Oh the shenanigans
Sorry for the lame title, but you’ll see why in a minute.
Nicholas Sparks is developing a sitcom about a divorced middle aged man. See? Shenanigans!
It’s long been part of the pop culture narrative that Nicholas Sparks is some kind of romantic genius but really he struck gold with The Notebook (which, in my opinion, had more to do with casting and chemistry than source material, but OK). As a writer, he’s hit a Stephen King level of name recognition. Marketing can slap a “Nicholas Sparks movie” on the ads and people know instantly what that means.
It means… brooding heroic man, irresistible and indecisive girl, obstacles (that aren’t really obstacles), big kiss, The End. And while Sparks's movies have this reputation for being the gold standard in modern day love stories, his films, save for The Notebook, don’t have legs. People don’t share The Longest Ride memes.
But still, Hollywood loves a sure thing (or, at least a “thing”), and recently it was announced that The CW is turning The Notebook into a TV series. Because that movie hinged on Ryan and Rachel, I don’t see how a series will be anything but schlock… but it will definitely be a one-episode curiosity watch.
Even though I don’t think it would be good, a TV show about The Notebook makes more sense than a sitcom. Is Nicholas Sparks even funny?
Now I was going to shade ABC executives hard here but really, I like Modern Family and I really, really like Black-ish. I haven’t watched Fresh Off the Boat yet, but have heard good things about it, as well as The Goldbergs. So they aren’t desperate for comedies. Looking at that roster, why are they making room for an “upper class white person gets divorced after a fairly long marriage” show?
Here is where you know “shenanigans” entered into the pitch meeting. Divorced guy goes on Tinder and swipes right instead of left (or vice versa), he gets hit on by his child’s hot and horny teacher, he runs into his ex-wife at inopportune moments, old man sex jokes (Viagra, webcam, sex toys etc.), maybe there’s a kooky ex mother-in-law he can’t shake. He might join Facebook!
Can it rise above tropes? Well, Nicholas Sparks deals in the cliché, so I don’t see how a sitcom will be different than a love story. It would be interesting if they went darker and set it up like As Good As It Gets. Imagine if the lead character – a novelist – writes from a cynical and sexist place and knows his work is bullsh-t. (And for the record, As Good As it Gets was also a bullsh-t movie for many reasons – like love doesn’t cure mental illness, but that’s another conversation.) But I just don’t see Sparks being in any way edgy or self-deprecating.
And speaking of style… what also intrigues me about Nicholas Sparks is his diverse interests outside of writing. As Vulture pointed out, he has a furniture line for Sam’s Club. It’s California coastal, FYI. He has a controversial foundation dedicated to innovative global learning, or so the website says. He has a pretty swank website. Is Nicholas Sparks going lifestyle? The markers are all there – increased public profile, wide array of projects and significant change in his personal life. We could soon be seeing Nicholas Sparks’s line of pasta sauces, or cologne inspired by kissing in the rain, or a line of affordable tan blazers.
Is there a market for a candle that smells like Ryan Goslings beard? I won’t say no. That actually wouldn’t be the most useless lifestyle product ever offered. See: wood crate imbued with character.