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''Gothic'' Revival? ''Popular'' Remade?

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 1, 2005

When writer-producer Shaun Cassidy was at a press conference to talk about his new series, ''Invasion,'' he noted that the success of ''Lost'' had made it easier to get networks to look at serialized shows where the readers are kept guessing. So, later on, I asked him if his 1995-96 series ''American Gothic'' would have had a better chance today.

''Absolutely,'' he said. ''On the right network. I mean, the network is everything, and the understanding of the network is huge. When you're doing a show that is so dependent on the vision of the people behind the show ... you kind of have to trust the guy or the woman who is creating the show. ...

''With 'American Gothic' ... there was nothing on TV like it,'' he said. " 'Twin Peaks' was gone. 'Twin Peaks' explored similar territory but was even, I think, art-school than 'American Gothic.' 'X-Files' was on (but) ... 'X-Files' itself is a procedural. Those are FBI agents solving the crime of the week, and there's a bigger mythology -- but (shows like ''American Gothic'' and ''Lost'') are open-ended, serialized mysteries. They're like Dickens stories, almost, very character-driven.''

And will we ever see more of the show? '"There's been a lot of talk about making a movie,'' Cassidy said. And the series ''is coming out on DVD, like in October, I think.'' That may suggest that the audience is now more interested in shows like ''Gothic'' but Cassidy thinks there's another explanation for the DVD: ''Gothic'' also involved Sam Raimi, now a very big name thanks to the ''Spider-Man'' movies.

A couple of days later, ''Nip/Tuck'' creator Ryan Murphy was on hand to talk about that series, which begins its third season on Sept. 20. After the press conference, I asked him about ''Popular,'' a serialized comedy-drama he oversaw, which ran for two seasons on The WB. (Both seasons are available on DVD, although fans have noted that the DVD versions have some different music from the original series.) Could the post-''Lost'' appetite for shows with open-ended storylines mean that ''Popular'' would do better today?

''I think 'Popular' was way ahead of its time,'' Murphy said. ''When I read a lot of reviews of that movie 'Mean Girls,' they mentioned 'Popular,' which I thought, oh, that's interesting, that we sort of helped give birth to that. ...

''That show (''Popular'') was on the wrong network,'' he said. ''They never got it. They never knew what it was. They never knew how to market it. ... At that point, everything on that network looked the same. And the notes that I'd get would be, 'Can you make it more '"Dawson's Creek''?' And I would say, 'No.' I would have been thrilled if we had three years and off. The fact that it was two years, I felt a little robbed.''

And if he could do it today, how would it be different? ''Darker,'' he said. ''I think I would have done a 'Desperate Housewives' thing and there would have been a murder. ... I would have had those cheerleaders be killing people. I would have made it really dark.''

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