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Classified: Gulliver's Travels

Was thinking, over a cup of revolting tea, about classification and whether it can hinder creativity and I remembered a story I was told about Gullivers Travels.

A while ago (1997?), while I was working for a digital media research lab, I had to go to a Special Effects conference in Sweden. There I spoke to someone called Duncan Kenworthy, who turned out to be the producer of Four Weddings and a Funeral amongst other things. (Yup - it's one of those I remember him, he won't remember me things.)

Anyway, he was chatting about a TV drama he had produced called Gulliver's Travels. It was a joint US/UK partnership. Among the various problems they had, two stood out: the script and who should play the lead.

The script was British and followed the Swift's book more closely than normal. It took into account all four stages of Gulliver's descent into "madness". Rather than just sticking to Lilliput and the Brobdingnagians, it went on to tell the tale of the floating rock of scientists, the Yahoos and the Hounyhyms. When this was presented to the American partners, they balked saying it was not cheery enough. Their audience wouldn't like it. And - here's the crunch - they knew what their audience wanted because they knew which of their shows had the best ratings.

The second problem was the choice of lead. Apparently, American TV stations have a list of top ratings actors and actresses. These are the stars of the show, the ones who can guarantee people which switch on to watch. (In fairness, I wouldn't be surprised if British and other stations had similar lists). The difficulty is these lists dictate the order of who's best for a lead role on popularity rather than suitability. So John Goodman (thanks to his success in Roseanne) was first choice - much to the horror of Kenworthy et al.

The argued and argued till eventually a deal was struck. The UK contingent accepted Most Popular American TV Actor Number 4 - Ted Danson of Cheers fame - as the lead. And the US contingent accepted the full, not very cheerful, script.

It sounded like a worst of both worlds bodge, but when the series was eventually broadcast it became one of the more successful ratings successes the American TV station had ever had, much to everyone's surprise. Ratings are necessarily higher thanks to the fewer channels in the UK, but here it was still a hit.

Relevance, Timothy? You cannot tell what someone likes purely by looking at their preferences, because those preferences are based on what they've found, not necessarily what they want. And in terms of creating something new that is either liked or useful, previous classifications may hinder as much as help.


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can you give me some script of the gulliver's travels because i need it for our speech choir as soon aspossible...

yup - Chapter 1 starts here and you can find the rest at the link.

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