Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Epic Smallness

"We tried to write small, tried to find what’s epic in the small." ~Ed Zwick, discussing his goal as creator/writer of "Thirtysomething."

What a great paradox - finding something "epic" in those smaller moments. A wonderful writing philosophy, I think. And, knowing the series as well as I do, I'd say Mr. Zwick achieved that goal, and then some. One of the things I most adored about "Thirtysomething" was the way the writers handled the little moments in characters' lives. The ones that seemed so insignificant at the time, but ended up being, well, epic.

One example that springs to mind is an episode in which happily-married Michael is reunited with his college love, Emily. She comes to town for a visit and mentions the back-and-forth poem they once co-wrote (and kept in a journal). During college, years ago, Michael would write a stanza in the journal, then give it to Emily. Then Emily would write a stanza, and give it to Michael, and so on.

That innocent journal soon becomes an epic symbol in this episode. It begins to represent unrequited love, unresolved weighty feelings, that threaten a marriage. Before she leaves town, Emily shows Michael that she kept the journal all these years, and lets him know she still has strong feelings for him. He's tempted to reciprocate - very tempted - but in the end, he stays true to his wife.

Just an insignificant journal, but there turns out to be something "epic" found in something so small....

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