Writer in Residence

Writers on TV Survey: David Seymour

By Carey Toane

In this installment of our Writers on TV survey, David Seymour elaborates on watching TV after working in TV all day every day.

Name: David Seymour

Recent publication: For Display Purposes Only, Coach House Books, 2013

Favourite TV show: Anything created/written/directed by Susan Wainwright / Hockey Night in Canada

Favourite Canadian book/short story TV adaptation: I don’t think I’ve seen enough of them to weigh in with an opinion. My intuition is Canada is a place where books have a tendency to become films rather than television. I know TV adaptations exist, I just haven’t watched them.

Canadian book/short story you would like to see on TV: I would love to see a tv series adapted from a short story collection like Lynn Coady’s Hellgoing. I think it’d be grand to tune in each week with nothing but Coady’s stylistic tone, her talent for short narrative, the unique atmosphere she develops with language, connecting the episodes. Has this been done recently? It would be an interesting exercise in variation and a refreshing alternative to the common linear or arcing narrative tv fare.

Graphic novel that you would like to see made into a TV series: I haven’t read a graphic novel in ages. I really like them. In a way they’re elaborate, sophisticated, well executed versions of storyboards for tv and film. A closer pre-cursor than novels or short stories. I’m just under informed about the genre these days. I worked on the film adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series (which I read prior to the shoot) and was impressed by the director’s fidelity to the panel breakdown in his adaptation. You can probably take a screen shot at some point in any scene sequence in the film and find a match with a panel in O’Malley’s graphic novel. The translation across forms felt organic.

TV series that could be (mistakenly) based on a book:<.strong> If, without editorial enhancement or explanation, you transcribed the dialogue from morning talk shows (like The View, or Live! With Kathy and Michael) I bet they’d read like a contemporary Beckett farce.

How much time do you spend watching TV in a week? This should be a straightforward question but it’s a tricky one to unravel. I work in the film and tv industry as an assistant director, currently dividing my schedule between a series called Reign, and two pilots, Minority Report and Cheerleader Death Squad. I spend about 60-80 hrs a week participating in making tv, and by default am constantly watching it in situ. After a long day on set I’ll usually come home in a brain fog and turn on a Netflix series to unwind. Lately it’s been Midsomer Murders, a show I find strangely soothing to watch after work for its cozy, rural banality. About halfway through an episode I’ll shift my television so I can watch it from bed. That’s a happy fen shui accident arising from the configuration of my apartment. Should what happens next be included in my hourly tally? Netflix has that troublesome new feature that cues the next episode up to play unless you opt otherwise. Asleep before the prompt, my dreams become infused with another three episodes of the show. So, inclusively, I’d say I watch (or experience?) about 110 hours of tv a week, but 3/4 of that is something I get paid to do.

How much time do you spend watching TV in a week when the new Downton A Abbey/Game of Thrones/etc comes out? I don’t have cable, and have never seen an episode of either show, so my time spent watching isn’t affected.

How much time do you spend reading in a week? This is dependent on my work week. I always have a book of poetry on hand for reading in transit. Does reading manuscript submissions for a press count, too? Hrm, I’ll guess 6-10 hours a week. Sadly, the novels I want to get to are piling up and gathering dust.

Do you identify as a TV binge watcher? Most definitely. The only television I watch other than HNIC on CBC is on Netflix. When I stumble on something as wonderfully written and portrayed as something like Scott & Bailey, I devour it. All of the seasons all at once! Or, more realistically, in 6 hour binges. The satisfaction of watching to glut one’s self is similar in experience to those gorgeous lengthy stretches of time spent reading a great novel in one or two sittings. Similar but not the same. I’ll defer to McLuhan and describe the difference as the register on the hot/cold scale of the media’s challenge and engagement.

Do you stream shows online (legally or illegally)? I illegally stream films and sporting events. Which is a great detriment to the industry that pays my rent. It’s complicated.

Do you post about TV on social media? Once! Someone had tweeted about the second season of a show called Broadchurch, and I excitedly asked where she found it.

Are TV series the new novels? No.

Do you ever watch TV the old-fashioned way, y'know, on the television? Yes. Most of the time. I have Apple TV, and can wirelessly sync my TV screen with my computer. So, Netflix, or anything I can conjure on my laptop. I’ve lately cottoned onto NASA TV online. It’s a live feed broadcast of launches, space walks, shuttle maneuvers, and is some of the most riveting TV I’ve watched in awhile. Which makes me wonder; is a gradual transition from so-called reality TV to CCTV a possible future for commercial television? As soon as I say it, the term ‘closed circuit’ sounds obsolete. I remember being fascinated, geez, 20 yrs ago, that a friend who lived in an apartment complex had a channel on their TV that was a live link displaying people who were getting on the elevator. And yes, the level of social surveillance has grown exponentially since then, but it’s the accessible broadcasts from CCTV cameras that boggles me. What can’t we watch that is being captured? What isn’t being captured? That’s the question that gives me pause and frightens.

How does that feel? Watching TV on a TV is gratifying. It’s a nostalgic reminder I am not yet wholly a television screen.

Do you have the urge to explain your answer to any of the above with a strongly worded paragraph or knock-down-drag-out rant? I want to hear it!
I have watched TV shows because of the location in which they were shot, regardless of quality of content.
I’ve watched TV shows solely to marvel at the well-timed choreography and behaviour of the extras in the scenes.
I’ve watched TV shows I despised as a teenager for their shallowness, and have been less judgemental, or less careful of my judgement, if only because the aged quality of the film stock is lush and pleasing.
I’ve watched TV shows as though the frame is perforated, speculating through experience what was actually happening just the other side of camera right and left.
I’ve watched TV shows I’ve worked on guardedly and always with disappointment.
I’ve answered the question ‘doesn’t working in television dispel the magic of watching television for you’? with the question, ‘has editing a book ruined the wonder of reading books for you’?
I watch TV shows because of the baseline aesthetic there is little more compelling than watching someone else’s face moving.
I watch TV shows guiltily as the least active stance a person can take.
I would watch a channel that only aired sport’s highlights filmed in super slo-mo.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Carey Toane is a librarian, journalist and poet. Her first collection of poems, The Crystal Palace, was published in 2011 by Mansfield Press. She lives in Toronto, where she is currently working on a collection of poems inspired by and dedicated to Twin Peaks. She is on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/careygrrl

You can contact Carey throughout the month of May at writer@openbooktoronto.com