Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Green Acres 2012

No time? Hire a vegetable grower

Here's my concept for a "Green Acres" redux - in this modern version of the classic 1965 sitcom, Oliver and Lisa are 30s-ish Brooklyn foodies. She's a native New Yorker and a restaurant critic. He hails from suburban Detroit and is an avid community gardener. Lisa is forever in love with her hometown, but Oliver has grown frustrated with the "rat race" and his lucrative but soul-crushing marketing career. At his insistence, the two relocate to a cheap expanse of prairie on Detroit's east side, where he realizes his urban farming dream. But, the farm livin' reality doesn't match up to Oliver's fancy. He must contend with crappy, unpredictable weather, a crumbling infrastructure (bringing back the telephone at the top of the pole), and constant miscommunication with his neighbors. Yet, while he struggles with his unexpected "fish out of water" status, a more worldly Lisa is better able to adapt to the environment and relate to other community members, including Sam Drucker (who owns the neighborhood corner store; he kindly agrees to sell Oliver's veggies, though no one seems interested in his $5/lb. heirloom tomatoes), Mr. Haney (another vendor at the neighborhood farmer's market; much to Oliver's chagrin, he's clearly dealing in shady, non-local goods, like grapefruit and foreign-made car parts), and the Ziffels (who speak to their pet goat*, Arnold, like he's people). The comic gold is in uptight Oliver's constant frustration with his unusual surroundings vs. Lisa's easy acceptance of their new lot, and the fact that neither of these two food-fetishizing farmers know how to cook their produce.


The inspiration for this concept came from a guy I don't actually know, a friend of a friend. My buddy told me how this dreamy suburban guy had started a farm in Detroit. Apparently, farmer dude found it necessary to brandish a rifle as a way of dealing with pesky neighborhood crackheads. My immediate, albeit silent reaction was, "Uh, weren't the crackheads there first?" Gentrification is a very complicated thing, and I should know because I'm on my fourth round of being a white beneficiary. I think that many gentrifiers view themselves firmly rooted in the moral high ground because they're "fixing things up". Combine this with foodie ideals and you find yourself in an ethical quagmire.

Speaking of which, the only way this remake could work is with a television writing dream team. In my fantasy, this would include David Simon, Louis C.K., and some really funny Detroiters, like the guys who write "The Ed and Moe Show". That combination of folks could handle the sociological realities with humor and some degree of accuracy. Because, let's be real, Oliver and Lisa would be white, and most of their neighbors would be African American. Without great writers, the show would either be stupid at best or racist at worst, and then my brainchild would end up on the pages of my current favorite website.

*I've heard of people keeping pigs in Detroit, but I've actually seen goats there.

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