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Marti NoxonMarti Noxon - ’Point Pleasant’ Tv Show - Nytimes.com Interview
Monday 10 January 2005, by Webmaster
The new Fox series "Point Pleasant" begins when Christina, a pretty blonde teenager, is rescued from the Atlantic Ocean. But Christina is no ordinary adolescent; her father is the devil and she has come to the New Jersey shore, of all places, to search for her mother (and in the process rile up the locals). "I love the concept," said Gail Berman, the entertainment president of Fox. "I call it ’Peyton Place’ meets ’Rosemary’s Baby.’ The show (which has its premiere on Jan. 19, then picks up the next night in its regular weekly time slot) is shepherded by Marti Noxon, one of its executive producers. Speaking here with Kate Aurthur, Ms. Noxon - who previously worked on another supernatural series, Joss Whedon’s "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" - discusses toying with censors, working with a baby and how reality television saved scripted programs.
KATE AURTHUR "Buffy" ended in the spring of 2003. What did you do for the year after that?
MARTI NOXON Just wept. No, actually, right before "Buffy" ended, I read a script for a pilot called "Still Life," which was a family drama narrated by the son who’d been killed a year earlier. We tried to make it fun and weird and mysterious, but it just didn’t fit the Fox model that was working for them at that point.
Q. Was that infuriating?
A. The people who aren’t able to embrace the fact that this is a business are just in for so much pain. For better or worse, I have a little more detachment. But it can wear you down. You’re so deep in whatever you’re working on that you can’t understand why other people can’t see it. It’s like your child, even if you have an ugly baby, you never know it’s an ugly baby. The network sometimes says, "That baby, she’s ugly."
Q. How has the experience of "Point Pleasant" been different?
A. With this one, it took a little work, because they were nervous about going down the genre road at first. But once I wrote that second script, that’s when they picked the show up. And also we got very lucky with the success of other scripted dramas this year. All of a sudden we were O.K. again.
Q. How did that happen, after all this reality TV?
A. What’s great about reality is you watch it, and people do things that you say, "Oh my god, I can’t believe people are that fill in the blank: silly, selfish, smart, cunning, dumb, sexy." The goal to keep scripted television palatable to the widest audience possible was sort of killing it. You would find yourself writing these characters who can never be dumb, or mean, or bitter or petty. But people like that stuff. I think reality did us a little bit of a favor.
Q. What TV shows did you watch growing up?
A. Really early I watched "The Partridge Family" and "The Brady Bunch" and all those silly shows. And they just filled me with insecurity. I remember watching "Room 222" and just crying. I was probably 3 or 5 and thinking I was never going to make it in college. That’s the kind of kid I was.
Then when I got older, I think one of the first real obsessions I had was "Hill Street Blues." And I loved "Twin Peaks," obviously. Any serialized drama that was a little off became a passion for me.
Q. What other works of fiction - books, movies, records - formed you as a writer?
A. One of the big ones is the movie "Poltergeist." That and "Wings of Desire." These two movies that are about this longing for life after death. I think some of that does come back to my own kidhood. I had been very sick in my teenage years, and I had the white-light-tunnel thing in a dream. I don’t know what that is, but it affected me deeply because I did start to get better after that.
Q. May I ask what you were sick with?
A. I had been anorexic for about five years. And I was really sick. I probably weighed about 70 pounds.
Q. Very few women run their own shows on television. How has your experience differed from that of your male counterparts’?
A. The biggest challenge at this point for women is that it’s very hard to mix family with this work. It’s all consuming, and it wants you 24 hours a day. I honestly think there’s very little bias against women: if you can write, they’ll throw you up against it.
I was so lucky because when I got pregnant the first time, I went to Joss and said, "I want another office to bring the baby." And Joss, of course, was incredibly supportive because he’s all sen-man, Mr. Wesleyan, dude feminist. If every woman could do that, you could probably get through that first year. Having the option to say, "I’m going to be breast-feeding in this meeting, deal with it," which I did. I made a lot of men very uncomfortable in that first year.
Q. Your new show, "Point Pleasant," takes place on the Jersey Shore. The Jersey Shore is pretty cold right now. Will it ever get cold in Point Pleasant?
A. No. No. Because when it’s cold you have to wear sweaters. The "Point Pleasant" concept was, sometimes really dark things happen in really sunny places. It was hoping to build a contrast between the genre and the world these people live in. And the name is so awesome. But in reality, we’re shooting in San Diego, and we’re going to get some establishing shots from Santa Cruz. It’s a Frankenstein town.
Q. How closely do you plan to follow feedback on the Internet?
A. I kind of felt - after only a brief period of going on the Internet when I was working at "Buffy" - that it’s an unreality. We don’t matter to most of the people in the world, and we should know that. But when you go on the Internet, suddenly you’re a special person and you can actually create a little world for yourself where you’re special all the time. I also got really wounded by people’s criticism. I couldn’t handle the upside or the downside. I definitely felt a danger of starting to disconnect from the stuff that makes me able to write - deep-seated insecurity and anonymity. So I stopped. I pulled the plug.
Q. A lot of the "Buffy" episodes you wrote were about sex. And it’s a big part of "Point Pleasant," too. Have you gotten messages either explicit or implicit about what is acceptable in the post-Janet Jackson era?
A. We can imply a lot. But when we actually tried to show a character’s naked back, just the back of a woman in a pool, the censors told us we couldn’t show it at first. And then we compromised on however many seconds we could show it. It didn’t bother them that we were implying there was nasty sex going on in a swimming pool, it was just that you couldn’t see her back. So that’s just weird.
Q. And how scary can you be?
A. You can be really scary. You can have people killed by bees, no problem. We haven’t had one caution on scary stuff yet. I hope to have one.
Q. "Point Pleasant" is scheduled to run opposite "CSI" on Thursday nights at 9 Eastern time. Yikes?
A. Yeah. I wish we had the magical, golden time slot of success. But the question is whether you want to be in Siberia, or whether you want to be on one of those nights when people are actually flipping around checking stuff out. I hope it means that they’ll let us stay on for a while knowing we’re not going to do huge, splashy numbers right away. That’s how I tell myself it will be all right.