September 6th, 2011
It’s something I’ve never seen before. In two weeks, ABC will broadcast the premiere of a new TV series called “Revenge”. But Thursday they released the entire script of its pilot episode as a free Kindle ebook!
“What goes around comes around,” reads the tagline on its cover…
I wish they’d also included a picture – but obviously it was written before the show had even been produced! The ebook is identified as the “Final Network Draft,” dated January 25, but its copyrighted 2010. (“This material is the exclusive property of ABC Studios and is intended solely for the use of its personnel,” reads the official warning at the beginning of the script – which makes it feel even more official.) The table of contents has links to its five “chapters”, each without a title. (“ACT ONE, ACT TWO, ACT THREE…”) And it’s fun to see a TV show converted into words.
1 EXT. ATLANTIC OCEAN – NIGHT
A BLOOD RED HARVEST MOON rises high above the dark waters of the North Atlantic. Bands of crimson moonlight cradle deep rolling swells as they push their way towards the flickering lights of a distant shoreline…
And there’s another interesting twist: You can also watch the whole first episode on the internet. “[T]he free Kindle version of the script includes a link to the full-length pilot…” notes a review of the ebook on Amazon. “The most interesting thing about reading the script…is checking out the differences between what was originally scripted and what was actually put on film!” I even followed along with the script while I watched the finished product online, and sure enough, there’s lots of fascinating little differences. “Some were very minor…” notes the Amazon review, like “changing the name of Emily’s former friend Ben Porter to Jack Porter, or the name of her dog from Jake to Sam… Some were more integral (such as the decision to connect Emily’s father’s arrest to a terrorist act, or to suggest that Emily herself had spent years in prison – neither were part of the original script).”
I enjoyed script so much that I decided I’d like to read the whole thing as a Kindle ebook. It preserves some of the mystery of the story, which I think gets lost when you actually try to film it. “I downloaded a copy of ABC’s ‘Revenge’…” wrote one TV columnist. “My download quit about halfway through, and I didn’t try to reboot in order to view the rest of it, so that may give you some idea of the show, which seemed trite and melodramatic, a soap opera in the ‘Dynasty’ or ‘Dallas’ sense, but without the fun.” It’s possible that he would’ve enjoyed it more if he’d been reading the original script!
It’s a fun glimpse into the way a TV show actually gets produced, seeing how all of the on-screen details were first set down into words, and recognizing all the careful thought that went into creating the final show! “We hope you enjoyed your first taste of Revenge,” ABC teases on the ebook’s last page, trying to lead readers seamlessly to the actual broadcast version. “Now that you know Emily’s secret, we’d like to reveal more of her story to you. Visit www.abc.com/revengescreening and use the passcode MN3JozZrq to watch the Full First Episode of Revenge for free! When you’re done, feel free to share with your friends, but only the ones you trust….
“But be warned,” they add on the web page. “This is not a story about forgiveness…”
If nothing else, it’s a very interesting new use for the Kindle. The Kindle can hold any text file, not just the text of a full-length book, and right now clever people are already thinking up new ways to offer fun things for your Kindle. But it’s also really remarkable when you think about the journey that this particular story has taken. The plot of the TV series is loosely taken from The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic action-adventure novel written in 1844 by Alexandre Dumas!
And a full 166 years later, in 2010, that novel enjoyed a very special moment as a poignant symbol of the way that books were being changed by the introduction of digital readers. The founder of Barnes and Noble’s founder, Len Riggio, was being interviewed by a reporter for New York Magazine, and in a touching moment, the 69-year-old executive — born in an age before television — seemed to be struggling to make sense of the popularity of ebooks.
“I still like books,” he said, though it didn’t really need saying. All around him, in a conference room that evoked an elegant old library, were shelves lined with hardbound classics. Books had made Riggio a fortune… Books had been very good to him, and now they were dissolving into the ether…
Riggio wanted to say something, but he couldn’t quite find the words, so he burst out of his chair and charged over to one wall. “I don’t know how you can intellectualize this,” he said, “but a book is …” To continue his thought, he pulled down a copy of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, shook it, felt its substance. “This bound volume of Dumas is content. We have to understand people want to own this content. They want this. It’s very important.”
Now, thanks to the Kindle, you can download the script of a slick network TV series that’s based on that novel as a free ebook!