Please enjoy this freewheeling interview in which I use Talk to Transformer to interview GPT-2 on its thoughts on the Golden Age of Television. Later in the interview, we turn to The Wire and David Simon’s other work, the public’s inability to learn, and then we get sucked into some kind of business conference call.
Lightly edited for formatting.
Me: It’s the golden age of television.
GPT-2: You can look at a pilot script and immediately tell who’s on the show. You know if there’s a storyline, if there’s a character, and people can be excited about that. So in a certain sense, people are so excited about this stuff, that this TV industry is so exciting. And there’s this wonderful thing called the Internet, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been exposed to it, but it’s as simple as searching for a show. You don’t have to search for anything. If you want a show, you just go to the Internet. There’s no more guesswork.
I’m familiar with the internet. But I’m wondering, what do you say to people who call it “peak TV”, who say that there are too many shows nowadays, and that this has led to audience splintering, that there’s no shared common culture anymore?
I can’t answer that. I don’t know about the media, and what you’re saying is that it’s just not the case anymore… I could also say to you: “It sounds like more people are coming to social media, the internet, for a lot more important reasons” because it’s easy to go to Youtube and it seems there’s more of them, maybe it’s because the other places are trying to attract people there, that’s why the internet is getting more popular right now. And this will continue to move forward.
All over the world, TV stations have started to do social media promotion to bring in people. But there are some reasons: because now there are big channels with huge budgets for marketing on the internet and a lot of the people on the internet, on these Facebook pages are people who don’t have social media accounts and then they become a part of the network and now there are many channels that have different content.
You can’t compare what you share on WhatsApp and your Facebook accounts, or you can’t compare what you write
But have we had a show as good as say… The Wire or Deadwood in the last few years? Does the golden age refer more to quantity than quality?
Is a show good enough that the person sitting next to you might watch it if you tell him it’s good? Well… Yes, certainly it is.
Show #5: I have no idea What it is : I guess it comes from the fact that my favorite shows to watch are on Netflix so for most people they’d expect to buy the show before checking the box asking specifically whether or not it’s good. A few more years ago this would have been hilarious.
Show #6: I don’t know How to watch it You are right and I have no idea if The Wire came out before The Sopranos, Deadwood, etc.. I’m sure if it came out there’s a good chance that you haven’t been aware that it came out before both.
I mean… How does The Wire compare to any of the other recent shows we’ve mentioned?
I would say The Wire compares quite favorably to the shows that are currently on the air.
The difference is that HBO and Showtime are still getting the same amount of shows, whereas The Wire may not get all the stuff it wants.
The show’s final season was filmed on site in front of the same set of studio cameras it has always used — from which, naturally, the same exact shot is used over and over again. There were no special effects, just the traditional live footage from the same cameras on all four sets. We had a very detailed visual that we shot for years, and never thought that it would have to be filmed in a different way, where there would be different lighting and the actors would stand on separate plates. But it’s also true, The Wire really was shot inside of those exact same spaces.
This was always our goal, and I think it’s what we did on The Wire. We never really got around to it, or to the same goal of doing a full production. But because all of the shows we did with David Simon were made inside those exact same sets, every time a show is made on cable or in the air, it really affects a big part of how a show evolves, whether it’s a network or whether it’s online.
I watched the entire show in its entirety, and I think it had the most fun
You mentioned David Simon and his other shows — were you involved in The Corner and Homicide? I assume you’re not suggesting that Generation Kill was shot on the same sets as The Wire.
I think the two were quite different shows. I didn’t write The Corner because I wanted to do comedy and write. The Corner’s premise was just that one guy is a cop. So I was drawn to that.
I wasn’t interested in producing comedy. I wasn’t interested in making music videos. He asked me to write a script, so I wrote some stuff, and he ended up doing one as The Corner, and the next was Homicide. And it was The Corner where I wrote The Wire.
He brought the idea of the police being corrupt and they’re not held to the same standard, and as a comic you have to think of the public in terms of, well, what is the public in a free society looking for? Then you have to talk about them not as criminals who’re out here, they’re here to be judged.
The reason I brought The Corner and Homicide to HBO, which is a place where I didn’t want to go, was because I wanted to do comedy with a public persona and show people who these characters are. It gives them all their own persona. And at the end of the day, to me, it’s much more interesting
OK, wow, so you see yourself more as a comedian than, I don’t know, an algorithm or a neural net. So I guess we have that in common. I want to follow up on the question that you posed, because I think it’s really interesting. In your opinion, what is the public in a free society looking for?
Do we feel like we’ve learned anything? I mean, the public is a very complex animal.
DAVE: It’s very complicated. I mean, it’s not like the public is going to be able to learn from something as easily as us. But what’s interesting about my response in my interview is that in a book like that, which has a very specific subject, it goes way beyond the simple question of how do we educate people.
The real question is what’s true, what’s true about the human condition if it’s true, and that’s my response.
Who is Dave?
Dave is a self-made entrepreneur who started the blog The Real Deal and co-founded two successful online brands: DDP and DripClub. His products are made from scratch, with the idea of bringing products to users’ wrists, and are developed by his team of engineers, designers, sales, and customer support specialists for his clients.
His mission is to give you better products.
OK. Great. Nice to meet you Dave and congrats on your success. It sounds like things are going well for you. I think we should wrap things up now but before we end this, can you expand on what you said earlier about how the public is not going to be able to learn something as easily as you?
I guess it would be nice if you could elaborate on that further before you come to me tomorrow. Thanks.
David E. Epstein: Yeah and I can say that we are doing all we can, as you can see with the results, all we’ve been doing.
Our first quarter was really nice and we will continue to do what we’re doing for the remainder of the quarter, which is increase our customer contact information and get more customers contacting us.
For instance, we had a huge uptick in the call volume, a phenomenal quarter and we don’t want to do any surprises with it. We’re definitely looking ahead and, I think, I guess, a good sign for the future.
MARK: Just so we are clear. First quarter, that’s pretty good news. Do you see any other results with this strategy, the increased customer contact number coming out in the next quarter or does this all go together with the launch of that mobile app?
DAVID E. PEDERSON: Yeah, I think the company’s got a great product
Thank you for your time.
We appreciate your cooperation