Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

Disappointing that Green and Burgess have decided to go the cop show route, but I can't say I'm surprised over this hoopla. I always got the impression that their departure from "The Sopranos" was not on good terms, and this certainly seems to confirm that.

When CBS started promoting their upcoming fall Tom Selleck cop drama Blue Bloods, the first seven words on the show's web page were, "From the executive producers of The Sopranos," a phrase sure to quicken the pulse of any self-respecting TV fan. While CBS was happy to tout that connection — the creators, Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green, are indeed former EPs of the series — it made HBO and several former Sopranos writers, including creator David Chase, very unhappy. So much so, Vulture has learned, that HBO lawyers sent CBS a letter requesting they stop using the Sopranos credit, and CBS has removed it from some of their materials. But why all the family drama?

Burgess and Green (who go way back with Chase, having all worked together on Northern Exposure) wrote for The Sopranos for most of its run, and even won two Emmys, for the beloved episodes "Employee of the Month" and "Whitecaps." But the husband and wife duo abruptly left the show in 2005, just before filming began on the show's final season. At the time, reps for Burgess and Green told Daily Variety their parting was "amicable." Subsequently, however, the writers hinted in at least one interview that they had left of their own volition due to creative differences with Chase. Chase and other writers have never publicly countered that claim, but people familiar with the situation told Vulture that it was Chase who wanted Burgess and Green off his show.

Bad blood would explain why the promotion is so bothersome to Chase et al: While on its face it is technically accurate, the phrase "from the executive producers" implies that they were the main creative forces. While this line was removed (interestingly, it happened soon after Vulture called CBS about this story), an equally brazen tout still appears in a teaser video for the show that was widely distributed after upfronts and remains on the site. In the clip, actress Dylan Moore raves about how good the Blue Bloods script is: "When I first read it, I was like, 'This kind of feels like The Sopranos. I wonder why that is?' And then I found out who wrote it." The trailer then cuts to Burgess and Green being interviewed about their creation. "We did The Sopranos for a long time, and that's a family drama," Green says. "But now, this is the other side of the law."

Claiming credit for things is virtually an Olympic sport in Hollywood, so while it may be a tad galling, it's not surprising that Burgess and Green would try to fashion themselves as the new godparents of The Sopranos. But had they and CBS been a bit more circumspect with their language, it might have been possible to subtly make a connection between The Sopranos and the new show without setting off any legal fireworks.

Consider, for example, how NBC is marketing a tie between one of its new shows and another signature HBO series. Love Bites is from long-time Sex and the City scribe Cindy Chupack, who's associated with some of that show's best seasons and episodes. But rather than hype Love Bites as being "from the executive producer of SATC," NBC's website discretely describes Chupack as an Emmy-winner and simply puts her Sex credit next to her name, in parentheses. The official trailer, meanwhile, refers only to "one of the writers" from SATC. (Incidentally, all bets are off when it's an HBO show: the pay network is marketing its own upcoming series Boardwalk Empire as coming from alum Terrence Winter, "the Emmy-award winning writer of The Sopranos.")

And really, when it comes to older CBS viewers, what's your bigger sell: The Sopranos or Tom Selleck? Just keep zooming in on that mustache and watch the boomers tune in.

By: Josef Adalian

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

Thanks for this info, jouster.

I hope this doesn't produce (or reveal, for that matter) anything of a really nasty flavor. I can certainly understand the discomfort any writer at the Sopranos -- let alone David Chase -- might feel over the prospect of mistaken association with a CBS cop show. On the other hand, there is absolutely no denying the incredible contributions these two writers made to the Sopranos, and, if writing credits mean anything at all (and there is some room to debate whether they do), I always felt that they, and not Terrence Winter, were the second-most important minds behind the show after Chase himself, certainly through the first four seasons.

When Chase got word that HBO would be buying the series and ordering a whole season of shows, Green and Burgess were the first writers he reached out to because, in his words, he "knew what they could do". His instincts were vindicated time and time again as their names headlined or appeared in the writing credits for some of the best episodes in the show's history, including Boca, Isabella, The Knight in White Satin Armor, Whoever Did This, Calling All Cars, Whitecaps, Irregular Around the Margins, and All Due Respect. And they enjoy sole credit on what, to me, is probably the most brilliantly-conceived and executed self-contained episode in the entire series, Employee of the Month. The writing in that show is impeccable in every respect, from the easy and natural way it slips between tragedy and humor, brutality and deeply moving humanity and pathos. If that was the only episode to bear their names, it would still remain a monument to their talent. It's that good. So I think they are entitled to play up their Sopranos credits. They earned them. And, somehow, I don't think Chase would disagree with any of that.

The impression I got from reading the most revealing of the Green/Burgess interviews (as well as the impression I got when I broached the subject with the associate producer with whom I had occasional contact) was that "creative differences" really WAS in play in the breakup. I don't think Green/Burgess knew what to do or what Chase wanted with the relentlessly dark, metaphysical direction the show took, particularly starting with Tony's coma, and my understanding is that he felt they also were in some way burned out or "done" in terms of their creative input at that point. Both of those things could be true, and they, perhaps, make most sense if they are both true. Chase's vision just went in a direction that they could no longer follow, and when they tried, their efforts satisfied neither his expectations nor their own sense of truth for the characters. Because, unlike Chase, I also perceived a gradual shift in the darkness of the show and in particular within Tony himself, I can identify with what they might have felt, even though I also believe that Chase was clearly entitled to fulfill HIS vision and his alone as the series progressed.

I won't read TOO much into the fact that HBO lawyers sent CBS a request to change the promotional material. I suspect HBO brass have their own reasons for wanting to downplay the connection between their flagship series of all time and any offering on CBS.:-) Still, Chase is probably glad to silently reap the benefits of the effort to tone down the hype.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

Tough to say who is behind the effort to squash but I cannot blame Green and Burgess (or CBS) for trying to use the connection. As Fly so ably said, they were a huge part of the show and thus should get credit for it. The line about Winter was interesting at the end and will be humorous test, if nothing else.

If anything, I suppose this does give more credit to a less than amicable split but we all knew that, I think. Those two went a long way on that series and the departure seemed awful late in the series and too near the end for a "well, we are done with this" mentality. Maybe they were, but I'd just assumed they had different ideas for the final direction. Maybe that's the alt-history buff in me. ;)

Thanks for the info, jouster.
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Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

I didn't mean to seem dismissive (if I did); obviously they're two of the best writers in television, or any medium. I can't help but despair, though, that they're doing a cop show (of which there are endless versions), on CBS (possibly the blandest of the big networks), with Tom Selleck (not untalented, but not an exciting choice to me in any way). I think great shows can exist on any network, not just HBO, but I'm not optimistic about this new series.

As far as the credit goes, I, like Fly, understand why HBO wouldn't want the connection made. I doubt David Chase is watching promos for new shows, but if he had heard about it, I can imagine why he might be displeased. As the article states, wording is crucial ("the executive producers" versus just "executive producers"). It's petty Hollywood nonsense, really, but I can't help but be interested when such huge talents are involved.

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

Jouster, you didn't come across as dismissive at all. I was just commenting on the article and what seems to be implied and trying to relate that to the Green/Burgess interviews and the one comment that I'd gotten from an insider.

I know what you mean about the CBS cop show thing. Hopefully for Green and Burgess' sake, they really do something unique and groundbreaking for that network and for the genre. I don't see myself watching it, but who knows.

I do see myself giving Boardwalk Empire a shot, though. Madmen didn't do it for me at all, but that one might.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

I have had a suspicion that Green & Burgess disagreed with the decision to extend the final season with the "bonus 9". As I recall, they left right around the time that was decided. As far as why, I have no idea, and it's probably just a coincidence, but it does remind me of a thread I've been thinking of starting - what would the final season have been like if it had been done in the original 12 (or 13?) planned? It might be fun to speculate on what would have been dropped, what would have remained, what would have needed to be reconfigured.

I have no doubt Boardwalk Empire will be tremendously entertaining. I'm not sure how deep, for lack of a better term, Winter is planning on or interested in going, but there is no doubt he's a great writer and, most encouragingly, wrote the best darkly comic stuff on "The Sopranos," in my opinion. If he can bring some of that to the new series and some interesting characters, with the strong cast he's got, I can't imagine it won't be, at the very least, very watchable.

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

Ahhh it feels good to see some discussion, especially from Fly who's been quiet for far too long. It's been just about exactly 3 years since we continue to hope for something to come along to even partly fill the void we all feel. While some former Soprano alumi have given us reason to remember better days (i was fasinated by Tim van Pattens direction of The Pacific) and some completely new shows have shown promise ( i still say Sons of Arnarchy has come closest), I really think my biggest Sopranos rush is going to be hearing the HBO swoosh and then seeing James Gandolfini name on the opening credits of his up coming Taxi 22. If he even hints at playing an east coast italian i'm going to be transporte back to june 07.

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

It is nice to log in and see a few new posts. As the forum-runner, I know I should be doing more to stimulate ongoing discussion, and I've been terrible lately about responding to some nice posts from new-comers. Just haven't felt the "vibe" to do it and have had a lot going on in other areas of life.

AJCollossal posted an interesting link to another forum that is doing their own re-watch, though. ( Maybe some of you guys might want to participate. They are going to do two episodes a week.

I will be most excited about television again when In Treatment returns for season 3, which, I think, is supposed to start filming this month. Probably will air in spring of next year. And I will likely give Boardwalk Empire a shot when it starts this fall.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Bad blood over "Blue Bloods" (New Green & Burgess show)

Hi jouster,

Yeah, I just saw the blurb today about Amy Ryan. I'd never heard of her (I either never saw her in The Wire or don't remember her character). Anyway, she is actually going to play Paul's new shrink, not a patient. So that should be interesting.

I wish season two would come out on DVD already! Been waiting forever. I preferred season 2 to season 1 by a mile, mainly because I didn't have to put up with the Laura character or storyline (which I abhorred).
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"
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