having this nonsensical pair of words become a legitimate part of the language.

Or maybe I’m just not letting it switch off Doctor Who for me. It’s possible that I’m maturing, though I see no other evidence of this.

Also, it has been on my mind for six days straight and I needed you to help get it out.

But you have done and I thank you.

Just don’t tell Darcey. You pinky-promised.

Travelling in a fighter convoy

Since the 1980s, that’s what I have thought the opening line of Men at Work’s Down Under is: “travelling in a fighter convoy…” and not “travelling in a fried-out combie.”

Now, in my defence, I haven’t actually thought about the song in decades. And back when I did give it a bit of a ponder, I was more gingerly curious about what a vegemite sandwich might be.

Writer and lead singer Colin Hay now performs the song acoustically and you know how this goes, the song is revealed to be somewhat deeper than that original appeared. I do think that’s a measure of some superb writing, when radically changing the delivery of a piece works, when the material can be delivered in gigantically different ways.

But we’ve seen that.

Most recently there was Aha’s reworking of Take On Me which, slowed down, also clarified some previously mysterious lyrics. What was originally energetic and catchy proves to be arresting and even mesmerising in its new form.

Most famously, it’s the same with Mad World, originally a Tears for Fears track sung at lighspeed but then redone by Gary Jules.

Only, there’s something different about Down Under. I saw a live acoustic video of it a week or so ago and it’s stayed with me. More, yesterday Apple Music happened to throw the original at me while I was working.

And here’s the thing. That original has changed.

That didn’t happen with Take On Me, although I do now hear the lyric I kept missing in the original. I know to listen out for it but that’s not the same as changing that original, altering the sound of it.

Nor does Mad World’s slow remake alter how the Tears for Fears one sounds, except I do more appreciate the writing in it.

No, Men at Work’s Down Under was this jaunty 80s track with the daft video and now the same piece in the same way is somehow more serious. I can’t help it: I listen to that original and it’s like I finally get it.

Without distorting the original or loading it down with a weight it can’t bear, the acoustic one is just a plain rendition that reveals it was always serious and I can’t help but hear that now.

I should say I recently caught a snippet of an interview with someone, I imagine Hay but I wasn’t watching, where it was mentioned that no one notices the coffin being carried in that video. I think they said it was symbolising the death of Australian culture and I want to say I thought that was interesting but really I didn’t think at all.

Then I don’t want to say that Down Under was actually a Dylaneseque howling protest song yet I am sobered by it. Specifically by how I only saw the surface jauntiness and that this is like what happened to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. That’s another 1980s song and to this day there are people who think it’s pro-American.

It’s really a miserable track and the lyrics are as clear about that as can be. I’ve secretly liked how I got it and people including President Ronald Reagan didn’t. He used it as a campaign song, can you imagine that? Walking out to make a speech as a song about rancid poverty in America and the toll of the Vietnam conflict booms out of speakers.

Imagine a US President being dumb.

Well.

Down Under is not so stridently anti-American or rather anti-Australian but still I missed what strength it has. Again, don’t let me overplay this, I’m not dumping huge political import onto the shoulders of a pop song.

But have a listen. It’s a good song but it’s richer now.

Kirsten Bell in Veronica Mars

Now I wish I were writing Veronica Mars

There is no chance I’ll get to write Veronica Mars but what makes me ecstatic is that today there is slightly less of no chance. Because the show is coming back.

So, true, it’s already written and presumably by series creator Rob Thomas. And true, I have absolutely zero chance of making my television drama writing debut – I don’t count Crossroads – on this show.

But there is a series. It was over, then it was a movie, then that was over, now it’s back. Stuff writing, I’m getting popcorn, I’m ready.

I don’t actually know when it’s coming and I do actually know that this news is old. It’s been a month or even two since the return of Veronica Mars was announced but I wouldn’t believe it at first. I needed an awful lot of evidence and here’s one of the last little bits: series star Kristen Bell talking about it:

I’m a writer but I’m also a journalist and normally if you give me two credible sources plus some documentary evidence, I’ll believe something is true. Unless you’re in government. This time I didn’t because it was just too important to me.

Five years ago I wrote a piece called I wish I’d written Veronica Mars and the title says it all. Except while I could’ve written that at any time during or since the show’s initial 2004-2007 run, I was writing it then because we’d had multiple sources and documentary evidence that a film version was coming.

I wrote that piece partly because I couldn’t contain myself and partly because I was hoping aloud that around a year later I would be seeing this film and wishing I’d written it. Sure enough, four years ago, I wrote I still wish I’d written Veronica Mars.

This time I’m just going to take it for granted that I’ll like the new show this much. It stands a bit of a chance.

And that’s it, that’s all I wanted to exclaim about to you today. Except writing this, I’m conscious that I haven’t even said what Veronica Mars is. That’s not uncommon: if you try to describe the show it generally sounds so poor that you wonder how Rob Thomas managed to sell it. Veronica was a teenage detective and I want to write “but…” here, yet anything you say after that sounds like an apology or an excuse.

No excuses. No apologies. Veronica Mars is great.

Years ago, I remember someone insisting very seriously that The Bill was the greatest crime series ever made. And I remember telling her she should stay in more.

At the time I would’ve been thinking of Homicide: Life on the Street, Hill Street Blues, Between the Lines, I’d have run out of fingers and borrowed yours to continue listing more forever. Today I’d just show her Veronica Mars.