(Bitter Script Reader challenged their followers to make a list of 16 Great Shows that have influenced them as writers and viewers. This is my list.)
It is so fucking fortuitous that today is the day I write this.
I’ve been writing one of these every day and in order of when I first discovered the show (for the record, I watched this live from the beginning), so this was not planned in any way, shape, or form.
For the past 30 minutes or so I’ve been eagerly consuming Josh Friedman’s tweets as they come in (you can bet I have him on notifications.) I’ve been doing this because he’s been telling a very important story about his fight to cast Thomas Dekker as John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Rewind to about six hours ago when Thomas Dekker (John Connor) came out as “a man who proudly loves other men” and revealed that “this April, [he] married [his] husband.”
I’m proud of Thomas and I’ve been a fan of his for a long time (since Heroes, at least). I thought he played the part of John Connor beautifully and I can’t imagine anyone else in that role.
But that’s not really the point I’m making here. The point is Josh Friedman, a straight, white, Gen X-er took time out of his evening to champion an actor he worked with nearly a decade ago. There are many reasons for this (and I don’t mean to shift credit from Dekker to Friedman), but primarily I’m interested in how this demonstrates how special this series really was.
This is a show that lasted a grand total of 31 episodes, and even those were hard won. What Josh Friedman and his team accomplished in those 31 episodes is breathtaking. Consider the sheer volume of complex characters and intersecting storylines all based on this fairly surface level film series from the 80s and 90s. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles aimed to be high brow television on a low brow network.
At the time (and arguably even now), Fox was only a step above The CW (side note: I love the CW, but it doesn’t compare to HBO or Netflix). Let’s face it, there was a lot of junk on that network. I give Fox credit for giving unlikely shows a chance (*cough*Firefly*cough*), I just wish it had done more to help those shows succeed.
The point is, Josh Friedman dared to dream big but it ended up not being the right time. And it pains me that he hasn’t had a successful show since (I have high hopes for Snowpiercer, though). He deserves more than this, but because he speaks his mind and stands up for what’s right, he has a harder path in front of him. And I’ll stay loyal through it all.
Another reason Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is on this list? I can trace my decision to write for television back to this show.
TSCC was the first show I wrote fan fiction for. I realized how much I loved writing and decided to take a short story writing class. Which led to pursuing a degree. Which led to finding a television writing class. Which took me right back to where I started and should have always been.
And what was so special about this show? What about it led me to write my own version of what I thought might happen in a third season?
At the core it was about family. It was a mother and son doing whatever they could to stay together.
It was about a son struggling to come to terms with his preordained identity. This played perfectly parallel to John’s coming of age story.
TSCC asked what is humanity? What is a soul? What makes Sarah more human than Cameron? And if she is more human, what makes her life more valuable than Cameron’s?
One of my favorite moments of the series comes in one of the final episodes. Slight spoilers here, but I’ll try to remain vague in case someone reading eventually decides to watch for the first time.
It’s a moment (in a hotel room, to give fans context) where we realize somewhere along the way John became John Connor. And in a similar fashion to his conception, the catalyst comes from the future. In that moment he has both accepted his fate and become his fate. But he’s doing it on his terms.
He’s making his fate.
Normally in these posts I don’t worry too much about spoilers. The shows are older. You had time to watch. The same is true of this show, but it’s such an under-appreciated show I’m hoping some of you reading this will give it a chance if you haven’t already. Some shows are fine to watch even if you know what happens. This isn’t one of those shows. It builds so beautifully that you need to experience it as purely as possible.
I didn’t even get to Sarah or Cameron, but there are really no words. Sarah’s a badass with a heart of gold and Cameron is possibly one of the most complex characters on television.
Just go watch this show already. And then convince a production company to produce more episodes. Because Josh Friedman certainly knows how to keep people wanting more.