Alfred Gough and Miles Millar created SMALLVILLE. They are also showrunning the new WEDNESDAY ADDAMS series on Netflix.
A WEDNESDAY ADDAMS series is a dream come true for me, but hearing that Gough and Millar are writing it -- well, it's the equivalent of hearing that NBCUniversal has commissioned a SLIDERS revival but hired Keith Damron to run it.
Gough and Millar are a truly peculiar choice for a property as eccentric and idiosyncratic as THE ADDAMS FAMILY. SMALLVILLE had 217 episodes. Gough and Millar were showrunners for 152 of those episodes. Of 152, they only wrote nine. Their nine episodes, while solid, are action adventure mixed with teen angst and have none of the macabre, gothic, comedic sensibilities of THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Gough and Millar aren't innovative, insightful, witty or clever. They're entertaining and competent.
Outside of those nine 'event' episodes, SMALLVILLE under Gough and Millar had a serious quality control problem. Season 1 had a lot of adequate to excellent entries but were hyperformulaic with a repetitive monster of the week format, apparently mandated by Gough and Millar.
The backchatter I've heard from is that Gough and Millar were incredibly disengaged from SMALLVILLE. They originally set out to do BRUCE WAYNE: THE SERIES about Bruce's adventures between graduating from college and becoming Batman. They were unable to license Batman but were told they could get the rights to a young Superman. They sold the pilot to series on the WB network.
After that, Gough and Millar didn't know what to do and didn't bother. They had made Clark Kent too powerful to be seriously threatened; they had geographically isolated Clark to a small town and didn't have a wide range of story ideas within the town. Gough and Millar told the writers room for Season 1 to do monster of the week episodes to fill in the 22 episode orders and then Gough and Millar stopped working on SMALLVILLE scripts, focusing instead on writing screenplays (SHANGHAI KNIGHTS, SPIDER-MAN II).
The Season 1 writers came up with arcs and running plots in Gough and Millar's absence; when Gough and Millar came back at the end of the year to write the season finale, they threw out the Season 1 writers' arcs. The Season 1 writers mostly left for other shows. A new team was hired for Season 2 under the same restrictions with absent showrunners who'd occasionally return and demand that any character or plot development be reset.
As a result, Seasons 2 - 7 suffered from scripts that were produced under severe restrictions, trying not to build any characterization or storylines that the showrunners would just tear down when passing through. Gough and Millar didn't know how to run a 2000s-era TV show of ongoing arcs, viewing TV as strictly standalone, siloed episodes. They were as indifferent to SMALLVILLE as David Peckinpah was to SLIDERS, bringing their A-game to the episodes they personally wrote and uncaring about the rest.
As showrunners, they wrote only 6% of Seasons 1 - 7 and only seemed to give SMALLVILLE 6% of their attention.
Gough and Millar were, however, very successful at the *business* side of running SMALLVILLE. They got it to seven seasons and their successors got it to ten. Gough and Millar hired most of the 'regular' actors on 13 episode contracts and have them absent from nine a year, trimming those costs signifcantly. They cast unknowns to pay lower but equitable rates and less than what more experienced performers would cost. They marketed their actors as heartthrobs for their audience and kept them in the press.
They were great at selling the show and reducing their budget to keep pace with diminishing ratings. They were great at making SMALLVILLE cost less than its earnings in ad revenue. They were great at keeping SMALLVILLE on the air.
I am unnerved by Gough and Millar scripting a WEDNESDAY ADDAMS series, a show that calls for eccentricity, humour, inventiveness, wit, quippy dialogue, and the ability to balance the morbid with the amusing. Gough and Millar wrote nearly humourless scripts for SMALLVILLE even at their best. Their scripts were functional superhero stories that were nominally related to teenagers and had a flair for visuals, scenes that were playable for actors, a sense of myth and legend, effective in their action -- but they weren't comedies and they weren't in the vein of offbeat horror-comedy like THE ADDAMS FAMILY.
It looks like Gough and Millar are writing eight of WEDNESDAY's 10 episodes. That's 80% of the scripts. Hopefully, they'll give it 80% of their attention as well.
In addition, all ten episodes of the show are being directed by Tim Burton, also the executive producer of the show. Burton is a master of the eccentrically gothic and morbidly bizarre.
Maybe Burton is the true showrunner and actively reworking and writing Gough and Millar's scripts.
Maybe Gough and Millar's 6% efforts are all that Burton requires for his vision. I love Wednesday Addams and I hope that is the case.