David Weddle is an accomplished writer and producer who has been working in TV for nearly twenty years, serving as a writer on various episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, CSI and Falling Skies. In addition, he’s served as a producer on Battlestar Galactica, as well as Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain. His career has spanned network, cable and syndicated television.
At 6 p.m. on May 20, it will bring him to Knight Library. Weddle is visiting to present a talk on writing fiction for the television format, specifically the task of constructing continuous narratives. His unique place in the television industry has supplied him with the chance to see the shifting landscape of the medium.
When Weddle started on Deep Space Nine in 1997, he faced the distinct challenge of writing standalone stories.
“DS9 was a syndicated show, meaning it was sold independently to different networks across the world. They wanted episodes that could stand on their own, and be re-run by the network in any order,” he said.
Every story had to wrap itself up in an hour, save for the rare two-parter. This severely limited what television writers could accomplish over the run of a series; character development is difficult when the story could be viewed in any order.
All of that shifted tremendously in 1999, when one show revolutionized the medium.
“The Sopranos really revolutionized the game for cable TV. Every writer and producer in the industry was watching it. Networks saw that they could attract more viewers with these longer-form narratives. … It really opened the door to the current ‘Golden Age’ of TV we’re in right now,” Weddle said.
By ‘Golden Age’, Weddle refers to the breadth of incredible long-form content that prospers in the current TV landscape. Epic shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Mad Men never could’ve existed in the previous cable landscape. The Sopranos proved that complex storytelling could be both critically acclaimed and profitable.
As for the future of TV, Weddle isn’t sure what to make of what’s coming.
“We’re ready for another upheaval. The cable market now is very similiar to how the network structure was in 1999. There’s a lot of market loss to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime… The cable market might fall apart entiely in 10-20 years.”
While Netflix has been on a streak of hits with their original offerings with House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, and Marvel’s Daredevil, there’s still risk in changing the game.
“It’s unclear what this means for content. [The end of cable] could result in more success stories like Netflix, or it could be like the status of the music industry,” he says. “If it doesn’t prove profitable to make these big sort of series, studios won’t want to fund them.”
Regardless of what the future may hold for cable TV, the Golden Age is still going strong.
Weddle will be speaking in the Knight Library Browsing Room at 6 p.m. this upcoming Wednesday. For any fan of science fiction, or just good TV in general, it’s sure to be a must-see event.