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“黑暗會吞沒一切”,死亡成為當今美劇主題

Stacey Wilson Hunt 2019年06月19日

《麻木不仁》、《好地方》、《輪回排隊》等電視劇備受粉絲和評論家追捧。艾美獎投票者是否會同樣追捧?

編劇兼制片人莉茲·費爾德曼曾經為艾倫·德杰尼勒斯、奧斯卡頒獎典禮以及包括《破產姐妹》(Two Broke Girls)在內的眾多情景喜劇編劇,擁有好萊塢最令人羨慕的喜劇事業之一。然而,她迄今為止最受評論界好評的作品《麻木不仁》(Dead to Me)也是她最壓抑的電視劇之一(甚至是有史以來最壓抑的劇集之一),這說明了什么?

“我們生活在非常黑暗的時期,很難不去想這種可能性——終有一天,黑暗會吞沒一切。”費爾德曼說,她為Netflix寫的這部暗黑喜劇聚焦珍(克里斯蒂娜·艾伯蓋特)和朱迪(琳達·卡德里尼)之間的友誼,珍是一位悲傷的母親,有兩個孩子,朱迪卻剛好是殺死珍丈夫的兇手。“死亡是最普世的主題。如果你達到了某個年齡,肯定經歷過喪親之痛。”費爾德曼說。她把自己不孕的掙扎和表兄突然去世的悲傷融入了這部劇。“作為一名作家,我必須把這些故事講出來。”

在去年的黃金時段艾美獎上,亞馬遜充滿陽光的復古風格喜劇《了不起的麥瑟爾夫人》(The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)獲得了喜劇類最佳劇集獎(有人說,部分原因是多年大熱劇《副總統》沒有參選)。之后的九個月里,關于死亡、來世、悲傷的電視劇數量已經達到了臨界值。亞馬遜的《永遠》(Forever)、Netflix的《輪回排隊》(Russian Doll)、美國全國廣播公司(NBC)的《好地方》(The Good Place)等喜劇以不同版本的來世為主題,而Netflix的《麻木不仁》、《柯明斯基理論》(The Kominsky Method)和瑞奇·熱維斯的《身后事》(After Life)則構成了悲傷三部曲,憂郁主題原本只是偶爾使用一次,用于搭建“極特殊的劇集”,現在卻成為了整部劇作的故事主干。

除了美國廣播公司(ABC)的一小時怪誕喜劇《靈指神探》(Pushing Daisies)和HBO電視臺開創性卻從未獲得艾美獎的殯儀家庭劇《六尺之下》(Six Feet Under)之外,電視劇行業一直都懼怕死亡。美國國家公共電臺(NPR)的電視評論家埃里克·德根斯說:“長期以來,人們一直認為觀眾不愿去想和死亡有關的事。”但現在,大環境由流媒體公司主導,他們瞄準的是特定的觀眾群體。以死亡為主題的故事所帶來的表演機會鼓勵了編劇,尤其是半小時劇集的編劇,他們把這類主題用作驅動筆下劇集的戲劇引擎。”

對于艾美獎的投票者來說,黑色喜劇的吸引力并不新鮮。多年來,在艾美獎的喜劇競賽中,投票者都很歡迎那些突破體裁類型的參賽劇目。早在1987年,《洛杉磯時報》(Los Angeles Times)的作者霍華德·羅森伯格就注意到了一種他稱之為“創傷劇”的趨勢。那年,邁克爾·J·福克斯憑借在NBC的電視劇《親情紐帶》(Family Ties)中開創性的劇集獲得最佳喜劇片男演員,他在里面扮演一個因為朋友的去世而十分傷痛的角色。之后幾十年,數十部偏戲劇類的喜劇和喜劇表演都曾折桂,包括FX的《亞特蘭大》(Atlanta),《護士當家》(Nurse Jackie)里的伊迪·法爾科(她在2010年艾美獎上因為Showtime系列捧回獎杯時,宣稱“我一點也不搞笑!”),《透明家庭》(Transparent)里的杰弗里·坦伯爾(他現在一身麻煩)和憑借在HBO的《巴里》(Barry)里扮演有名無實的刺客在去年奪得艾美獎的比爾·黑德。

但今年,投票者要考慮的顯然是一系列存在主義主題更加突出的電視劇。部分原因是編劇邁克爾廣受好評的慢熱劇集《好地方》(該劇第一季于2016年播出,計劃于今年秋天結局)為更多喜劇奠定了基礎,正如戴根斯所說,這些劇目用死亡和悲傷探索“道德,以及在極度怪誕的環境中,如何定義誰是好人。”

《輪回排隊》的聯合主創、主演娜塔莎·里昂說,她的主角納迪亞·沃爾沃科夫在試圖解開自己死亡之謎的過程中,一次又一次地死去,最后開始尋找一個存在的理由。“這部劇講的更多的不是生與死,而是介于生死之間的模糊地帶。”里昂說大屠殺幸存者維克多·弗蘭克的《活出生命的意義》(Man’s Search for Meaning)啟發了編劇們,“我們想讓納迪亞踏上一段旅程,去尋找參與生活的理由。”

阿米森說,像《輪回排隊》和《好地方》一樣,他的電視劇《永遠》也把來世作為喜劇的主題,但卻把這個概念發揮到了一種意想不到的理性高度。該劇由《公園與游憩》(Parks and Recreation)的艾倫·楊和馬特·哈伯德創作。“有情侶告訴我,這部劇讓他們兩個人進行了有意義的對話,比如‘直到死亡把我們分開’到底是什么意思?”阿密森說,“我認為這些電視劇之所以能夠引起人們的共鳴,因為它們講的真的是人類的生活狀態、人類的堅持,甚至是樂觀主義。”

艾美獎的投票者們是否準備在6月24日把票投給今年的這波“心理創傷劇”?結果將在7月16日公布提名時揭曉。但截至發稿時,預測網站Gold Derby上19個評論記者專家幾乎全部預測《輪回排隊》、《好地方》和《柯明斯基理論》(也有一些喜歡本年度最新的競爭者《麻木不仁》)將擊敗本類型劇集的領頭羊:HBO的三連冠《副總統》(這是該劇最后一年參加競賽了)。

費爾德曼說,不管她的劇集能否入圍,粉絲們對Netflix 在6月3日續訂《麻木不仁》第二季的反應,都標志著該劇的主線與觀眾情感體驗之間的關系出現了變化。

“是的,這是一部關于死亡和失去的電視劇,但同時也是一部關于友誼和寬慰的電視劇,正是友誼和寬慰讓我們度過了那些難關。”她說,“希望觀眾能夠感同身受,希望這也是他們愿意繼續觀看的原因。”(財富中文網)

譯者:Agatha

Having written for Ellen DeGeneres, the Oscars telecast and numerous sitcoms including Two Broke Girls, writer-producer Liz Feldman has one of Hollywood’s most enviable comedy careers. So what does it say about the genre that her most critically-acclaimed creation to date, Dead to Me, also is one of the most depressing shows, maybe ever?

“We’re living in very dark times, and it’s hard to not think about the eventuality of that darkness overcoming everything,” says Feldman, whose pitch-black Netflix comedy centers on the friendship between Jen, a grieving mother of two (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), who happens to be the woman who killed the former’s husband. “Death is the most universal theme there is. If you’re a human of a certain age, you’ve experienced loss,” says Feldman, who channeled her personal fertility struggles and grief over the sudden death of her cousin into the series. “As a writer, I had to get these stories out of me.”

In the nine months since last year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, when Amazon’s sunny, retro comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won Best Comedy Series (aided, some say, by perennial favorite Veep’s absence from the race), shows about dying, the after-life, and grief have reached critical mass. From comedies like Amazon’s Forever, Netflix’s Russian Doll, and NBC’s The Good Place, which center on versions of the afterlife, to Netflix’s grief-themed trifecta Dead to Me, The Kominsky Method, and Ricky Gervais’ After Life, morose themes once employed as a “very special episode” one-offs are now backbones of the storytelling.

Outside of a few series—ABC’s whimsical one-hour comedy Pushing Daisies and HBO’s groundbreaking but never Emmy-winning mortuary-family-drama Six Feet Under, for two—TV has feared the reaper. “There’s long been a sense that viewers don’t want to think about death,” says NPR’s TV critic Eric Deggans. “But now we’re in a landscape dominated by streaming companies who crave specific audiences. The acting opportunities that come with death-focused storylines have energized writers, especially of half-hour series, to make these themes their series’ dramatic engines.”

The appeal of darkness-tinged comedy isn’t new to Emmy voters, who have long embraced genre-defying entrants in the comedy race. Los Angeles Times writer Howard Rosenberg noted the trend toward what he called “traumadies” as early as 1987, when Michael J. Fox won Best Actor in a Comedy for a groundbreaking episode of NBC’s Family Ties where his character grieved a friend’s death. And in the decades since, dozens of drama-leaning comedies and performances have taken home gold in the comedy categories, including FX’s Atlanta, Nurse Jackie star Edie Falco (who, upon accepting her Emmy in 2010 for the Showtime series, proclaimed, “I’m not funny!”), embattled Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor, and last year’s winner Bill Hader, who scored gold for playing the titular assassin in HBO’s Barry.

But this year, voters have a decidedly more existential-themed crop of series to consider. This is thanks in some part to creator Michael Shur’s critically-acclaimed, slow-burn hit The Good Place—which premiered in 2016 and is slated to expire this fall—having paved the way for more comedies that Deggans says use death and grief as a means to explore “ethics and what it means to be a good person in super-absurd environments.”

Russian Doll co-creator and star Natasha Lyonne says her protagonist Nadia Vulvokov, who perishes over and over (and over) again while trying to solve the mystery of her death, ultimately is looking for a reason to exist. “The show isn’t so much about life or death, but the murky space in between,” says Lyonne, who cites Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning as writers-room inspiration. “We wanted to put Nadia on a journey toward finding a reason to become a participating member of life.”

Armisen says that like Russian Doll and The Good Place, his series Forever, created by Parks and Recreation alums Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard, also takes the afterlife-as-comedy-premise to an unexpectedly grounded place. “I’ve had couples tell me the show has brought up healthy conversations for them, like what does ‘Til death do us part’ really mean?’” says Armisen. “I think these shows have resonated with people because they’re really about the human condition, perseverance and even optimism.”

Whether Academy voters are ready to cast their ballots on June 24 for this year’s wave of “traumadies” will be revealed when nominees are announced July 16. But as of press time, nearly all 19 critic-journalist pundits featured on awards-prediction site Gold Derby predicted Russian Doll, The Good Place, and The Kominsky Method (with a few also favoring the season’s freshest contender, Dead to Me) will take on the category’s frontrunner in its final year of eligibility: HBO’s three-time winner Veep.

Regardless of whether her series lands on the ballot, Feldman says fan response to Dead to Me, which Netflix renewed for a second season on June 3, signals an evolution in the relationship between a show’s logline and a viewer’s emotional experience.

“Yes it’s a show about death and loss, but it’s also about the friendship and comfort that get us through those things,” she says. “Hopefully that’s what people have connected with, and what will make them want to keep watching.”

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